THE PROBLEM WITH GOVERNMENT is that it is run by people, and people are flawed. They are not virtue machines. We are all of us, even the best of us, vulnerable to the call of the low: to greed, conceit, insensitivity, ruthlessness, the desire to show you’re in control, in charge, in command.
If the problem with government is that it is run by people and not, as James Madison put it, angels, the problem with big government is that it is run by a lot of people who are not angels. They can, together and in the aggregate, do much mischief. They can and inevitably will produce a great deal of injustice, corruption and heartlessness.
People in government—people in a huge, sprawling government—often get carried away. And they don’t always even mean to. But they are little tiny parts of a large and overwhelming thing. If government is a steamroller, and that is in good part how I see it, the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel. The force of forward motion carries them along. There is inevitably an unaccountability, and in time often an indifference about what the steamroller rolls over. All the busy little atoms are watching each other, competing with each other, winning one for their little cluster. And no one is looking out and being protective of what the steamroller is rolling over–traditions, shared beliefs, individual rights, old assumptions, whatever is being rolled over today.
This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don’t like big government. They don’t even like government. We know we have to have one, that it is necessary, that it can and must do good, that it has real responsibilities that must be met. Madison again, in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
These are wise words.
But conservatives are not supposed to like big government. It’s not our job. We’re supposed to like freedom and the rights of the individual. (Individuals aren’t virtue machines either, but they’re less powerful than governments and so generally less damaging.) We’re supposed to be on the side of the grass the steamroller flattens.
Twenty-five years ago the conservative movement came to Washington, and much good came of its arrival. The argument against big government—its big taxing and big regulating, its bias toward a kind of enforced cultural conformity—was made again and again. The growth of government slowed, its demands to some degree beaten back.
The leadership of the Republican Party was now, in its avowed aims if not its daily practices, antigovernment. The party that was, in its daily operations if not always its avowed intentions, pro-government, the Democrats, remained in effective control of Congress and the courts.
There was progress in the 1980s. The steamroller slowed.
Eleven years ago came the Gingrich revolution and the Contract With America. That contract could be boiled down to these words: Stop the Steamroller. Take away its gas, make it smaller, term-limit it. Be on the side of the grass. This movement too did good work—it actually forced upon the federal government a balanced budget—but in the end results were mixed, as political results tend to be. The steamroller rolled on.
What followed was the trauma of the end of the Clinton years, the 2000 election, the Bush administration, and the historic rise in the anti-steamroller party of a new operating assumption: that the steamroller will always be with us. And that if it is destined to become always and every year bigger, heavier and more powerful, then you might as well relax and learn how to run it, how to drive it and direct it. Make friends with the steamroller. Run it to your own ends and not the other team’s.
This was understandable, especially after 9/11. Defense is expensive; technology has its own demands; the stakes are high.
And yet. All other parts of the government grew. The size and force of it grew in ways that were not at all necessary or crucial.
And learning to accept the steamroller, learning to direct the steamroller, learning in fact to love the steamroller, can get you to some bad places. To more size, more action, more corruption. To flawed people who are essentially unaccountable and busy winning their own victories for their own cluster. “I got mine. You got yours?”
Political corruption is always more likely when you fall in love with the steamroller. Or if not loving it accepting it, being “realistic” about it, embracing it.
There’s a lot of talk among Republicans that since recent scandals involve politicians and staff on both sides of the aisle, the public will not punish the Republicans. This assertion is countered by the argument that while the public will likely see the story as one of government corruption, Congress and the White House are run by Republicans, so Republicans will pay the price. I think this is true, but I think it misses a larger point: In some rough way the public expects the party that loves big government to be pretty good at finagling government, playing with it, using it for its own ends. That’s kind of what they do. They love the steamroller, of course they love the grease that makes it run. But the anti-big government
party isn’t supposed to be so good at it, so enmeshed in it. The antigovernment party isn’t supposed to be so good at oiling the steamroller’s parts and pushing its levers. And so happy doing the oiling and pushing.
