The Agenda

McDonnell’s Agenda

There was only one line I didn’t like in the McDonnell response.

Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.

We really do need to trim Medicare, my friends. I don’t necessarily like the president’s approach and I am fully aware of the political landscape. Still, this is stuck in my craw. The rest of the response was near-flawless, including the decision to praise the Obama administration for solid first steps on education and Afghanistan. My favorite passage, of course, was the following:

Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our Founders clearly stated, and we Governors understand, government closest to the people governs best.

This reminded me of Alex Castellanos’s manifesto on “New Republicanism,” and I’m very glad to see the right turn from making bigger, better promises regarding what a lumbering and expensive government can do to calling for cheaper, more responsive, more resilient ways of solving age-old problems.

Another passage certainly sounded politically appealing, but it led me to raise an eyebrow:

Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.

This reminded me of William Easterly’s distinction between “planners” and “searchers.” Rather than bring in trained experts to transform a neighborhood through shock-and-awe, searchers recognize that the only enduring solutions — the solutions that have legitimacy and that fit the particularities of the actual people involved — are homegrown

One thing I would’ve liked: McDonnell endorsing a proposal first advanced by John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s once-and-future Democratic governor. In short, Kitzhaber asked the federal government to give the money it spends on medical insurance and care for Oregonians to the state government. As a loyal partisan, I assume that Kitzhaber has fallen in lockstep behind the president’s proposal. But the idea was a very powerful one.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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