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January 26, 2011

The State of the Union: the Liberty Movement Responds

by Stephen Littau

Executive Director of the Libertarian Party Wes Benedict:

President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won’t really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it’s necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.
However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.

Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.

Benedict also saved some much needed criticism for Paul Ryan’s Republican response

On the Republican side, I found Congressman Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy appalling. He claims to want big cuts in government spending. But he didn’t seem to be too worried about cutting spending when Republicans were in charge. He supported the huge Medicare expansion in 2003, and the expensive No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. He supports the expensive War on Drugs. In 2008, he put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk by voting for the massive TARP bailout, and he even voted to spend billions on the GM and Chrysler bailout.

Just one month ago, Congressman Ryan voted for the tax compromise that included a big increase in unemployment spending, and even extensions of government spending on ethanol.

Republicans don’t want to cut spending — they want to talk about cutting spending.

At Reason.com Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie responded with a post “We Can’t Win the Future By Repeating the Past”

How can we “win the future,” as President Barack Obama exhorted us to do in his 2011 State of the Union address, when our top elected official remains so drearily stuck in the past? And despite the commanding role of what can only be called Sputnik nostalgia in his speech, Obama was not even channeling the distant past in his remarks.

Instead, he served up the equivalent of a microwaved reheating of the sentiments of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. That’s some sort of groovy, space-age technological feat, for sure, but we shouldn’t confuse left-over platitudes about cutting wasteful spending on the one hand while ramping up publicly funded “investment” on the other for a healthy meal.

Neal Boortz:

Sure enough, as I told you, Obama replaced the word “spending” with the word “investing”. I’ve gone through this routine with you before, people just react better to the word investing than they do the word spending. Investing good, spending bad. What Barack Obama proposed last night was not investing at all, it was pure stimulus spending. Space and we all know how well the last stimulus plan worked. Where’s the unemployment rate now? About 9.5%? Yeah, that worked. One of the mainstays oval bomb his new stimulus program is this high speed rail boondoggle. Obama said “Within 25 years our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail.” Space you do know, don’t you, that Amtrak has never made money. Amtrak is a constant drain on taxpayer dollars were ever those trains run. And how is it going to be any different with high-speed rail lines. Experts not working for the government or not working for the building trades unions, are pretty much unanimous in their opinions that high-speed rail in our widely disseminated population simply will not work. It high-speed rail doesn’t work between New York and Philadelphia, or New York and Washington DC without losing money, how in the world isn’t going to work between Orlando and Tampa or any other two urban areas in this country. Space the fact is that this whole dream about high-speed rail is nothing but a payoff to unions in order to put construction workers to work building rail lines, joining unions, paying union dues, and allowing unions to make massive political contributions to candidates. Democrat candidates.

Gene Healy at Cato says the problem with the SOTU isn’t the seating:

Bipartisan symbolism’s all the rage on Capitol Hill right now, with members scrambling for a cross-aisle BFF to sit with at the State of the Union (SOTU). Tonight, the lion will lie down with the lamb — or at least Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will sit elbow to elbow and try not to bite each other.

Maybe these gestures will lead to a nationwide surge of oxytocin — the togetherness hormone — healing partisan rancor across the fruited plain. But that’s highly unlikely, given how polarizing the modern SOTU and the modern presidency have become.

Over at United Liberty, former Liberty Papers contributor Jason Pye warns readers to not be fooled by the president’s favorite buzzword from the SOTU: “investing”

Consider this, in the same speech President Obama was pitching a paltry speeding freeze, he spoke often of investment. Of course, since “stimulus” has become a political non-starter; thanks largely to his behemoth spending bill passed shortly after he took office two years ago, “investment” is the new buzz word for statists to push their wasteful pet spending.

Among these “investments” will be more spending for high-speed rail projects, high-speed internet, tax credits, more education spending, energy subsidies, and more spending for our seemingly endless operations in Afghanistan – although he promises that we will soon begin withdrawal from the country, don’t believe it; we’re going to be there for years to come. Obama claims to want a spending freeze, but he also wants to spend more money. On what planet does that make sense?

Former Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr called the speech a “yawn”

A little bit of something for everybody; but a really big something for government. This was the essential thrust of this 44th President’s second — and longest, state-of-the-union speech last night. While Barack Obama did not include quite as lengthy a shopping list in his state of the union speech as did his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, his list was long nonetheless.

Even though Obama paid lip service to regulatory reform, community-based education, tax reform, and reform of last year’s health care reform (among many other tid-bits), in virtually every instance, the ultimate solution to which he kept returning was more government spending and increased government prioritization.

Finally, John Stossel offers a State of the Union address of his own (to which I won’t excerpt because the whole thing should be read; I’ll post the video if I can find it).

***UPDATE*** Cato offers a more complete response to the SOTU by getting into some of the details of the speech and other observations.

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