In his State of the Union last month, President Bush talked about "competitiveness" and "innovation," and pledged to "invest" in an assortment of things.
But when you examine what he talked about "investing" in, you begin to suspect that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, is Bush's investment adviser.
Back on Nov. 15, Pelosi gave a speech laying out the Democratic agenda. It, too, was about "competitiveness," "innovation" and "investments." In fact, she used the word "investment" 10 times to describe what it is the Democrats want to do.
"The future prosperity and competitiveness of America demand that we initiate this sustained and intellectual investment in innovation," she said.
Exactly what type of "investment" was she talking about?
Well, for one, she wants to invest more tax dollars in math and science teachers. "America's greatest resource for innovation and economic growth resides in America's classrooms," she said. So, Democrats want "a qualified teacher in every math and science K-12 classroom."
Secondly, she wants to "double" the tax dollars for science research. "Our agenda will double federal funding for basic research and development in physical sciences," she said.
Thirdly, she wants to spend more tax dollars on alternative energy. Democrats, she said, will spend money to "develop clean, sustainable energy alternatives, such as bio-based fuels, as well as new engine technologies for flex-fuel, hybrid and bio-diesel cars and trucks."
In his State of the Union, Bush said, "Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."
Well, for one, he wants to invest more tax dollars in math and science teachers. "I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced placement courses in math and science," he said,
Secondly, he wants to "double" the tax dollars for science research. "I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years," he said.
Thirdly, he wants to spend more tax dollars on alternative energy. "To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy," he said. Not to mention "wood chip and stalks or switch grass."
But more telling than the fact that Bush and Pelosi want to spend our tax dollars on precisely the same things is that they both insist they are "investing" when they spend our money on more government.
On whose behalf are they investing our money?
Webster's Dictionary has a straightforward definition for "investment." It is: "The investing of money or capital to secure profitable returns, especially interest or income."
When you make a successful investment of your own money -- perhaps even by taking an "innovative" approach in a "competitive" environment -- the profitable returns come back to you. When you miscalculate, you absorb the loss.
But what happens when the government "invests" your money for you? Who gets the gain? Who absorbs the loss?
When politicians say they are "investing" money they took from you in compulsory taxes, they want you to believe you are getting something back in return. Yet, except when the government carries out its core constitutional functions -- such as maintaining a military to defend us all against foreign enemies -- federal government "investing" takes money from all taxpayers and then targets the benefit of spending that money at two groups: the special interests that actually receive the money and the politicians who take credit for spending it.
In the programs Bush and Pelosi are promoting, math and science teachers and corn and switch grass farmers may benefit. For the rest of us, politicians will have to argue that our return on their investment of our money will be indirect -- or will materialize only over the long run.
If past experience is any guide, for example, even the families who send their children to the very public schools targeted by new federal education spending may not benefit from it. And their neighbors who also pay taxes while sending their children to Catholic, Christian or Jewish Schools must satisfy themselves in the knowledge that the kid down the street who attends public school has a higher paid math teacher now thanks to the shared "investment" strategy of a Republican president and a Democratic House leader.