It isn’t good to love the steamroller. In the end it can roll right over you, and all you stand for, or stood for.
Is there a way for Republicans to go? Stop trying to fit in. Stop being another atom in the steel. It does no good trying to run a better steamroller. It won’t work. Steamrollers are not your friend.
Peggy Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal © 2006 Dow Jones & Company. All rights reserved.
THERE WAS CREEPING DISMAY about Congress before the Abramoff indictment. Government spending was out of hand, the president’s refusal to exercise the veto began to seem almost as if he were bound by a secret oath, supplementary spending bills began to sound as though written for Saturday Night Live. There is national disgust, but it is never quite clear whether this can be transformed into effective action for reform. There are many ideas floating about on measures that might be taken.
It was not very long ago that national attention was given to reforms focusing on money in the area of campaign financing. Efforts were made to reason in terms of gross dollars spent. If the spending of money by individual legislators was an invitation to corruption, why—regulate the amounts spent!
The money-quantity approach to reducing campaign spending ran into two problems, one of them constitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that federal election expense limits could be set, inasmuch as the government had a legitimate interest in protecting an appearance of integrity in electoral proceedings. But to limit what an individual could spend in promoting himself as a candidate, or in promoting his cause, would be an incursion on First Amendment rights and, as such, unconstitutional.
During the disputes of that period (1970– 76), two voices sounded weightily. Milton Friedman argued mostly on the question of personal rights. If individuals wished to make contributions to political candidates reflecting intense enthusiasm for them or for their causes, what to do? Answer: Follow the first rule of a libertarian society, and let them do what they want to do. The columnist George Will argued with devastating effect that there was no purpose in electoral reform that sought to reduce moneys spent for the simple reason that contributors will find ways to contribute, and politicians will find ways to spend. All that can be done, argued Mr. Will, is to insist that money traffic be disclosed so that the broader constituency can decide for itself whether the courtship of a candidate or a cause has become smelly.
Many pundits bowed before the pressure of these arguments. But what has now happened in the area of government spending is on the order of a structural breakdown, a flight from responsibility that doesn’t get punished because everyone apparently is guilty. The Executive has not been punished for failing to exercise a veto against inordinate spending. And legislators get de facto immunity on the grounds that problems are systemic, not individual.
Consider the device by which pork is engineered. The so-called “earmark,” appended to a huge bill providing, say, for the common defense, brings on arrested motion if the earmarker’s request for money for the famous bridge from nowhere to nowhere is not authorized.
One practical suggestion has been made, but would of course require filibuster-proof action. Namely, that all the earmarks attached to a particular bill may not constitute more than one percent of the money being authorized by that bill.
A second suggestion is made by former Speaker Newt Gingrich. It is that incumbents be prohibited from fundraising in Washington, D.C. This would greatly reduce the influence of lobbyists on congressional action.
And so on. I remember as a student in Mexico City hearing the derisory suggestion on how to limit graft in the executive. President Manuel Avila Camacho stressed his personal incorruptibility in the matter of profiteering from the sale of beef—he pointed out that he owned no cattle. Ah. But his brother Maximino, petitioned by starving American meat buyers for 100,000 head of cattle, famously replied, “What color?” A so-called reformer in the national assembly amused his colleagues by suggesting an amendment to the Mexican constitution forbidding a president to have a brother.
Well, we cannot change human nature. Accordingly, we can assume that corruption will continue, but the graver problem is the apparent indifference to corruption. Perhaps a nation that seems to have been persuaded by its legislature that medical care can be free suffers from permanently dulled senses, and has to learn from some dire future jolt that self-government cannot hope to work without effective public concern.
William F. Buckley, Jr., is Editor at Large of National Review. ON THE RIGHT by William F. Buckley Jr. © 2005 Universal Press Syndicate. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
WHEN LOOKING AT THE FEDERAL spending landscape, it’s easy to become pessimistic. After all, Washington’s current spending and future commitments will bankrupt our country if we ignore them. But this is no time for pessimism. The federal government can—and must—get spending under control. The answers are within reach.
