Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Point By Point on Bobby Jindal's GOP Response

Good evening. I'm Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.

Something just doesn't feel right here. That Louisiana elected an Indian teenager as Governor is bizarre enough, but that drawl just doesn't sound any more "right" than it does coming from Tony Gwynn.

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African American president stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the president's personal story -- the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world. Like the president's father, my parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4½ months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a "preexisting condition."

I won't trash him for his intent here, but the race angle for Obama was played, pleasantly, by the media and the whole country in an understated way, and Jindal belaboring it here is just plain awkward. And his delivery on the already-lame "preexisting condition" joke fell about as flat as a day old open can of Diet Coke.

To find work, my dad picked up the Yellow Pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery -- so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

If being Governor of Louisiana means he won't be embarking on a coast-to-coast comedy tour... WIN.

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country -- and they instilled in me an immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: "Bobby, Americans can do anything."

I still believe that to this day. Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

As all the Republican votes for the recovery plan showed.

As the president made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your healthcare and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital.

All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

Translation: we don't agree on anything, but in the unlikely event that we ever SHOULD agree on something... you know, in the event you completely change your mind and come to our side... we're there.

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone:

"Well, I'm the sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters.

The boats were all lined up ready to go -- when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!" Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens.

This is some bizarre logic here: Bush is bad, therefore government is bad. That's like saying, a doctor somewhere once made a huge mistake, so that is why you should avoid doctors. Using George W. Bush - the guy Bobby Jindal surely voted for (twice) - as evidence to justify the Reagan "government is the problem" mantra is disingenuous to the Nth degree. 

And for an elected official to be telling me how bad government is reminds me of a P.J. O'Rourke quote from "Parliament of Whores": Republicans are the party that tells you that government can't work. Then they get elected and prove it. 

No wonder Bush was so appealing to the right: he was the perfect man to help them make the case that government sucks and shouldn't even try. 

By presenting the united front against any governmental intervention in the economy beyond tax cuts, the Republicans have fully positioned themselves so that the only way they can validate their ideology - that government is bad and should not try to solve problems- is if the government fails. They are now aligned so that their own interests run 180 degrees contrary to national interests. So how much can we expect, as Jindal said, that the Republicans will be willing to "pull together"? Their only route back to power is to try and make sure any Democratic idea fails. Rush Limbaugh just came out and said what most Republicans think: they hope Obama fails so it validates their position, they can return to power, and get back to running the country in the "one true way" (which didn't work so well the last 8 years).

We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes -- and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you -- the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

He has now said "Americans Can Do Anything" a few times and continues to deliver it in a tone that a grade school teacher would use to address students. It's a platitude. And its a rejection of the idea that we elect officials to go to Washington and actually DO something for common good.

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families, cutting taxes for small businesses, strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers, and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers.

Once again: tax cuts are the ONLY Republican idea on the economy. It's the centerpiece of their Reagonomic supply-side ideology- an ideology that the country just rejected en masse on November 4th.  That the GOP lost seems to have escaped Jindal and the rest of his party.

These plans would cost less and create more jobs.

That's his opinion... one that was not exactly supported by the Bush tax cuts, which cost 50% more than this recovery package and did nothing to slow our slide into recession.

But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history -- with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest.

This notion that people know best what to do with their own money is the mother of all platitudes. If that's the case, then we should just have NO taxes and count on the people - who know best - to make sure to pay for roads and schools and garbage trucks and a national defense. There are some things we need to pool our resources to get done, and we can have a reasonable argument about what that includes. But to continue to spout nonsense like this is Exhibit A in the GOP's inability to distinguish where ideology ends and reality begins.

While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring." Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

Oy veh. "Las Vegas to Disneyland"? Jindal has obviously never driven I-15 between Vegas and LA on a Sunday afternoon. If he doesn't think that a high speed rail link between our second largest metropolitan area and our largest tourist destination would be one of the country's most-traveled train routes with significant economic and environmental benefits... well, there's just no helping him.

And it would be poetic justice (and in no small way entertaining) if he should someday find himself running at top speed from the lava spewed by an erupting volcano his own party prevented us from monitoring.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt.

