Politics & Policy

Can-Do Collectivism

The president’s speech last night wore a flag pin. But to paraphrase the president on another occasion, safeguarding the American experiment takes more than expressions of patriotism. President Obama made a Reaganesque joke about the ham-handedness of government. But he nonetheless seems oblivious, quite unlike Reagan, to the dangers that unconstrained government poses to the American future.

He says that the government cannot pick the industries of the future — moments before explaining how it is going to create jobs in renewable energy. His proposal to improve the nation’s infrastructure centers on the faddish boondoggle of high-speed rail, which is wholly unsuitable for a country with our population density. He favors increased subsidies for higher education that are more likely to increase college tuitions than to prepare our work force for the challenges of tomorrow. His plan for Social Security must consist entirely of tax increases, since he has ruled out every other expedient. He is unwilling to rethink a health-care plan that is likely to add to the country’s economic burdens: increasing insurance premiums, reducing wages, raising taxes, and adding to the national debt. Obama’s economic strategy is a high-speed train to nowhere.

Every once in a long while the president made a worthwhile, though usually vague, proposal. He expressed interest in cutting the corporate tax rate while simplifying the corporate tax code: a reform that has become more pressing with each year as other countries have cut their rates. Even vaguer was his call for reforming the rest of the tax code. Regarding these promises the Republican posture should be to distrust and verify.

“We do big things,” President Obama said. Too bad that what his administration mostly does is big government.

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