The contradiction of being socially liberal/fiscally conservative


In this Oct. 2, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at a rally in Southaven, Miss. President Trump misrepresented the testimony of his Supreme Court nominee’s chief accuser on a rally stage over the past week as campaign politics and the pitched struggle over Brett Kavanaugh’s fate. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Ask someone what their take on politics is and you can get a lot of answers. Liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Independent, communist; the list goes on and on.

Many express their moderate or independent placing on the political spectrum by saying something along the lines of: “I’m socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” The thinking behind this most likely derives from taking the “best parts” of each party.

This might include people who like the small-government, low taxes and anti-regulation of the Republican Party but don’t hate the LGBT community and immigrants, for example. However, while this philosophy is becoming a more attractive option in the face of disillusionment with both major parties, it demonstrates a lack of awareness about the relationship between fiscal and social issues.

This is evident through a number of issues, but let’s start with the environment. A lot of people who consider themselves fiscally conservative also say that they agree with the scientific consensus on climate change and that something needs to be done about it. However, appropriate action is not possible with a conservative ideology.

Strong government regulation of various industries is needed to achieve the changes necessary to stave off the worst effects of climate change. However, conservatives have long decried these regulations as suffocating the economy (more on that later).

What do they expect, that the free market is going to magically fix climate change? Considering the selfishness of corporations and the desire of consumers to purchase cheaper products at the expense of environmental exploitation, that is not likely.

Poverty and the many issues that stem from it, like malnourishment and homelessness, are also a top social priority for liberals. But conservative economic policies often hurt the poorest among us. Tax cuts passed by Republicans disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations. When taxes are cut, revenue decreases, which leaves less money for government programs like food stamps that primarily benefit those who are less well off.

And actually, many regulations benefit the poor as well. A study by the White House Office of Management and Budget on major economic regulations ($100 million+ in economic impact) from 2006-2016 found that the policies enacted during that time period saved between $219 to $696 billion, while the total economic cost was between $59 and $88 billion. The savings when it came to these particular regulations, many of which were environmental/air quality based, were primarily oriented towards health benefits for American citizens. They are what Americans might otherwise have spent on health and social costs if the same levels of pollution had persisted. This especially benefits the more vulnerable citizens who live close to pollution sources. The evidence is that many regulations help the people. The corporations are the ones paying, but even so they’re paying less than everyday people are saving.

Aside from the unignorable link between economic and social policies, the entire premise of fiscal conservatism being superior is ridiculous when you actually look at the economics. The oft-repeated myth that conservatives better balance the budget is a bunch of crap. Look at any presidential administration since Reagan and you’ll see that Democrats consistently handle the deficit much better. It’s probably because they don’t spend their time blowing holes in the deficit with massive tax cuts for the rich.

If you want change on social issues like poverty and the environment then that’s great. But it’s not realistic to have it both ways. You can’t support conservative economic policies that exacerbate the same issues you profane to care about. Frankly, given their contradictory nature, professing to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative is about as meaningful as saying you are neither.

Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at

Leave a Reply