Who among us would ask our children for a loan so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs or build a prosperous future for our children.

Republicans weren't too concerned with saddling future generations with debt when it came to the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq war. And this only passes debt down if the economy does not recover. Of course, Conservatives are convinced that the one and only route to economic recovery is through tax cuts, so the thought hasn't even crossed their minds that this could actually work.

In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times -- including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state.

We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, D.C. long as it's only DEMOCRATS adjusting their views. Did Jindal happen to notice that tax cuts were a big portion of the recovery plan?  Did he even read it?  (More on this upcoming...)

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump -- and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home.

We believe that Americans can do anything -- and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

The Republicans fought like hell to put the government in the hands of two oil men, Bush and Cheney. And in eight years we made NO move towards energy independence. Bush did not even acknowledge global warming was real until midway through his second term, and there was no funding whatsoever for research on alternative energies that might threaten the oil hegemony that helps keep the Republicans in power. We didn't go near CAFE standards, and we fought a war for more oil. It's nice to see that maybe Jindal gets what's needed now. But perhaps he didn't read the details of the recovery plan, which includes money for alternative energy research.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in healthcare. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage -- period.

We stand for universal access to affordable healthcare coverage. We oppose universal government-run healthcare. Healthcare decisions should be made by doctors and patients -- not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything -- and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

Which is why under eight years of Republican rule in Washington, we saw health care reform front and center, with myriad plans to make sure that all Americans had affordable health care. Oh, wait... that's an alternate universe. In the real one, health care costs spiraled out of control without being addressed in Washington at any point. In fact, the Republicans went to war with Hillary Clinton to ensure that we did NOT get health care reform. Just cut your losses and stop now, Bobby.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system -- opening dozens of new charter schools and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

There is no greater threat to American democracy than Republican ideas on education. They simply do not believe in a quality public education for all. They would rather throw a rope to those with the means to send their children to private school and abandon the rest. It is nothing short of creating a caste system in America: if you're born into money you get an education, if you're not, you don't. And yet they have the gall to accuse the DEMOCRATS of class warfare. Nothing the Democrats propose will make the prosperous less so.

And the GOP continues to labor under the delusion that forces of competition somehow work in the education arena - which does not exist for profit.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is underwater -- and the other half is under indictment.
No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation -- and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C. -- so we can rid our Capitol of corruption and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.

OK, two major issues here...

1) Bobby, just because, as you continue to demonstrate, YOU haven't read the plan, it doesn't mean others haven't. I direct you to a website that was created - at the urging of your own party - to ensure transparency.

2) You didn't just try to link corruption and the recovery plan, did you? 

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops.

Who is trying to dismantle our military? 

America's fighting men and women can do anything. And if we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive, defeat our enemies and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope -- but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you -- the American people.

Since when are our elected leaders not part of the American people?

In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democrats' view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

In case you weren't watching TV on November 4th, it's not just the national Democrats' view that the government should, you know... DO something. It was a large majority of voters. Did you watch Arnold Schwarzenegger on Meet The Press? It's nice to see one Republican governor who understands what the people actually voted for... and against.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust -- and rightly so.

"Went along with"? You had a Republican in the Oval Office for eight years, a Republican Congress for six of them, and for two years the Democrats had only a slim, non-veto-proof majority... and the President didn't veto any Democratic spending bills. Don't try to play this like the GOP just got pulled along here. Nice try.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share -- the principles you elected us to fight for -- the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on Earth.

Once again, an example of the GOP fighting for the "one true way", which in their ideologue psyches will naturally result in good things happening. But at the end of the day, it's the conservative principles that they are fighting for. The good of the country is only the side effect of that.

A few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse." Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her.

That is only what he said if you truncate his comment. Don't even try that with us, Guv.

This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace and responded with determined courage to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man -- and the American spirit will triumph again.

We can have confidence in our future -- because, amid today's challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens, the most abundant resources, the most resilient economy, the most powerful military and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. And God bless America.

And God bless YOU, Bobby Jindal.

Good grief.

No comments: