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Whenever my column deigns to dump on Democrats, I can count on two things. One, the majority of comments about my commentary will come from thankful Republicans, and two, there are always a few conservatives and independents in the bunch who remind me that, rhetoric aside, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between our nation’s two major parties.

Touche.

When you examine the history of our nation over the last several generations, you will find that politically, our country has followed pretty much the same path of increasing centralized government control and socialism, regardless of who is in charge. It is a path whereby official Washington has stolen, cajoled, bribed, bought and harnessed every ounce of power and money possible from the people. Now for the bad news – they ain’t done yet.

One of the most noticeable similarities is the growth of government itself. Neither major party – Democrats nor Republicans – have done much to shrink the size and scope of Washington’s bureaucracy. In fact, under President Bush, bureaucracy has grown at an alarming rate – all under the guise of fighting the war on terrorism.

That may sound noble, but no one is talking about reducing that growth once global terrorism is defeated (and it will be defeated, right?). Or is the “war on terror” going to be like President Reagan’s “war on drugs” or Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” – never-ending, rights-stealing endeavors that soak up more and more of our hard-earned dollars in support?

Maybe Democrats got a bum rap early on as the “party of big government,” when Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced a 1930′s recession-savaged nation and Congress to cede more power to Uncle Sam via newly created agencies. While Democrats have since defined themselves as preferring costly federal solutions to our problems, Republicans have done little to reverse the trend of Washington’s bloat while in command – and they have had ample opportunity just in the past two years.

Voters should remember a simple rule: As bureaucracy grows, so, too, does the cost of financing that bureaucracy.

But wait, you say. We were attacked. Bush is fighting a war. True enough. But, think of how much easier it would be to finance this proper, constitutional function of government if the nation wasn’t overspending on needless repetitive bureaucracy.

If Washington didn’t have a “Department of Everything” and the largest payroll in the free world, how easy would it be to return the federal budget to the black, despite financing battles against our enemies?

America’s gross domestic product is a mind-numbing $10 trillion per year. But it costs more than one-fifth that – $2.2 trillion – to operate our government each year. That is an obscene amount of money. Yet it is still not enough for the debt-ridden Bush administration, which has added government jobs, not cut them, since 2000.

With all this bureaucracy also comes power and control. Republicans reflexively preach smaller government and less centralized control, as our founding fathers envisioned – but is it being put into practice? Between the USA Patriot Act and the formation of the massive Department of Homeland Security, the GOP has single-handedly centralized more federal power since 2001 than President Clinton did in two complete terms (though Clinton tried earnestly).

Americans can’t afford this one-party duopoly any longer. But what’s the alternative?

To begin, forget “Republican” and “Democrat.” The real distinction is between “conservative” and “liberal” ideology. Liberal ideology has become tantamount to Marxism; conservative ideology has come to embody freedom enshrined in small, less-intrusive government.

True conservatives have long realized the ideals preached religiously by the GOP hierarchy have gone the way of the Whigs. We see the principles that truly did make America a powerhouse fading into the mist like last season’s elections. We have known for a while it was time to find a genuine alternative.

Are there any true Republicans left? Yes, a few, and they should still be supported. But where none exist, there are conservative alternatives to voting as a knee-jerk Republican. As a responsible ballot caster, though, you must make that choice yourself.

They say the first step toward recovery is to admit there is a problem, and here it is: Like their Democrat counterparts, the GOP has become a slave to money, power and influence.

Therefore, the dime’s worth of difference between them is Democrats at least admit it.

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