America's real party divide

This isn't exactly a secret. In the U.S. House of Representatives, for instance, there's little agreement on what constitutes a proper farm bill, workable immigration reform, or even entitlement reform. And in statehouses, like that in my home state of Pennsylvania, some GOP members have held up or even killed important free-market reforms that enjoy wide public support.

The problem is that the GOP isn't synonymous with small government. In reality, enough Republican politicians have linked hands with their erstwhile opponents across the aisle to form a new party-the "Big Government Party."

The Big Government Party is a coalition of interests that profit from higher taxes, more spending, cumbersome regulations, government contracts, and special privileges. And despite the Republican Party's numerical majorities in many locations across the country, the Big Government Party is the real power.

This has long been the case in Washington. Under President Bush, the GOP increased federal spending at a faster clip than any president since Lyndon Johnson, thanks largely to expanded federal control over education via the No Child Left Behind Act and increased entitlement spending via Medicare Part D.

The Big Government Party only gained strength as the Democratic Party took the reins of government in 2006 and 2008. A 40 percent increase in the mandated minimum wage received widespread support, and the various bailouts and stimulus programs during the Great Recession were all passed under the auspices of the bi-partisan Big Government Party.

The American people wised up to this reality in the 2010 elections, but the Tea Party's electoral success there didn't translate into legislative success. Even the heartening Republican unanimity in the face of the Affordable Care Act didn't last long, as some GOP governors have since bought into Washington's promise of "free" federal money if they expand their Medicaid programs.

The Big Government Party is also alive and well in many of the country's statehouses. In Harrisburg, for instance, where the GOP enjoys majorities in both the House and the Senate, a spate of overdue free market reforms were recently put on ice thanks to the Big Government Party's efforts.

This was true with the state's wine and liquor monopoly, a cumbersome and inefficient relic of Prohibition despised by a clear majority of the voting public. Yet the power of vested interests-led by government employee unions-prevented the passage of a privatization plan favored by more than 60 percent of the voting public.

Similarly, legislative attempts to reform Pennsylvania's government pension system-currently $47 billion in debt and growing by the day-were killed by a deluge of misinformation and special interest spending that stopped legislators from taking action.

Pennsylvania's problems with the Big Government Party mirror the nation's. Rather than fix the problems that already exist, the powers that be instead exacerbate things by adding red tape and deficit spending, completely ignoring the bill that will eventually come due to the taxpayers.

This pattern will never work for America's voters, who want to see meaningful reform that uses their hard-earned taxpayer dollars wisely. This sentiment is as much the "hope" and "change" of 2008 as it is the "don't tread on me" of 2010. And as more and more people see how the Big Government Party's game plan really works, such sentiments will only intensify.

Brouillette is the Pesident & CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania's free-market think tank.