What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted—it was borrowed, spent, and wasted.
The pay-off on the stimulus was never clear. Certainly, the president failed to provide any great plan behind the stimulus. We didn’t get anything like the Tennesse Valley Authority or the interstate highway system for our money. Instead, we wonder what happened to it.
You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business. But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care. Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.
Here, Paul Ryan makes two excellent points. In the wake of the crisis of 2008, you would think that other matters would be more important than making massive changes to health care. That sentiment should ring especially true given the failure of efforts in the states aimed at making improvements with broad schemes of coverage. In addition, he raises the Hayekian point that dense, unreadable, and technocratic laws like this one fundamentally subvert democracy and self-government. They transfer power to bureaucrats and regulators.
It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.
Score. Again. The president soared into office with higher expectations than anyone in my lifetime. He had to be pretty special to justify the hype. He wasn’t. A conventional European left party retread (even with perfectly pressed pants) just doesn’t keep the messiah-meter running. Paul Ryan reminds us.
He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
Ryan refers to the president’s single greatest failure of leadership. Appointing and then ignoring his own debt commission was presidential malpractice. The transformational president people like David Brooks thought they were getting would have taken those recommendations and tried to do something with them.
Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores—these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one. And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.
I think this is a good response to the “you didn’t build that” controversy that has integrity. Sure, government is a help to all of us in our lives. It would be silly to suggest otherwise. But we know what is ultimately decisive and that is commitment. Ryan correctly honors the commitment of the small business owner who puts the project on his or her shoulders and pushes forward.
College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
Another reference to the hope that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The president had the government completely under his control with supermajorities for two years. We didn’t see the magic those posters (so reminiscent of 20th century socialist propaganda) promised.
None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers—a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.
This could be a line from a Pixar movie. I’m thinking about Dash in The Incredibles. “If everyone has to be special, then no one is.” Better still, the discriminating consumer of political messaging realized Ryan was referring to the Obama campaign’s infamous Life of Julia timeline in which a woman lives her whole life in the shadow of a friendly, but highly regulatory state. Don’t miss the nice satire that came out shortly afterward.
Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate.It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio. When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
In this section, Ryan reminds Americans that statistics on wealth and poverty don’t portray some static reality. People move up and down the scale. Thomas Sowell demonstrated this dynamic nicely in his The Vision of the Anointed. You can succeed and you can fail. “That’s freedom.” I like the swipe at central planners. Brings back a little of the old Cold War resonance. That conflict occurred because we had different visions for human life. Our vision was (and hopefully still is) one of freedom.
We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles.
Things like limited government and federalism are not relics. They are valuable contributions to political life and must not be abandoned.
As an overall point, I also appreciated Ryan’s continuing reminders that “We can do this.” On the one hand, it sounds a lot like the “Yes, we can!” of the first Obama campaign. But “We can do this” is much more modest in its intentions. Rather than promising to bring the millennium to human affairs, Paul Ryan promises that we can correct the damage that has been done in the last several years and return to growing prosperity.