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Divide and Conquer: PayDay Loans, Gambling and Losing

Below is a brilliant article by Westin Hicks. Don’t miss the opportunity to read and learn!

178,144 Points 1 Featured Post


By Westin Hicks 18 MAY 2011

Conservatives have been content to be lovable losers in American politics for a long time. In Texas this is beginning to change, but we still need to shake off some of our old loser habits.

One of our bad habits is allowing the left to divide and conquer us, one issue at a time. Payday loan legislation and gambling legislation provide two good examples of how moderates and liberals use this tactic against conservatives.

Let’s preface with a word of recent conservative remembrance: Ronald Reagan made it his project to bring the two major segments of conservatism, fiscal and social, together. Besides a deep belief it was the right thing to do, Reagan, the visionary, believed it the politically expedient thing to do, too. He was right. He united the two groups and won landslide victories conservatives today only dream about. Uniting social conservatives with fiscal conservatives was his strategy.

These days, very few social conservatives aren’t also fiscal conservatives. Fiscal matters may not be what motivate them to participate in the political process; remember, most people don’t even vote. However, once engaged, voters motivated by social issues invariably add heft to the fiscal conservative cause.

Similarly, most people motivated by fiscal matters are also social conservatives. When engaged by fiscal matters, they can be counted on to provide pro-life support and the like.

While there are certainly some true hyphenated conservatives (either fiscal cons or social cons but NOT both), they are a distinct minority, at least among voters. Politicians and political leaders are still commonly too timid to fully represent voters (and often themselves), dreaming the impossible dream of impressing liberals, but that’s a discussion for another time. Even hyphenated conservatives need to respond to the ways we’re all being played off one another by the left.

It works like this: legislation from the middle and left is often given a varnish of appeal to one of the two emphases of conservatism. It can be either; they don’t really care. Using a façade of social conservatism or fiscal conservatism, they keep half the movement from opposing them. If they can do that, they have a chance to pass liberal legislation in Texas. Note: they don’t need support from ANY of the conservative movement, they just need one major faction to NOT oppose them. When accomplished, it’s a game changer.

Consider the payday loan bill first. Payday lending is considered predatory lending by social conservatives, who generally oppose it. More libertarian conservatives are opposed to regulation on most economic activity, and therefore support payday lending in theory. They may not like it, but they are philosophically obligated to support it’s right to exist. Both groups have a right to their opinion, and those opinions aren’t our concern here.

The payday loan bill has been peddled by it’s moderate sponsor Vicki Truitt (R) as a restriction on predatory lending. In doing so, she’s called off the social conservative dogs.

In truth, hers is a very shallow sales pitch to social conservatives, because this bill actually makes payday lending worse. People already caught on the payday loan merry-go-round can’t just get off. Increased administrative costs imposed by increased regulation will inevitably be passed on to consumers, which means a larger portion of people’s paycheck will go to the lender thanks to Vicki Truitt and her sham social conservative-friendly bill. Additionally, the increased difficulty of complying with increased regulation will encourage the little guys in the industry to get out.

We must learn to habitually call their bluff. For example, the only way to end this kind of predatory lending is to make it illegal. Winnowing payday loan providers will do nothing to get rid of the practice, it will only chase out of the game providers too small to pay for lobbyists. Social conservatives need to be tough enough not to accept gestures of service from politicians, because, let’s face it, their gestures are often false.

Let’s see: boxing out small businesses, making payday lending more expensive, and further marketplace regulation. Which segment of conservatism was this supposed to please?

We can do the same thing with gambling legislation, only, the shoe is on the other conservative foot. With gambling, libertarian conservatives are placated on the basis we shouldn’t limit “victimless” economic activity or legislate morality.

This is another exceedingly shallow sales pitch. In fact, gambling in Texas is an oligarchy protected from competition by constitutional barriers of entry. In truth, it’s no gimme whether social conservatives or fiscal conservatives should be more enraged with the gutter crony capitalism that is Texas gambling.

The point is this: the real goal of moderate and liberal legislation is to consolidate power for the big business/big government partnership many today are calling “the ruling class”. As such, it’s rare their legislation actually accomplishes the moral causes they sell it on, be they fiscal or social.

It’s time we wised up and quit being lazy opponents. Texas gambling would make every dead libertarian hero roll in his or her grave; we must quit parroting misrepresentative talking points liberals apply to it. We don’t do our heroes honor by letting liberals lead us around using as a choke chain libertarian-sounding sound bytes.

Social conservatives can’t let themselves be similarly schnookered with pious-sounding social goals. We need to make sure the stated goals of legislation are also the likely outcome. We need to stop being easy first dates.

If legislation doesn’t pass muster, we should, as a unified conservative movement, oppose the legislation. When we help scratch each other’s itch, we’ll get the favor returned.

There’s another wrinkle. Liberals are composed of two factions, too. Let’s use their class-obsessed  vocabulary. There are the rich white bosses of liberalism, mostly concerned with consolidating money, power, and PC social status, and there is the liberal-voting underclass they make a show of representing to build their fiefdoms. While the elites know payday lending and gambling legislation is about consolidating power, the true believers and the underclasses don’t. They often oppose practices like gambling and payday lending, because they know the underclasses suffer. This is where we divide and conquerthem.

We need to remember the wisdom of President Reagan in uniting the two major emphases of modern conservatism: fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. In doing so, we’ll construct a legislative juggernaut in Texas that will marginalize the outsized influence of liberals and moderates in Texas politics. The lovable loser days are ending.

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