Medicare: The program’s trustees project Medicare spending will increase from 2.7 percent of GDP today to 9.3 percent of GDP by 2050. But we can take simple steps now to restrain that explosive spending.
First, the 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit is projected to account for one quarter of the new spending after 2020. It’s not too late to suspend the benefit before it takes effect.
Instead, we ought to extend the current drug card, which targets help to the needy—not seniors who already have drug coverage. Lawmakers are certain to face a backlash next year when retirees realize Part D was designed with a gaping coverage hole—many seniors will find themselves responsible for thousands of dollars in drug costs. It would be better to suspend the program and fix it now than wait for complaints and fix it under pressure.
Of course, to really control Medicare spending, lawmakers will have to change the program fundamentally. It’s time to design a new system based on personal choice, market competition, and light regulation. Such a system should be a “defined contribution” system, not the “defined benefit” system we have now. That means the government would agree to contribute a certain amount to fund each beneficiary’s coverage. This would create a market for private health plans that would compete for customers by offering attractive benefit packages. It also would let seniors keep their pre-retirement health care plan if they’re happy with it or design new coverage options tailored to their needs.
Such a defined-contribution plan also would allow lawmakers to control costs. Defined-benefit programs don’t work because they’re like a blank check—each new medical advance creates a new government requirement. A defined-contribution plan would allow seniors to enjoy those advances without sticking Uncle Sam with the big bills.
Social Security: Over the next 75 years, taxpayers have promised to pay some $25 trillion more than it can afford to pay to retirees through Social Security, an amount nearly twice our current GDP. A long-term solution will involve two changes: reducing the amount the government promises to future retirees, and letting younger workers invest in their own futures through personal retirement accounts (PRAs), allowing them to do as well or better than the current system.
If lawmakers will allow workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in PRAs, today’s workers could create their own nest eggs, which they would own and could even pass down to loved ones. This reform would involve some up-front costs, but it would ease federal responsibilities for decades to come, just as a homeowner who pays points up front saves on mortgage interest over the life of the loan.
Federal spending: It increased by eight percent in 2005 and is up 33 percent overall since 2001. Washington now spends some $22,000 per household, the most it has shelled out since World War II.
There are plenty of places to make cuts right now. For example:
- The Congressional Budget Office has published a “Budget Options” book identifying $140 billion in potential cuts.
- The federal government spends $23 billion annually on silly special interest projects such as grants to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and efforts to combat teenage “goth” culture in Blue Springs, Mo.
- Washington spends $60 billion annually on corporate welfare, versus $43 billion on homeland security.
And that’s just for starters. If lawmakers are willing to read spending bills carefully, they can cut spending by several hundred billion dollars each year.
As economist Herb Stein put it, “Things that can’t go on, won’t.” The country can’t go on spending as it is, and it can’t meet the promises it is making to retirees. So it won’t. Eventually, overspending will reach a tipping point, and the choices lawmakers must then make will be very harsh.
But why wait? The time to act is now—before a rapidly deteriorating budget picture forces us to make even more unpopular decisions.
Edwin J. Feulner is President of The Heritage Foundation and author of the book Getting America Right, which will be published in March. This column first appeared in Investor’s Business Daily.
GETTING FEDERAL SPENDING under control is essential to the survival of the Republic. Congress can best control spending by enacting legislation that requires the specific enumerated Constitutional power to be listed in every spending bill and eliminates all earmarking of funds and instead requires a bill with a direct appropriation. In addition, Congress should give the President line-item veto power. —Bob Williams, Evergreen Freedom Foundation (Washington)
GETTING GOVERNMENT SPENDING UNDER CONTROL at every level—this is a key philosophical issue. Every elected official either represents the taxpayer to the government or he represents the government to the taxpayer. If he represents the taxpayer, he votes to control spending and taxes and keeps government lean and focused. If he takes the government side, he favors more spending, more taxes, and more government. There are no compromises possible. He has to decide. Our job is to help him decide and keep him on the straight and narrow. —Richard Rowland, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO VIEW tax and spending policies as separate issues. Our level of taxation is a reflection of our spending, and spending is a reflection of the rate of taxation. We must bind both hands of government: the one that takes money from our wallet, and the one that spends it. We ignore one or the other at our fiscal peril. —Brooke Rollins, Texas Public Policy Foundation
ROLLING BACK RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT spending is more than an economic necessity. It is a moral imperative with sweeping implications for the future of American society. Government at all levels, as a percentage of what we produce, consumes four to five times what it did at the turn of the last century.
