Archives: January, 2010

Bush’s Third Term

With President Obama’s repeated attempts to draw distinctions between himself from his predecessor—and a widespread belief that he and Bush are polar opposites in nearly every way—it’s actually startling how similar the two men are. And if the policies match the rhetoric, it’s going to be another very long 4-8 years filled with ever more government intrusion and red ink.

Obama’s Quotes Bush’s Quotes
“So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared. A job that pays the bills. A chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“We’re not the first to come here with a Government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and we can achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on, as long as we’re willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans and to help them build a future of hope and opportunity, and this is the business before us tonight.”

–George W. Bush, 2007 SOTU

“In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of goodwill and respect for one another - and I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong, and together we will make it stronger.”

–George W. Bush, 2006 SOTU

“I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“Americans who have lost their jobs need our help, and I support extending unemployment benefits and direct assistance for health care coverage. Yet, American workers want more than unemployment checks; they want a steady paycheck. When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs.”

–George W. Bush, 2002 SOTU

“Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers. We should start where most new jobs do – in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU

“The way out of this recession, the way to create jobs, is to grow the economy by encouraging investment in factories and equipment and by speeding up tax relief so people have more money to spend. For the sake of American workers, let’s pass a stimulus package.”

–George W. Bush, 2002 SOTU

“Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology - from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. Four years of debate is enough - I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.”

–George W. Bush, 2005 SOTU

“Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources. And we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative - a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research - at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy.”

–George W. Bush, 2006 SOTU

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.”

–George W. Bush, 2002 SOTU

“I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home. I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70-percent cut in air pollution from powerplants over the next 15 years.”

–George W. Bush, 2003 SOTU

“The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform – reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“When it comes to our schools, dollars alone do not always make the difference. Funding is important, and so is reform. So we must tie funding to higher standards and accountability for results.”

–George W. Bush, 2001 SOTU

“Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job training system and strengthening America’s community colleges. And we will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants.”

–George W. Bush, 2005 SOTU

“That’s why we’re working to lift the value of a family’s single largest investment – their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up re-financing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of homeownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market. My administration brought together the HOPE NOW Alliance, which is helping many struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. And Congress can help even more. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. These are difficult times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.”

–George W. Bush, 2008 SOTU

“By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“Our Nation’s health care system, like our economy, is also in a time of change. Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives. This dramatic progress has brought its own challenge, in the rising costs of medical care and health insurance. Members of Congress, we must work together to help control those costs and extend the benefits of modern medicine throughout our country.”

–George W. Bush, 2004 SOTU

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our Government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, and help people afford the insurance coverage they need.”

–George W. Bush, 2006 SOTU

“Now if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to prevent a second Depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I’m proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. I listened, and I agree. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now, and I hope you will join me to pay down $2 trillion in debt during the next 10 years.”

–George W. Bush, 2001 SOTU

“Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“Just as we trust Americans with their own money, we need to earn their trust by spending their tax dollars wisely. Next week, I’ll send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs, totaling more than $18 billion. The budget that I will submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012.”

–George W. Bush, 2008 SOTU

“In 2 weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people’s money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next 5 years.”

–George W. Bush, 2004 SOTU

“My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: a taxpayer dollar must be spent wisely, or not at all.”

–George W. Bush, 2005 SOTU

“Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That’s why I’ve called for a bipartisan, Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The Commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“So tonight I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions. We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved.”

–George W. Bush, 2006 SOTU

“I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there’s a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.”
–Barack Obama, 2010 SOTU
“The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.”

–George W. Bush, 2007 SOTU

“The people’s trust in their Government is undermined by congressional earmarks, special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate. Last year, I asked you to voluntarily cut the number and cost of earmarks in half. I also asked you to stop slipping earmarks into committee reports that never even come to a vote. Unfortunately, neither goal was met. So this time, if you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, I’ll send it back to you with my veto. And tomorrow I will issue an Executive order that directs Federal Agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote.”

–George W. Bush, 2008 SOTU

An Appalling Breach of Decorum

This morning, Politico Arena invites comments on Obama’s SOTU attack on the Supreme Court.

My response:

I join my Arena colleagues, Professors Bradley Smith and Randy Barnett, in condemning the president’s remarks last night singling out the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision last week, which overturned law that the government itself admitted would even have banned books.  Not only was Obama’s behavior an appalling breach of decorum, but he didn’t even get his facts right.  As Brad, former FCC chairman, noted in his Arena post last night, and a bit more fully here, the decision did nothing to upset law that prohibits foreigners, including foreign corporations, from contributing anything of value to an American election.  Obama, the sometime constitutional law professor, should have known that.  At the least, his aides had plenty of time to research the question before he spoke.  This is just one more example of the gross incompetence or, worse, the indifference to plain fact that we’ve seen in this administration.

