by Jack Hunter
WTMA commentary broadcast 10/17/08:
Each of the three presidential debates this year has only reminded me of just how overblown and overgrown our federal government has become. In an ideal America, where the two major political parties offered an actual choice, we might have seen a Republican presidential candidate arguing that the answer to our problems is to get the government out of the way, and a Democratic candidate making the opposite case, that government can make things better. In 1996, President Bill Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over.” Wednesday night’s last debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, once again promised that big government was here to stay.
When moderator Bob Schieffer pointed out the U.S. spends more per capita per student than any other nation, and yet we still lag behind in math and science, Obama basically said we needed to invest more money in the system while reforming it, while McCain said we to overhaul the system while concentrating on improving students math and science skills. Perhaps the devil is in the details, and McCain did mention his support for vouchers later on, but essentially both candidates offered no serious departure from current policy.
Compare McCain and Obama’s language to that of Bob Dole, who when running for president on the Republican ticket in 1996, declared "We're going to cut out the Department of Education." The Republican Party platform that year read as follows "The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning."
Of course Dole didn’t win, and when a Republican finally did return to the White House, George W. Bush expanded the federal government’s role in education with “No Child Left Behind,” which increased the Department of Education’s annual budget nearly 70% in two years. Any true conservative or even half-decent traditional Republican would be calling both for the repeal of No Child Left Behind and abolishing the Department of Education. I never expected a liberal like Obama to call for either. The same goes for a liberal like McCain, and sadly, I have been proven right.
On tax policy, Wall Street bailouts, environmental concerns and most other issues, Obama and McCain offered slight variations on the same big government themes. To make matters worse, notes Taki’s Magazine’s Richard Spencer, throughout the campaign the McCain camp would “one day (be) insinuating that Obama is unfit to be president, the next announcing that (McCain) wants to work alongside him to solve America’s problems.” And much to McCain’s chagrin, he is slowly discovering that whatever William Ayers blew up is of less concern to the average American than Republicans and Democrats who want to reach across the aisle to blow up the federal budget to unprecedented levels.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of Wednesday night’s debate, and the most poignant reminder of just how out-of-control our government has become, was that both candidates felt it necessary to address the problem of autism. Autism is an awful, unfortunate condition, and the sooner a cure or advanced treatment is discovered, the better.
But exactly how does treating autism fall under the purview of the President of the United States? The U.S. Constitution delegates specific authorities to the legislative, judicial and executive branches, and granted, each branch overstepped its constitutional bounds eons ago and never looked back. But is it really the federal government’s role to find solutions to every societal ill, health or otherwise? Can you imagine a president George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson trying to find federal solutions for typhoid or scarlet fever? Every decent American wants something done about conditions like autism. But that autism was injected into a national presidential debate is indicative of the unhealthy condition of American government.
Just 12 years ago, a Democratic president could declare the era of big government to be over, and a moderate, mainstream Republican candidate had no qualms is calling for the abolishment of the Department of Education. While neither politician’s actions matched their words, today Republican and Democratic candidates will not even employ such rhetoric. At least yesterday’s candidates lied and told us what we wanted to hear – today’s candidates are upfront in promising what so many of us fear. Clinton was wrong. The era of big government was never over. Quite the contrary. And in a post-Bush, pre-Obama or pre-McCain America, it looks like our leaders are just getting started.