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February 14, 2013

More of the Same

Patricia A. Kelly

A recent Parade magazine poll, taken just before the presidential election, asked 1,000 people what they wanted from the next president. The answers were to create more jobs, improve the economy, balance the budget, be honest and truthful, and improve healthcare.


Some of these choices lead to questions. Do they want the jobs to be a permanent part of a bigger government bureaucracy? Do they want more stimulus spending? Temporary government projects? Do they want to go into more debt for this? And what did they mean by improving the economy? Did they mean paying our debts, or borrowing more? The exact meaning of improving healthcare remains elusive as well. Not so with balancing the budget and being honest and truthful. Honest is honest.


On Tuesday, President Barack Obama presented his State of the Union address, two weeks before sequestration goes into effect, and about six weeks from another go at the fiscal cliff. Rather than discussing these pressing issues, or offering any detailed solutions, he repeated his usual line, that Congress needs to take a balanced approach, increasing revenue along with some unnamed spending decreases.


He did, however, promise that none of the 17 (count them, I could be off by one or two) proposals he made to make the U.S. a better place would add one cent to the deficit.


I don’t know how that’s supposed to work, since he didn‘t say. Maybe the wealthy, whose too paltry contribution he did mention, could come up with enough to pay for them.


Many of the proposals our president made were for things that we all would like to see. Who would be against high quality pre-K schooling for all four-year-olds? Maybe the children could sell lemonade to pay for it. The federal government should partner with the states in some manner to make this work, according to the president. He said the money would come back much later, in reduced teen pregnancy, and stronger families.


His list included:

·       Creating new manufacturing hubs in the U.S.


·       Increasing basic scientific research.


·       Investing more in American energy.


·       Investing more in combating climate change.


·       A “Fix It First” program, putting people to work fixing defective bridges.


·       Developing modern ports, pipelines and schools worthy of our children.


·       Streamlining the mortgage loan process to help first time home buyers.


·       Redesigning America’s high schools to prepare young graduates for actual jobs.


·       Revising federal aid to colleges to reward a good affordability score card.


·       Raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and tying it to inflation.


·       Putting people to work re-building damaged houses.


·       Remove financial deterrents for young people to marry.


·       Securing our networks to prevent cyber attacks.


·       Joining with allies to cure worldwide poverty, and to save children from premature death.


·       Creating the best military the world has ever known.


·       Creating a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.


He even found a 102 year old lady named Deselene to attend the speech, who had waited six hours to vote. I’m sure that happens every day.


Which of the above is really the job of the federal government, our Pez candy dispenser in Washington? And how much can we spend before our position in the world is terribly weakened by overwhelming debt?


After his speech came the Republican response, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to rebut the president. Mr. Rubio is quite a guy, and a living embodiment of conservative values, who was high on the list of possible vice presidential candidates under Mitt Romney. He embodies conservative values, and spoke very well of the importance of independent hard work in achieving success in life, using his parents’ inspiring story as an example. Unfortunately he failed to come up with specific solutions either, playing a round of the blame game, too.


His excellent credentials notwithstanding, don’t think for a minute that he wasn’t trotted out, at least in part, because Republicans lost the Hispanic vote in the last election and are dancing as fast as they can to curry favor with this group.


First came the president, offering all his gifts, and then the opposition reiterating past campaign rhetoric. I heard a Maryland elected official question the other day why government doesn’t work better. I think we have the answer.


It’s not just about winning and appearing to be the good guy. It’s not about secretly baiting the other side, making compromise impossible, and then blaming them. It’s about service. It’s about dealing responsibly with our economy, dealing with people you don’t always like or agree with, in order to come up with decent solutions for the people who elected you.


There is a time for government intervention, but government is not the answer to success in life. We need leaders with integrity, willing to make hard decisions without regard for their own fortunes.


So far, it isn’t happening.



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