We must put the perpetual spenders on the intellectual defensive, not by arguing with them about the amounts they want to spend on every new program they cook up, but by demanding they deal with the big picture and answer some compelling questions: Why is government, at four or five times the proportion of our lives it was a century ago, not yet big enough? How much more do they want? Sixty percent? Ninety percent? Do they want it all? At what point might they concede that something actually belongs to those who earned it in the first place and that the individual’s ability to plan for his family diminishes with each additional dollar taxed away? —Lawrence Reed, Mackinac Center for Public Policy (Michigan)
THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS should immediately freeze federal government program spending and establish a Grace-type commission to review and uncover waste and mismanagement while identifying and setting ranked priorities and program spending limits. The Congress should pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment making it unconstitutional for the federal government to spend more than it takes in using the prior fiscal years actual revenues. —Richard Olivastro, Citizens for Change! (Connecticut)
On January 4, The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal published the 12th annual edition of the Index of Economic Freedom.
THE NEW PERSPECTIVE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT no longer artificially divides the world into developed and developing countries. Just as people around the world put their pants on one leg at a time, each country’s economy can be explained by the same set of economic rules. Activities that are subsidized tend to expand, and those that are taxed find the going tougher and contract. In the same way, all countries are “developing” in the sense that they are constantly reacting and changing to the evolving world economy.
Similarly, the old economic development poverty solution of transferring income from one government to another is discarded. The new approach is more concerned with the welfare of people and less focused on government actions. Its goal is to make economies hum along by letting people—rather than the government, the World Bank, or any other institution—figure out how best to improve their lives. In other words, let individuals use their wits and abilities to determine how best to put a roof over their families, food on their tables, and shoes on their children’s feet.
Within this framework, government’s role is to cultivate an environment in which people can achieve their potential and thus make the most of their abilities and other resources in the economy. Only in such an environment can we safely assume that the desired shelter, the desired food, the desired clothing, and other essentials will be available to families.
A healthy economic environment may be created and maintained in part by ensuring that contracts are enforced, that individuals retain clear title to the houses and businesses they have acquired or created, that there is a stable currency so that prices can be anticipated and future decisions easily assessed, and that there is a close relationship between effort and reward.
Today, however, governments and international organizations all too often throw up roadblocks that inhibit individuals from reaching their potential. These barriers force individuals from the road to prosperity onto byways full of potholes and obstacles that distract attention from goals, drain energy needed for a sustained journey, and leave them well short of reaching their full economic potential. As a result, far too many people are consigned to making do with less to eat, use, or keep for a rainy day.
Specifically, these roadblocks appear in the form of:
- Tariffs that raise prices and deprive individuals from getting the most for their incomes;
- High tax rates that discourage work and production, thereby taking food from the family table;
- Regulations that prevent individuals from pursuing their natural abilities; and
- A lack of property rights, which leaves people stuck with unequal treatment before the law, unenforceable contracts, and the inability to convert one form of wealth to new, more promising opportunities, such as starting a new business.
Instructively, The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom documents that the countries perennially ranked among the world’s poorest also tend to have the most and highest roadblocks. This fact should come as no surprise, for poverty merely manifests the impact of government barriers on people’s incentives and actions. Where roadblocks deny individual opportunity, workers arise each morning to face the reality that they will be spending their time and efforts in activities that bear little fruit. The same problems appear over and over in a vicious cycle, with no apparent end to the misery and poverty. The nation’s people become frustrated.
