Like you, I watched the Democratic Convention speech. I didn’t think there was much substance in it. Now, with the republican convention to put it into perspective, I see that Obama did indeed make a lot of promises, but few are workable, and most have been tried before without success, making his prime time TV spot just so much more empty rhetoric.
The prime examples are what he said on education and the federal bureaucracy, subjects I know something about.
About education, he said: “Now is the time to provide our children with a world-class education. You know, Michelle and I were provided a world-class education. And I won’t settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American, if you commit to serving our community or our country, will give you a college education.”
You and I know that No Child Left Behind, the Bush – McCain – Kennedy education reform of 6 years ago has already set higher standards and provided more funds for better teachers. NCLB, however, still operates on the premise that if you pay teachers more and demand standardized tests, students will learn better. As a parent with 2 kids who has paid private school tuition for over 10 years, and who was on the school board of one of those schools for 4 of those years, education doesn’t have to be as expensive as the Teachers Union makes it out to be. We were running on half the price the city was paying per student, generating better results. We used a better cirriculum model and taught students to think more than how to pass a test. My daughter is a Junior, and the schools are actively recruiting her because of her performance on the Sophomore PreSAT test.
Senator Obama says he will pay these increased costs with better budgeting. “I will close corporate loopholes and make them pay.” This sounds like Carter’s luxury tax that bankrupted a number of small business owners who serviced the luxury goods market. Boat builders and marina owners. Hotels and restaurants went out of business. And overall tax revenues went down, because that money which had circulated 5 or 8 times with taxes paid at each stop stayed out of circulation, or followed their corporate headquarters overseas.
Obama continued by claiming “I’ll go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work, making sure programs we do need work better and cost less.” Let me tell you, it’s not the purview of the President, but rather of Congress, to change the budget line by line. I know that the Executive branch goes through the budget line by line dozens of times each year, and those of us in the trenches have to fight for every available dollar, and justify every penny. I know the Air Force offered to cut our budget, if Congress would give us greater flexibility to be responsive to changing needs and make economies of scale in our procurements, and Congress turned us down. Joe Biden wouldn’t let the President cut unresponsive programs, because the Congress – not the President – controls what can and can’t be spent, and for what. If this was a priority for Messrs Obama and Biden, it’s something they should have been doing while in the Senate. If Mr Obama had hired his army of underemployed in the tax-exempt charity he runs to dig through the budget during his term so far, he would have had some substantive legislation to propose, if there truely was anything to be found.
And then dared to say “we cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy”? In the 3 decades since I was in college, the size of Congressional staffs has more than doubled, while the bureaucracy of the executive branch has been cut by more than half. A decade ago we had already transitioned to where a staff of 20 did the work of 50. Now we have a staff of 10 doing more than that. It’s good rhetoric, but as a career government worker (and a very good one, I might add), I can tell you that what he promises was done already by Ronald Reagan, and again by Al Gore’s Reinventing Government efforts. There is no way Obama can effectively manage the host of new regulations he is proposing in that very speech by trimming existing staff.
And he finished with a final point of empty, tired rhetoric with “it’s time to get pastdoing the same old things and expecting different results.”
If Senator Obama wants different results, he should suggest something that hasn’t already been tried, without result.
p.s. – did he really say the measure of success is the action of mothers and fathers in raising children? Didn’t he just sound like a republican there?