But it’s the breach of decorum that most appalls.  By constitutional design, the Supreme Court is the non-political branch of government.  Like members of the military, Supreme Court justices are invited to the State of the Union event, but they do not stand and applaud when the president makes political points that bring others to their feet.  For the president to have singled the justices out for criticism, while others around them stood and applauded as they sat there still, is simply demagoguery at its worst.  I would not be surprised if the justices declined next year’s invitation.  And Obama wanted to change the tone in Washington?  He sure has.

Less Is More in Education Funding

Spend more money on education, the President says? Actually, we should be looking there for savings … here are some of the numbers:

State governments spent 35 percent of their general funds on K–12 education in 2007, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. In contrast, Medicaid — which is continually singled out as a problematic state-budget item, even though most Medicaid funds come from the federal government — accounted for just 17 percent of general-fund expenditures. Combined, state and local governments spend 27 cents of every dollar they collect on public K–12 education system, but only 8 cents on Medicaid.

Food Stamps = Economic Driver?

It’s become standard fare for senior government leaders to declare that any and all subsidies are good for economic growth. Two weeks ago it was the Economic Development Administration’s John Fernandez. This week it’s USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

From GovExec.com:

In his speech, Vilsack called the increase in supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits “an economic driver” that helps truckers, grocery stores and farmers. Those benefits, which used to be known as food stamps, have gotten the most funding of any USDA program.

Vilsack also cited increased funding to bring high-speed Internet service to rural America; accelerated implementation of the energy title of the farm bill; and USDA investments in small, local processing and slaughtering plants for “creating a framework for a 21st century America.

Food stamps are an economic driver? Extending Vilsack’s logic, if the government put all citizens on food stamps it would create the economic equivalent of heaven on earth. There’s just one tiny problem: what the government gives with one hand it takes with the other.

Whether it is food stamps, high-speed internet, or slaughter houses, the government has to tax or borrow the resources to pay for these programs out of the private sector economy. One can debate the merits of these programs, but one cannot deny that they come at a cost. And with history and practical experience as a guide, it is clear that the private sector is more effective than the government when it comes to feeding the poor, fostering technology, and processing animals.

See here for information and essays on how to downsize the USDA.

Obama’s ‘New’ Industrial Policy

Last night, after the SOTU, Politico Arena asked:

State of the Union:  How did he do?

My response:

If you don’t look behind the stirring rhetoric, this was a fine performance – and many of Obama’s supporters will leave it right there. But behind it all is a single theme: People have problems, and government’s job is to solve those problems. Obama and his people, including many in Congress, still don’t get it. The recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were not about government doing more or better. They were not about all the subsidies or jobs programs or green initiatives Obama spoke about tonight. They were about government getting out of the way – about lowering taxes and lifting burdensome regulations so that businesses, large and small, can once again provide the jobs and the prosperity that have been crippled by the kinds of programs Obama was promoting tonight. This was micromanagement from Washington. We need management from Main Street.

Early on in his speech Obama said that many Americans don’t understand “why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.” Doubtless that’s true. But many more Americans do understand why. And so, as when he said that health care reform was in trouble because he had not explained it more clearly, Obama continues to believe that the problem is with the messenger, not with the message. Fortunately, we have elections in this country. I predict that come November the people will make it clear again that we don’t need yet another round of “industrial policy.” We need less of that, and more of what this country is really about – freedom.

Bipartisan Badness?

As I wrote last week, I had a bad feeling that President Obama would turn to education bribe – er – “reform” after last Tuesday’s bombshell election, and it seems I was right to be afraidvery afraid. It’s an area where Republicans have been all too happy over the last decade or so to let big government in despite its undeniable record of failure, and it will give the President a terrific chance to look like a new, “bipartisan” man. Fortunately, many progressive Democrats dislike extremely intrusive federal education laws like No Child Left Behind, so while the battle lines over what the president is likely to propose for K-12 education will probably be different than we’ve seen over the last year, hopefully the opposition will be just as strong. And when it comes to some efforts Mr. Obama is likely to highlight in higher education – even more federal spending and a complete takeover of student lending – Republicans will likely offer much more unified resistance. In other words, fighting the awful proposals we’re likely to hear about in tonight’s State of the Union won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible, either.