Unleashing a country’s potential requires removing the economic roadblocks that inhibit its people. As the barriers tumble one by one, a country can begin to move down the long, previously elusive road to prosperity.
Marc Miles is the director of the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation. This article is taken from The Road to Prosperity (Heritage Books, 2004).
“SO HELP ME GOD.”
With those words, Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States, and I was there to see the whole thing. At age 17, I had flown to Washington, D.C., with two high school friends from Los Angeles for what was my first trip to the East Coast. We three Reaganites— who had volunteered for the 1980 GOP nominee—saw the fruits of our early work in the conservative vineyards: Our hero was now leader of the free world. From our seats on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol that day, we never imagined that in less than nine years, the free world would include East Berlin and, soon thereafter, Moscow itself.
President Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981. The silver anniversary of the Reagan Era affords free-market activists a perfect opportunity to remind Americans of Ronald Reagan’s seminal contribution to the advancement of the ideas of American liberty: individual freedom, personal responsibility, limited government, free enterprise, and peace through strength. The anniversary of the president’s birth date, February 6, 1911, also gives activists a chance each year to celebrate these principles and the many ways Ronald Wilson Reagan increased their influence on American life.
Ironically, this has become a pivotal time once again to reassert the tenets of Reaganism.
Overseas, the good news is that Communism— save for the Marxist museums of Cuba and North Korea—has been relegated “to the ash heap of history,” just as President Reagan promised. The People’s Republic of China, Earth’s most populous Communist power, is a nominally Maoist state that nonetheless practices frontier capitalism and grows at roughly eight percent annually.
The bad news, however, is that the Marxist- Leninist threat to Western Civilization has been replaced with an elusive and perhaps more vociferous foe: Islamo-fascism. While al- Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, Hezbollah, and other Muslim extremists lack the intercontinental ballistic missiles that helped the Soviet Union menace America and its allies, they also lack the physical location and sense of self-preservation that deterred the men in the Kremlin from striking the USA. Ronald Reagan knew where Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev lived, and neither Russian premier was eager to die. Consequently, Brezhnev recognized, and Gorbachev ultimately yielded to, America’s superior military and economic power.
Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are even tougher customers. They possess neither return addresses, nor much interest in living for another day. Only a ruthlessness and determination paralleling or even exceeding that of President Reagan can hurl today’s enemies onto the ash heap on which they belong.
At home, a Republican Congress and a Republican White House were supposed to reinvigorate the cause of limited government. Instead, Republicans have teamed up since 2001 to accelerate federal spending to levels unseen since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. As conservatives and libertarians watched aghast, a 2002 farm bill exploded with new subsidies, and a 2005 highway bill rode into law carrying 6,371 pork-barrel projects. (President Reagan vetoed a 1987 transportation measure for having just 152 such earmarks.) January 2006 saw the launch of the Medicare drug benefit. If left unchecked, it will speed America’s rendezvous with destitution. Top Republicans, of all people, need a refresher course in Reaganism.
How, then, can activists remind citizens and leaders alike of Ronald Reagan and his philosophy? Here are three ways to do so:
First, hold ceremonies to thank influential people who follow Reagan’s example. Since 2000, the New York Young Republican Club has celebrated President Reagan’s February 9th birthday. It has added an awards program to those occasions. I was proud to emcee its first such evening in 2004. The group presented National Review editor emeritus John O’Sullivan the Great Communicator Award, Congress of Racial Equality president Roy Innis the Four Pillars of Freedom Award, and former New York City deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, Tony Coles, the Shining City on a Hill Award.
“Our awards program is a great way to honor Reagan’s memory and legacy and recognize people who, through their own actions and leadership, help to keep his legacy alive,” says Robert Hornak, chairman of the New York YRs.
Last year, the 500-member group gave the Great Communicator Award to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the Shining City on a Hill Award to Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, and a new Peace Through Strength Award to Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney.
