President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new. The President continued the same leftist rhetoric he used during his inaugural address, calling for even more spending and government. As Jason wrote, he absurdly claimed that he has CUT spending, attacked the sequestration plan that he himself proposed, and called for an increase in the minimum wage would would prove disastrous to job creation. In short, it was more of the same - big government, high taxes, and spending money we don’t have.
The official Republican response was fairly lackluster. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker, but his speech was big on platitudes and slogans and small on substance. The real response came from Senator Rand Paul. It’s no secret that Senator Paul is a favorite of mine and of many libertarian-leaning folks, so there was much anticipation that he would offer a clear vision apart from both Obama and Rubio. For the most part, he did just that.
To begin, Paul went strongly after the President and laid out a clear idea of what he believes America is really all about:
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.
To be sure, a very different view of America than Obama represents. It is a philosophy that Republicans often claim to stand for, but often fall far short of.
Paul then offered his suggestions for how to fix our broken system. He first offered the idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment. While I have reservations about how this would actually work in practice, it’s at least a debate we should be having. Make the opponents argue why we need to spend trillions more than we take in every year. As Senator Paul pointed out, we can balance the budget far easier than we often are told - just cut a penny from every dollar we spend and you can do it.
The Senator then made clear that both parties are to blame:
It is often said that there is not enough bipartisanship up here.
That is not true.
In fact, there is plenty.
Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses.
It is time for a new bipartisan consensus.
It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.
Both parties have for far too long pretended that only the other party is at fault for our problems. It’s heartening to see a Republican willing to call out his own party. It’s a lie there is no bipartisanship - it is just always on the wrong things.
Senator Paul offered more ideas on how to repair our system. He offered praise for immigrants, defended school choice, and proposed a 17% flat tax. He called for more transparency in Washington, term limits, and a mandate that bills are read before being passed. All good ideas that should be discussed and debated.
But my favorite part was towards the end, when he said this:
We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.
We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.
We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.
We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.
Congress must reassert its authority as the protector of these rights, and stand up for them, no matter which party is in power.
Congress must stand as a check to the power of the executive, and it must stand as it was intended, as the voice of the people.
And here’s where he and Rubio were miles apart. Most Republicans won’t attack Obama’s egregious abuses of executive power for one simple reason - they want to be able to use it when their guy is in power. This is why they, for the most part, refuse to question the idea that the President should be able to kill whoever he wants. It was great to hear an elected Republican call out Congress for failing to stand up to the Executive Branch, including his own party.
It’s clear that Senators Paul and Rubio are two of the GOP’s rising stars. Last night showed that they represent two very different visions of where the party should go. While Rubio stuck to mostly safe ideas, Paul stuck his neck out and called out his own party. If there will be any saving the GOP, I certainly hope that Paul’s voice gains in power while Rubio and his lot fall in influence.