EDITORIAL: Government shouldn't talk; it should let the people do
Feb 13, 2013 (Lebanon Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A feisty President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to double down on the progressive principles that won him a second term, challenging the GOP to come along for the ride.
We didn't need to ask how such a stance would play in the Lebanon Valley. It doesn't. It never has. We're not certain if it ever will -- perhaps, but we wouldn't give it great odds and we're sure not laying money on it.
But Obama won the election. He's in his second term. He's going to play his strongest hand. We understand the politics even as we understand that most of our readers will strongly disagree with the stance. Those are realities.
The president outlined a sweeping list of political priorities that touched on many goals -- making preschool available to all children, expanding green energy development, comprehensive immigration reform, gun control and a broad infrastructure repair program. There's plenty of fighting words in there for Valley residents. We see them, too.
"It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many and not just the few," the president said. "That it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation."
This is political speechifying, not real understanding of the country -- especially its origins. Government does not work on behalf of the "many." It does not work on behalf of the "few." If either case is true,
government is not working at all.
Government is all-or-nothing. It either works for every individual or it works for none. Forget "society" for a moment, and think in terms of individuals. We stress the idea of rewarding individual initiative and free enterprise. Too bad much of what government has done in recent decades makes such reward less and less true with each passing year.
The idea is government of, by and for all; and "all" is not a collective but a collection of individuals, guaranteed rights and protections not by government but by the people's very existence. Government's job is to stay out of the way. It doesn't; certainly not this administration's definition of it; and not any of the last many administrations, regardless of which of the two big parties is running the show.
The president spent relatively little time on the problem many Americans say they find the most troubling -- the federal debt.
He acknowledged how spiraling health care costs are driving deficits and talked about how the nation "must embrace the need for modest reform" of Medicare.
There's words to rally by -- "a modest reform." Charge!
The recommendations he offered were fuzzy statements such as asking "more from the wealthiest seniors" and changing the way the government pays for Medicare.
Then, the president pivoted to what he said was the need to close loopholes and deductions for the wealthy and well-off.
If only the nation's budget problems were so easily solved. Democrats, led by the president, must come to the table with meaningful entitlement cuts as a part of a balanced approach to get the country on firmer financial footing.
As the cold, hard math of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission showed, the path there involves additional revenues but also more painful reductions than Democrats favor.
The president's vision of government was one poised to nurture a nation recovering from wounds inflicted by the economic meltdown.
We don't need a nursemaid. Particularly not a government-funded one. It was government and a controlling corporatocracy that inflicted the wounds in the first place. Obama's compassion for hard-working Americans who are struggling and unable to get ahead or even get above the wavetops is nice to hear, but lip service is just that -- lip service. It's not answering the questions that those hard-working Americans are asking. And they are hard questions, scary questions, questions of quality of life, not about vacation homes or where to have one's next expensive dinner.
The politicians aren't listening. The dog-and-pony show that is the State of the Union Address is about offering wise, knowing nods toward those on Main Street. Politicians know how to look wise and concerned. They do so. Then it's back to the business of being re-elected, and Main Street can figure out how it's going to eat all on its own.
Obama's vision for prosperity is admirable, but it can't be directed, can't be supported, and cannot be funded (nor should it be) by a government with record debt that cannot even agree on a plan to heal itself.
The show's over. How about getting some work done
Some material from the Denver Post was used in this editorial.
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