It is important to use President Reagan’s own words on occasions like this. His easygoing sense of humor was one of his greatest strengths. When he turned 75, he told reporters: “Remember. That’s only 24 Celsius.” Asked how his meeting was with South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, Reagan replied: “So-so.” Reagan also could be eloquent and profound at more serious times. He said in 1983: “I’ve learned in Washington, that that’s the only place where sound travels faster than light.” And in his first Inaugural address on January 20, 1981, President Reagan said this:
If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and more assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
Reagan’s own words remind people of his views and character. The Quotable Ronald Reagan (Regnery Gateway, 1999) by his longtime advisor, Peter Hannaford, provides 180 pages of Reagan’s observations on numerous matters, big and small.
Second, sponsor speeches and panel discussions involving alumni of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and administrations. Most of those who worked with Ronald Reagan in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., are still around and fondly recall the man they served. Heritage Foundation scholar Ed Meese, President Reagan’s counselor and attorney general, is among the top Reaganites who talk about their experiences with both Governor and President Reagan. So do one-time campaign manager Ed Rollins and former speechwriters Clark Judge, Peggy Noonan, Peter Robinson, and U.S. Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R–CA). While these folks cannot appear everywhere, the Reagan Alumni Association (and its director Lou Cordia) and the Young America’s Foundation (owners of the Reagan Ranch in southern California) can suggest individuals who can discuss how they helped Ronald Reagan achieve his vision. (www.yaf.org)
Finally, activists could arrange for group viewings of films and videos that highlight President Reagan’s political accomplishments and rhetorical gifts. “A Time for Choosing,” also known as “The Speech,” marked Ronald Reagan’s arrival on the political scene. In stirring words, this former Democrat endorsed Republican Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential bid. Reagan’s concession speech to the 1976 Republican National Convention, his 1980 convention acceptance speech, his 1981 inaugural address, his 1987 “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” remarks, and his farewell to the 1992 GOP convention are just a few of the memorable addresses worth watching. Many of them are available in whole or part through the Reagan Presidential Library at www.reaganfoundation.org/store.
Ronald Reagan’s lessons and legacy are as instructive and inspiring as ever. Though we lost him on June 5, 2004, America’s 40th president still has much to teach his country. Those who believe in him should share his memory and ideas with our fellow freedom fighters through public functions on his next and future birthdays.
New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and a veteran of the 1980 and 1984 Reagan for President campaigns.
January 20, 2006, marks the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address.
SENATOR HATFIELD, MR. CHIEF JUSTICE, Mr. President, Vice President Bush, Vice President Mondale, Senator Baker, Speaker O’Neill, Reverend Moomaw, and my fellow citizens: To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our Nation, it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.
The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.
Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.
But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?
We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding—we are going to begin to act, beginning today.
The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.
From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick—professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, “We the people,” this breed called Americans.
Well, this administration’s objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination. Putting America back to work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America at peace with itself and the world.
So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work—work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.
If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter—and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life.
I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your” because I am addressing the heroes of whom I speak—you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.
We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?
Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic “yes.” To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I have just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world’s strongest economy.
In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government. Progress may be slow—measured in inches and feet, not miles—but we will progress. Is it time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles, there will be no compromise.
On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of…. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.
And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.
To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.
As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it—now or ever.
Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.
I am told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I am deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.
This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held, as you have been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man: George Washington, Father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence.
And then beyond the Reflecting Pool the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row on row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.
Each one of those markers is a monument to the kinds of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
Under one such marker lies a young man—Martin Treptow—who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.
And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you.
WHETHER YOUR FISCAL YEAR begins in January or at a later date, that month is a good time to make some fundraising resolutions. As everyone who has ever tried to lose weight or start an exercise program knows, nothing changes overnight. It’s important to work steadily at establishing and achieving good fundraising habits to build the foundation for future success.
Establish a clear vision. Marketers often tell us: If you don’t define your company and your product, your customers will do it for you. That holds true for charities as well. If we don’t communicate our mission clearly and compellingly, our donors define it for us. And when our programs don’t live up to their definition, donors won’t be motivated to give. Therefore, it’s important to have a concise, credible, relevant, and urgent description of your cause. This needs to be understood internally and then communicated to supporters.
