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9 Policies Conservatives Were For Long Before They Were Against Them

Before the memory-hole swallows them up, consider 9 ideas that Republicans had long championed, which when picked up by Democrats, became suddenly toxic to the GOP.

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The GOP-controlled House then passed a budget along party lines with those very same cuts, but they nonetheless continue to blast them. During a recent GOP presidential debate, Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, said that seniors "know in Obamacare the president of the United States took away $500 billion -- a half-trillion dollars -- out of Medicare, shifted it to Obamacare to pay for younger people."

But as Jill Lawrence noted, the rhetoric represents "a dizzying role reversal from the days when Republicans used to recommend the same types of reductions in future Medicare spending."

In 1995, for instance, Republicans proposed cutting $270 billion over seven years. In 1997, McConnell and McCain were among the Republicans voting for a Balanced Budget Act that cut Medicare by $115 billion over five years. And in his 2008 presidential campaign, McCain proposed combined Medicare and Medicaid cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years.

Lawrence notes that McCain later, "led the fight against the Democrats' plans to trim Medicare."

6. Financial Disclosure Laws

Lawrence also noted that "prominent Republicans have often made the case that transparency -- not limits on campaign spending or contributions -- is the best antidote to corruption."

"Republicans are in favor of disclosure," Sen. Mitch McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in 2000. Seven years later, on the same program, House GOP leader John Boehner declared: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

But, she adds, those same Republicans voted against the DISCLOSE Act last year. According to the current GOP line, requiring companies to disclose their contributions "is a punitive measure for associations of persons who choose to exercise their right to free political speech as guaranteed by the Constitution, and affirmed in the  Citizens United v. FEC case."

7. Encouraging Low-income Home Ownership

As I noted last year, perhaps the most pernicious right-wing lie of late is that the Wall Street hustlers who came close to bringing the global economy to its knees in 2008 were just innocent victims of government-sponsored programs that forced them to lower lending standards in a misguided effort to increase home ownership among the poor (read: dark-skinned).

It's an alluring story line for those who are ideologically predisposed to blame "inner city" people instead of MBAs in suits roaming the executive suite. It's also patent nonsense--a Big Lie that has nonetheless become an object of almost religious belief for some on the Right.

But it's not just that the story isn't in any way grounded in objective reality. What makes it even more disgraceful is that conservatives have long argued that efforts to increase home ownership among low-income families and communities of color was the "free market" thing to do (and have, to some degree, negated the need for a decent social safety net). It was George W. Bush, not Vladimir Lenin, who said in a 2002 speech, "We have a problem here in America...a homeownership gap," and added, "We've got to work together to close [the gap] for the good of our country."

The New York Times reported, "From his earliest days in office, Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own homes with his conviction that markets do best when left alone."

Bush pushed hard to expand home ownership, especially among minority groups, an initiative that dovetailed with both his ambition to expand Republican appeal and the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

This stuff was standard American Enterprise Institute-quality conservative fare until it became a handy way of diverting blame away from the titans of Wall Street. Then it became the root cause of the Great Recession.

 
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