Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Silencing the Problem Solvers

By Michael Johns

We should know at least this by now: One of the first signs of failed and lost political leadership is often the creation of a government commission.

On the surface, the development of such commissions might project the image of non-partisanship, seriousness, deliberation and urgency. In reality, though, it more typically reflects political cowardice, rooted in obfuscation, deflection and even dereliction of duty by elected leaders unwilling to take responsibility for the decisions they promised the public they would make on their behalf.

So it has been with the Obama administration. When it comes to politics, this administration is all hands on deck, ruthlessly disparaging its political opponents, dividing the public by class and demographics, and even attempting to invent new bogeymen to distract the public from its own colossal failures.

What is the specific Obama plan for reducing our federal deficit and prioritizing our federal government expenditures? Who knows? With support from his liberal Congressional allies, Obama delegated that responsibility to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Supercommittee, which three and a half months later has reported that it has nothing to report and was unable to develop any consensus on the committee's charged mission of presenting a deficit reduction plan.

Did the commission fail? That's the wrong question. The more proper question is where is this President's own solutions? What is his own plan for addressing the fiduciary crisis that he contends inflicts our nation's federal entitlement programs? You won't be seeing that plan because this administration knows it is not a vote winner. Instead, they will blame Republicans, blame the commission, and try to deflect the nation's rage. That is one thing this administration has done with some success, and it is what we can expect of it between now and November 6, 2012.

There is good news, however. Some institutions are doing the hard work. Such is the case with The Heritage Foundation, which has offered its detailed "Saving the Dream" plan to simplify the tax code and address the coming crises in federal entitlement programs.

It also is the case with FreedomWorks, which last week released, on behalf of America's tea party movement, "The Tea Party Budget." In so doing, FreedomWorks has done more for America than this President has yet to do: Present a concrete and comprehensive plan for reigning in federal expenditures, reducing the federal debt and bringing the American government into the 21st century while still preserving the tenets of our founding principles.

The details of The Tea Party Budget are thoughtful and an indication that America's tea party movement, unlike the President, is not shrinking from the detailed and sometimes difficult burdens of governance. Among the plan's highlights, it would:

**Cut, cap and balance the federal budget;

**Balance the federal budget without any increase in taxes;

**Reduce federal spending by $9.7 trillion over the coming decade;

**Reduce federal government spending from its current level of 24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest since World War II, to a more realistic 16 percent; and

**Expand the choices afforded citizens as it relates to their Social Security contributions and, for the elderly, medical plans available under Medicare.

One would think that such a constructive and detailed plan would be welcome in Washington, even among those who may disagree wholly with the plan's details, because it at least begins the hard work of moving from meaningless political rhetoric to concrete solutions.

Yet, this administration and their Democrat allies in Congress are not policy creatures; they are political ones, and this means a strict aversion to constructive solutions, especially those offered by perceived political enemies. As U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) began to convene the FreedomWorks meeting this past Thursday in the Russell Senate Office Building, stern-faced aides of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) encircled it, informing Lee that it violated an obscure component of the Senate Rules Committee that prohibits unofficial meetings as being advertised as "hearings."

Of course, there was no advance notice given Lee or FreedomWorks. Of course, none of Schumer's aides gave much consideration to the fact that there was nothing particularly unique about this particular gathering that had not occurred countless other times in the very same building under the name of "panel discussion," "briefing," "roundtable," or other apparently innocuous nouns. And of course, there was no consideration to the fact that, in dozens of American cities right now, the Occupy movement, without permits, has spent weeks held up on government and city grounds--offering no real concrete solutions to anything.

Fortunately (thanks to Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies), the FreedomWorks meeting was simply moved down the street, where the voice of the people was more welcome. But the image of Washington's liberal elite attempting to silence the tea party is one worth keeping in mind as a political contrast, particularly as next year's electoral season nears: On one hand is a movement offering concrete solutions to America's most pressing challenges; on the other is an arrogant governing elite that continues to rely only on the power of the state and its legal minutia to silence constructive solutions at a moment when America needs them desperately.

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