01/10/2012 04:49 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

GOP Hearts Big Government

Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly recently asked Mitt Romney if President Obama is a "socialist." "I consider him a big government Liberal Democrat," Romney replied, reinforcing the mantra that Republicans are the party of limited government.

But are they?

Romney, who shamelessly courts the ultra-Right GOP base by claiming in speech after disingenuous speech that "conservative principles of smaller government are what I am fighting for," has a long history as a "champion of big government." And he's promised to increase the size of the Federal government in a number of ways, should he worm his way into the Oval Office.

Let's take two:

1. Defense spending. Romney wants to add around 100,000 active duty military personnel and build lots of expensive new ships and aircraft. How does he justify this massive spending spree? He'll eliminate waste! (Consider this: if Super-Mitt really rolls up his sleeves and goes after "fraud and abuse," he could presumably add enough new troops and equipment to wage three wars at a time instead of just two.)

2. Immigration. Romney denies that he wants to deport millions of undocumented Americans, many of whom have been solid, tax paying members of society for decades. But that doesn't square with his insistence that they "get in line" behind millions of other potential citizens, which would, one way or another, involve astronomical costs. And what about that triple fence along the Mexican border, not to mention all those new patrol officers to stop itinerant farmworkers from, um, itinerating?

The Mittsterizer claims he'll save billions by running government like a business. But what kind of business? He pledges to decrease government employment by 10 percent, eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs -- the kind of cookie cutter cost-cutting that made him mega-rich at Bain Capital, the vulture capital firm he ran for many years. Bain's penchant for buying companies, "downsizing" and then "flipping" them for huge profits is documented here and here. The Wall Street Journal reports that "22% of the companies bought under Romney's leadership either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses. An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost." (Politico calls the accumulation of these revelations "The Bain Bomb.")

Romney's campaign to brand himself a limited government hero veers from the implausible to the absurd when he argues that the mandated health insurance he instituted as governor of Massachusetts is based on a "conservative principle," while a similar plan at the Federal level is an unconstitutional catastrophe. Influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson notes, "If Romneycare is built on such inviolable conservative principles; if Romneycare has been such an auspicious healthcare reform plan, then what is so terribly offensive about Obamacare?"

But wait, you say. Romney isn't an authentic "movement conservative" like Rick Santorum, the latest would-be non-Romney. (The half life of the non-Romney is such that the so-called "Santorum surge" went from headline to footnote in the time it took to type this sentence.) Santorum, an unabashed earmarker when he was in Congress, is itching to expand government in so many ways it's hard to keep track; for starters, check out Erickson's helpful laundry list.

If that's not enough big government for you, Santorum is panting to attack Iran and favors a government-run industrial policy. (In fairness, we must admit that the man they call Rooster has a plan to pay for his plans that rivals Romney's roadmap: "Eliminate outdated, ineffective and wasteful programs"!)

Leave it to Rush Limbaugh to tell the Right how to pontificate about the virtues of small government while pushing for its opposite. When government does stuff conservatives like, Rush instructs, it's not big government at all. It's "responsible government."

Both major parties support big government. The question isn't whether government should be big, but whom big government is for.

Next time: what about that other "core conservative principle" -- individual liberty versus what the Right calls the nanny state? Hint: Rick Santorum wants to take away your birth control and Mitt Romney "absolutely" supports a "personhood" Constitutional Amendment.