President Obama's campaign theme of ending politics as usual and creating a new bipartisanship that will get things done for the American people is about to be tested now that he has the power -- or at least some of the power -- to make it happen.
The president has commendably met with Republican congressional leaders during the early stages of his push for an economic "stimulus" plan, but now comes the hard part. There remain two distinct and possibly irreconcilable differences between traditional Republicans and traditional Democrats. Republicans once believed and encouraged doing for one's self and approaching government -- if at all -- as a last resort. Democrats see government as a first resource and people as an expanding pool of victims who are incapable of independently bettering their lives (and if they do, they are to be taxed to subsidize those who don't).
The Obama "stimulus" plan is a $1 trillion dollar gamble more suited to Las Vegas than Washington. It bets the economic vitality of future generations on the belief that money from Washington would jumpstart the economy. Generally, one jumpstarts a car when the battery is dead, but America's "batteries" (its people) are not dead. The vehicle has stalled because too much government meddling and loss of personal responsibility has flooded the engine. More meddling will not revive the U.S. economy anymore than holding down the accelerator on a flooded engine will start a car.
Republicans might enjoy more credibility when calling for individual responsibility had they behaved differently during the years they controlled Congress and/or the White House. There are initial signs they may again be finding their voice and embracing the beliefs that once brought them to power for the announced purpose of downsizing government and "upsizing" opportunity.
House Republican Leader John Boehner appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and said. "Government can't fix this. We can't borrow and spend our way back to prosperity. But what we can do is provide incentives to businesses and families to reinvest in our economy." This is classic Republican doctrine, but while President Obama has promised to consider GOP ideas, don't look for him to embrace this one. To do so would mean opposing his liberal congressional leadership, which wants increasing numbers of Americans dependent on government in order to maintain the party's hold on power.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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