Today Mr. Obama releases the details of his $3.5 trillion budget, his path to the same goal. Rather than drown as usual in this accounting morass, Republicans should contrast the Obama-Pelosi budget with the Reagan-Kemp philosophy of how a striving nation works, saves and invests.
Republicans can start by taking the time to read the first Obama budget document, “A New Era of Responsibility.” The word “investment” occurs over 140 times in its 142 pages. But this “investment” isn’t private capital invested in private start-ups, what Mr. Kemp constantly called “entrepreneurial capitalism” and what most parents hope their children will join. Mr. Obama’s document genuflects to “the market economy,” then argues that it won’t endure unless we “sacrifice” (through tax increases) to make “overdue investments” (which literally only means public spending) on four explicit goals: green energy, infrastructure, public health care, and education.
It is not conceivable that a Reagan or Kemp would have directed the U.S. economy’s legendary energies into building hybrid cars, windmills and bullet trains. It would not have occurred to them that America’s next Silicon Valley — Apple, Intel and Oracle — could grow out of “investments” listed in the federal budget. This would not have occurred to either man because their politics were rooted in the 300-year-old, singularly American tradition of individuals freely deciding how to spend their productive hours and money inside a public system that mainly provides security and safety.
UPDATE 5:01pm BST: Steve Hayward @ The Corner is on the same page as Daniel Henninger & me:
More to the point â€” we’ve been here before, and Reagan showed the way out. After the post-Watergate 1974 election disaster, some polls showed the number of voters who identified as Republicans below 20 percent (compared to 31 percent today), and there were calls to abandon the Republican Party and found a new Conservative Party. Bill Buckley wrote at the time that the Republican Party had become â€œan administrative convenience for a few politicians,â€ and speculated that â€œIf Reagan ran for President on an independent ticket, he would get a higher percentage of the vote than the Republican Party would get if it were led by any other American.â€ Reagan rejected this advice (which came also even more strongly from Bill Rusher), and it prompted one of his most famous speeches, before CPAC in 1975: â€œIs it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which makes it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people? Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness.â€
But there is another rant that needs registering, namely, that all those folks who claim to be Reaganites would take the time to sit down a study the man’s methods â€” not his ideology â€” more seriously. As we now know, he worked extremely hard, studying the issues in depth and preparing and practicing his speeches at great length. I’m frankly appalled at the low level of rhetorical skill displayed by most GOP politicians today. It is not just a matter of talent; talent helps, but Reagan showed that hard work is the key ingredient. Too many of our would-be party leaders today are simply lazy, and think they can coast through speeches and media appearances with little forethought. Finally, Reagan lived by an old show-business adage â€” always leave your audience wanting more. His speeches were often memorable because they were relatively short. You could fit five of Reagan’s state of the union speeches inside one of Bill Clinton’s or George W. Bush’s. (This means you, Governor Palin, whom I heard in Anchorage in March making a rambling hour-long speech that someone at my table rightly described as “Castroesque.”) So try this out, GOP leaders: Shorter speeches. People will remember more of what you say, and want to hear you say more later. This really isn’t rocket science. Heck, it isn’t even political science.
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