U.S. Representative from Texas Urges Civility, Fiscal Responsibility

Dan Crenshaw discussed fiscal conservatism as the GW College Republicans’ fall speaker.

September 30, 2019

Rep. Dan Crenshaw

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) talked about fiscal conservatism with GW College Republicans. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)

By B.L. Wilson

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said he has heard a lot of young people say, “I’m fiscally conservative but socially liberal” and would like to know what they mean.

“The fiscal conservative side generally means you don’t like paying a lot of taxes, especially after you start getting a paycheck,” he said. “You’re not really sure why government feels it needs to solve every single problem. You’re concerned by the fact that you have a $22 trillion debt that you all are going to have pay off and there’s no end in sight to that spending.” 

But he wonders that, aside from those issues, if fiscal conservatives are otherwise more liberal than many believe, especially on social issues. If so, he thinks Americans may disagree on a lot less than they realize. Mr. Crenshaw was the Fall Kickoff speaker for George Washington University College Republicans.

College Republicans Treasurer Sarah Danillo, who works in Mr. Crenshaw’s office, introduced the Navy Seal veteran to a nearly full house Tuesday evening at the Dorothy Betts Theater in the Marvin Center. She spoke of his military tours in Afghanistan and Iraq where he was hit by an improvised explosive device, lost vision in his right eye and was awarded Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart and retired with a commendation for valor. She described his rise to prominence as a freshman legislator after an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” where “he spoke out against divisiveness.”

Mr. Crenshaw got off to a rousing start with a slideshow depicting political debate in the United States on television shows like NBC’s “The West Wing” to a slapstick skit on HBO’s “Veep” that he said U.S. politics have actually devolved into.

“It’s a sad time in our culture where we are just out to get each other,” he said. “There’s plenty we disagree on. I attack the heck out of ideas. I don’t back down from the fight at all, but cheap shots have got to stop.”

In trying to understand what it means to be socially liberal, he reviewed some of the assumptions that often go along with that.

“You don’t care who your friends are or what sexual orientation that they are or anything about them, what they look like,” Mr. Crenshaw said. “That’s liberal, I guess, but in a very good way.

“It gets at the question of why governments exist,” he said, “to protect our inalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The difference in Congress, he said, is that one side believes government exists to tax you at the minimum amount it takes to protect those rights, while providing for the general welfare, such as defense and infrastructure.

“We’re not anarchists,” Mr. Crenshaw said. “We do want some things from the government.”

The other side, he said, takes the position, “That person has money. Why don’t we take it?’” He described them as well-intentioned academic types who dream up programs that make sense, but “it’s a very different way of looking at why governments exist.”

He flashed pictures of his dogs, Joey and Luna, on the screen as he elaborated on what he calls “the puppy problem… No one can say no to the puppies. Look at their faces. OK, let’s allocate $10 million to the puppy program,” he said.

“We shame each other. That’s why I’m in favor of a balanced budget amendment,” said the congressman who argued that “massive” entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security have led to the $22 trillion debt.

In making the case for conservatism, he listed the characteristics of a coherent philosophy of government: individual freedom, limited government, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, moral truth based on Judeo-Christian history and patriotism.

“On the left,” he said, “there’s a laser focus on injustice and inequality.”

There’s nothing wrong with those things, he said. The question is whether they offer a coherent strategy for governing, which is often defined as fairness.

“When I think of what is fair I think of proportionality. If you work this hard, you get this much,” he said. “Somebody else might mean everybody in this room should get paid the exact same amount.”

He said for him the approach to governing comes back to a fundamental question.

“Does it infringe on somebody else’s rights? Gun control gets at this perfectly. The health care debate gets at this,” he said. “If you’re going to promise everybody access to a doctor, you have to force that doctor to see that patient,” and the government would set prices for how much doctors can charge for services. “So is that an infringement on somebody’s liberty? Yeah it is,” he said.

During a Q & A, which followed his talk, a student asked what the congressman did and did not like about President Donald Trump.

“He’s definitely not my spiritual leader, but I like his policies. His style is not my style… to say the least,” Mr. Crenshaw said. “But the agenda is the right agenda for America.”