I am a non-ideological fiscal conservative. I don’t judge government as being either too large or too small. I just want to pay for however much government we do have without going into debt. Such an approach normally leads to political compromise whereby Congress tries to operate efficiently and hold costs down, only raising taxes as a last resort when it is impossible to squeeze any more low priority programs out of the system.
Such common sense used to be a fundamental operating principle, adhered to by both political parties. Unfortunately in recent years we have moved away from this model. In fact our public debt (on which we pay interest) has rapidly accumulated to $13 trillion, 74% of GDP, and will continue to grow much higher unless we strongly change our ways.
In some ways our current presidential campaign is following a conventional path. Both of the major Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, want to expand federal programs and raise taxes to pay for the new spending. The Republican Tea Party candidate, Ted Cruz, is a constitutional and social conservative and wants to cut back on government programs. The leading Republican establishment candidate, Marco Rubio, supports modest new programs, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and also modest tax reform to stimulate the economy.
The wild card in the presidential race is Donald Trump. He is a secular populist with unconventional and even contradictory policy views. He not only leads the Republican field in most polls, he is steadily pulling ahead. He is doing all this by attracting huge support from working class white voters who have fallen away from the Democratic Party. In other words, he is potentially expanding the Republican base and therefore should be taken very seriously.
Question. Can a fiscal conservative (who just wants to balance the budget!) but who also wants to address the very serious social problems in American society, support a Donald Trump candidacy for president? I am struggling with this question. Stay tuned!