Posted by: SWL | October 4, 2012

First Presidential Debate Topics, part 1: the Role of Government

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

President Obama
Mr. Obama’s comments on this debate topic began with good points: the federal government should keep its citizens safe and provide opportunities for Americans to succeed.

Mr. Obama said the federal government “has a significant role” to play in education. He wants the government to pay for 100,000 new teachers nationwide. (Local school districts might initially appreciate the additional funding, but when government backing ends those teachers are likely to be laid off. Such a program could open the door to tying funding to meeting new federal demands.)

The President talked about how great it was that the government had taken over the student college loan program from banks. His claim was that cutting out the middle men (banks) makes the program more efficient. (That sounds good, but government is rarely efficient at anything. This also takes the profit (loan interest) away from the greedy bankers (as Mr. Obama has called them) and turns those dollars into federal revenue.)

He mentioned that businesses and community colleges should work together more – a good idea – then went on to say federal support is necessary to accomplish this. (Ridiculous!!! This type of cooperation costs almost nothing. When professors request assistance from businesses, they are normally happy to help with guest lecturers or unpaid internships for students, etc. This kind of arrangement is good public relations for a business in addition to helping them find better qualified workers. The feds are not needed to point out the benefits or facilitate the partnerships. That would just complicate and slow down the process.)

The President wrapped up his opening remarks on this section by saying that how budget funds are allocated (in this case to education) show the government’s priorities.

Mr. Romney
Mitt Romney’s opening remarks on the role of government began with his interpretation of the Constitution. He cited the words “provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty”. He said that protecting our liberty necessitates a strong military. (In light of recent events, I would add that protecting our freedom of speech also protects other aspects of liberty.)

Romney said he believes the phrase stating that people “are endowed by our Creator” with rights means religious tolerance and a responsibility to care for the poor. (Good points, although I do not see them in that phrase, which is actually part of the Declaration of Independence.) He said it also means people should be free to pursue their dreams, which is difficult for the 23 million people currently unemployed.

In answer to Mr. Obama’s education points, Romney said he believes the Constitution gives primary responsibility for education to the states. He believes the federal government can encourage better education by having federal dollars follow the student, i.e. school choice. Romney also said he has no plans to cut education funding. (Too bad – at a minimum, a lot of bloated federal administrative costs could be slashed.)

He agreed with President Obama that budgets reflect priorities, pointing out that the $90 billion the Obama administration spent on green energy projects could have funded a lot of teachers.

[Check for analysis of other topics in the debate in the coming days. The only Vice-Presidential debate will be October 11.]

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