In addition, you may want to develop a case statement to spell out why you both need and deserve philanthropic support to advance your vision. Broadly, the case statement should answer the following questions: Who are you? Why do you exist? What makes you unique? What do you want to do? How will you do it?
Plan the work and work the plan. Set aside time at the beginning of the year to evaluate your programs and resources and then set strategic goals. What are your organization’s needs and interests? What are your financial goals? Who are your best donors? What are their interests? What motivates them? What other gifts have they given? How much should you ask for? Once you’ve identified your top targets, develop a plan to cultivate them professionally in a way that will build a long-term relationship and lead to an appropriate gift solicitation.
When setting your goals for the year, make sure that they are attainable but enough of a “stretch” to be challenging. And remember: What isn’t measured isn’t achieved, so review your progress monthly. Discuss which strategies are working—and which are not.
Update your Web site. In 2005, over three billion dollars were raised online from more than 8.6 million households. Even if you aren’t ready to accept donations online, review your Web pages and ensure they are donor-friendly. More than 65 percent of donors go online to research causes, and more than 75 percent of those who go online say the Internet affected their decision to give. If that isn’t enough to convince you to update your site, consider that on average, online donors donate in total—both online and off-line—50 percent more than those who do not give online.
How should you update your Web site? First, make sure the site’s purpose is clear on the homepage: Explain who you are and what you do. Then identify and emphasize four high-priority tasks for visitors—for example, donating money, signing up for e-mail updates, and forwarding information to a friend. Finally, update all the organization’s information and have it available in one easy-to-find location. Some sites create an area for “first time visitors” that helps answer frequently asked questions.
Create a calendar of communication. How many times do your donors tell you that they receive too much mail from you? Or that they don’t remember what you sent? Review your mailing schedule and communication pieces and develop a calendar that shows every mailing—including e-mails. Eliminate redundant mailings or adjust the schedule to better space the mailings. Review the content to ensure that each piece communicates your message effectively, emotionally, and persuasively. Your goal is to establish a dialogue with your donors so that every piece is anticipated, personal, and relevant—and builds on the last communication.
Measure your results. A new generation of philanthropists is beginning to emerge in America. These individuals are more personally involved with their gifts and are looking for measurable results for their charitable donations. Are you prepared to respond to their needs? One way to do this is to begin with your long-term goals and then set more immediate objectives that relate to specific legislation or initiatives. Also, outline a marketing plan to get your ideas to policymakers, the media, and supporters.
When tracking your results, ask the question: How did we make a positive impact or change? This will keep you focused on being as effective as possible. There are many things you can measure to demonstrate your work, such as visits to your Web site, briefings you’ve conducted, and editorials you have published; but keep in mind that you need to track accomplishments, not just activity, to show effectiveness.
Commit to excellence. Successful companies and organizations often ask the question: How can we be the best at what we do? They recognize that their biggest investment is often in personnel, so they start at the top by committing to a leadership team that shows vision and good judgment. Then they “hire smart” so that managers and staff are constantly working to improve their skills and add value. In The Fiefdom Syndrome, former Microsoft COO Robert Herbold writes, “Rather than assuming you are already good enough at your job, assume instead that there are competitors out there who are learning to do things differently and better.”
In many ways, we are all competing for our donors’ attention and dollars. By challenging staff to continually improve, we can promote top performance, which leads to more effectiveness as an organization. This will resonate with your donors.
Document what’s important. With tax season around the corner, January is a good time to get your personal paperwork in order. It’s also a time to think about professional documentation. Every nonprofit has to contend with staff turnover. Reduce stress by documenting important internal systems and policies. These could include (among others) the history of your organization, instructions on your database, policies on gift acceptance, expectations for your board of trustees, and job descriptions of staff members.
Once you set your fundraising resolutions, put them in writing and share them with your organization. This will serve the dual purpose of committing everyone to your vision and motivating you to meet your goals.
Ms. Klucsarits is director of development at The Heritage Foundation.