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If Past Presidents Could Speak

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

If some of the presidents we celebrate today could speak to us and give us counsel, what might they say?

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Information is the currency of democracy.” That requires homework, not a reliance on mainstream media sound bytes. In his first prime-time press conference, President Obama tried justifying his stimulus plan by pointing to Japan’s economic “lost decade.” But Japan, facing a deep recession, implemented ten separate spending stimulus packages between 1992 and 2000. Spending on public infra­structure was a major part of each package, yet the Japanese economy refused to recover. After eight years of “stimulus,” Japan’s annual growth rate was an anemic 0.6 percent between 1992 and 2007. If anything, Japan’s experience suggests that Obama’s unprecedented and expensive stimulus packages won’t work!

The U.S. national debt now stands at $10.8 trillion. The Democrat’s stimulus packages are increasing that to well over $13 trillion. We’re already paying over $412 billion a year just to pay the interest on our current debt. This is nothing compared to the $58 trillion of unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities. There’s no money set aside in a fund to pay these expanding benefits. Bernie Madoff’s swindle is dwarfed by Washington’s Ponzi Scheme! Creating a bigger deficit and a larger government bureaucracy isn’t the answer America needs.

Instead of just using Lincoln’s Bible, President Obama might have tried applying some of his core political principles. Abraham Lincoln preserved the union but knew its limits: "Government should do for people that which they cannot possibly do for themselves--and leave otherwise alone!" Lincoln knew how personal responsibility was critical to a society’s existence. After his own small business failure, Lincoln worked 17 years to pay off his debt. Lincoln would have had no patience for today’s “entitlement” mentality: "The worst thing you can do for those you love is the thing they could and should do for themselves.".

At the 1992 Republican Convention, President Ronald Reagan shared his secret for helping America climb out of recession, “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.” Reagan knew that the American Dream was built on individuals and entrepreneurs taking advantage of our free-enterprise economy. Instead of telling Americans we can’t make it without more government spending, Reagan inspired Americans to trust and use their treasured freedoms!

President Obama asserts that “Republican” policies created this mess and have been proven wrong. Even President John Kennedy would have disagreed, "The best means of strengthening demand is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative imposed by our tax system; this administration has pledged itself to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes." The Kennedy tax cuts of 1964, the Reagan cuts of 1981 and the Bush reductions of 2001 through 2003—all helped revitalize lagging economies. Today’s Democrats punish achievement and keep funding failures.

Aren’t you tired of watching your public funds going to irresponsible, failing companies? Failure helps people start over wiser. Creative destruction isn’t just an unfortunate side effect of free-market capitalism; it’s the very engine of economic recovery. Unprofitable corporations and industries must fail to release resources for new enterprises and new jobs. Disinvestment is as important as investment.

President Calvin Coolidge said, "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong." Only a society that allows individuals to pay the price for failure and earn the rewards of success will ever reap the benefits of human greatness. Freeing up and rewarding American ingenuity will always outperform bureaucrats in Washington trying to micromanage our economy. America’s economic DNA is built on speed, quick prototyping and opportunistic strategic growth, not constant meddling from Washington.

There’s no escalator that Democrats can construct that will magically transport everyone to the “good life.” Instead of waiting for your share of the stimulus package and the controls that come with it, try turning your gifts and dreams into a service or product someone will pay for. M. Scott Peck’s opening line in The Road Less Traveled is brutally honest—“Life is difficult.” Once you realize that, you can start doing what you can every day to create a better future for you and your family. Like every generation of Americans, refocus on emerging opportunities, retool your skills and find a way to bounce back. As McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc said, "Free enterprise will work if you will."

Finally, President Kennedy will forever be remembered for his memorable words: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Part of the drive to excel comes from a commitment to serve and help others. When people come together to meet local needs, hope happens and true community comes to life. Americans know how to dream, how to work hard and how to serve. We will get through this together in spite of what is happening in Washington.

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