For the GOP, Washington, D.C., is now Shangri-La.

Never before have so many been so clamorous to bury so big a snout in so big a public trough. With the president creating bureaucracies faster than FDR, anyone who ever wrote a letter to the editor for a GOP candidate can probably count on a job.

Thus, a few observations and questions to put in perspective the evolution of the Republican Party over the last 20 years.

During the campaign for the 1980 election, a Republican named Ronald Reagan championed limited government.

Reagan didn’t just want to stop the growth of government, he said, but wanted to shrink it. Thus did he propose sending the federal Education and Energy departments, as well as other useless bureaucracies, to the budgetary guillotine.

Reagan failed, principally because he never tried, but the idea never really dropped off the GOP radar screen. After Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, a so-called “gang of four” thick-skinned pachyderms resurrected Reagan’s idea, adding two worthless cabinet departments for good measure. Another richly deserved target was the National Endowment for the Arts.

Today, all those cabinet departments still burn the taxpayer’s money, and NEA is still shipping wampum to artists who, without the subvention, would have to get real jobs.

Through it all, the GOP had one principal excuse for not chopping the bureaucracy and waste: Such a scheme was impractical because the GOP did not control the political process. The Democrats commanded one or both houses. A Democrat president might use the veto.

The effort to radically pare government, we heard, was impractical politics, pie-in-the-sky idealism. It was romanticism, not pragmatism. We need to compromise, we heard, to get done what we can get done, and wait for the day when we run things to get what we want.

Well, those excuses for dormancy are lame dogs that no longer hunt. That day is here.

Now is the time to act for the ballyhooed “conservatives” in the GOP, who claimed to be awaiting this day as impatiently as Christians await the Second Coming. Republicans now have the votes and a president to dismantle the unconstitutional megastate that demands the high tax rates they claim they oppose.

The question is this: Will they do it? Answer: At best, doubtful. At worst, a flat no. The GOP is not the conservative party it pretends.

Republicans, you see, oppose big government only when they aren’t running it; only when they cannot use it to peddle influence and provide jobs for their contributors, friends, relatives, and truth be told, for their dogs, pigs and chickens.

Now, the GOP is running it. And everybody and his brother will get a lucrative job in some federal agency like NEA or National Endowment for Democracy, or even passing out free cheese to GOP-approved welfare queens.

Over the next two years, federal spending will increase and leviathan will grow. Consider this: Federal spending for 2000-2003, under a GOP House and “conservative” president, is $800 billion more than between 1996-1999.

Draw your own conclusion. But in case you’re wrong, grab your wallet.

R. Cort Kirkwood is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

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