Katrina Underlines Fundamental Difference Between Parties

The fundamental difference between the two major political parties in America is their approach toward the role of Federal government. Since the Reagan era, the Republican party has taken a “starve the beast” approach to government with the idea that it can systematically cut and underfund governmental departments – with the exception of those departments related to defense – out of existence. Conversely, the Democratic party believes the role of Federal government is to provide a “social safety net” such that the least fortunate of American society are taken care of.

Like it or not, it has been the Democrat view of government that has taken America to the preeminent position on the global stage it enjoys today. From a societal perspective it was FDR’s New Deal, based on the idea that markets are inherently unstable and require the intervention of the Federal government, that rescued the country from the ravages of the Great Depression and brought us the Federal Reserve System, Social Security, and the SEC . Lyndon Johnson’s break with the old Democratic party of the south by signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act ushered in the Great Society with HUD, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Medicare and Medicaid.

The single largest contribution to America’s current position played by the Republican party has been their Democrat approach to military spending. While they have shouted from the rooftops that Federal government is evil they can’t seem find a military project they will not fund. This has resulted in what is today the largest and most well funded military regime in the history of mankind. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, US military spending makes up 47% of the world’s total.

So on the heels of Hurricane Katrina with the current Republican Administration scrambling to explain away it’s “starve the beast” mentality it seems only prudent that we look at which philosophy toward government will best serve the people of the United States of America in the 21st century. In the coming days you will hear the Republicans claiming that the only success stories to come out of the Katrina disaster were from private citizens and faith based organizations, seemingly trumpeting their view that the real support came not from Federal government but from individuals and private organizations. Conversely you will hear the Democrats reminding everyone that this would not have been necessary had the Republican party taken care of the government institutions necessary to provide for an adequate response.

The good news is that it is unlikely this debate over which philosophy should win out will go away any time soon. We can no longer ignore this debate in favor of childish questions over who one would rather have a beer with or which party will keep us more secure. This President won his second term on the idea that by a 20 point margin American’s felt he was the better man to keep us safe. That illusion was washed away by the waters of Lake Pontchartrain and we can only hope that in the aftermath of this disaster the American people will force a debate on the real issues.

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