Wyoming Senator John Barrasso gave the Republican response to Obama's weekly address on Saturday. It is, as you would expect, a long list of the same lies they've been spewing throughout this campaign. If you can stand it though, it's worth a peek to see how they've repackaged some of the messages. If anything, it's a snapshot of what's coming in the next two months.
One example deserves particular attention, for how he misuses President Kennedy's words.
Americans know what works: low taxes, reasonable regulations, and living within our means. President Kennedy understood that. He said: ‘Persistently large deficits would endanger our economic growth and our military and defense commitments abroad.’This isn't the first time Barrasso has invoked President Kennedy to make a point about the budget deficit. Back in July he said virtually the same thing during a speech in the Senate:
He said that 50 years ago, in 1962. Washington's budget deficit that year was $7 billion. From $7 billion then, to a $1.2 trillion deficit this year.
Previous Presidents understood the danger of spending more than we can afford.I am going to skip the inevitable "You're no Jack Kennedy" reference and mention that, ahem, in this quote Kennedy is not talking about the budget. Here is a longer excerpt (from his January, 1962 State of the Union Address), from the section entitled, OUR BALANCE OF PAYMENTS:
John Kennedy, President Kennedy said: ‘Persistently large deficits would endanger our economic growth and our military defense commitments abroad.’
[O]ur deficit in our basic transactions with the rest of the world--trade, defense, foreign aid, and capital, excluding volatile short-term flows--has been reduced from $2 billion for 1960 to about one-third that amount for 1961. Speculative fever against the dollar is ending--and confidence in the dollar has been restored.It's clear: this rather brief section of Kennedy's speech is about trade deficits, not the budget. And what about the rest of the speech? Over and over, Kennedy urges the Congress to fund projects that will improve the lives of all Americans-- such as expanded unemployment insurance, school lunch programs, federal loans and scholarships for college, consumer protection, and establishing the National Institutes of Health. Oh, and two other little programs:
We did not--and could not--achieve these gains through import restrictions, troop withdrawals, exchange controls, dollar devaluation or choking off domestic recovery. We acted not in panic but in perspective. But the problem is not yet solved. Persistently large deficits would endanger our economic growth and our military and defense commitments abroad. Our goal must be a reasonable equilibrium in our balance of payments. With the cooperation of the Congress, business, labor, and our major allies, that goal can be reached.
Finally, a strong America cannot neglect the aspirations of its citizens--the welfare of the needy, the health care of the elderly, the education of the young. For we are not developing the Nation's wealth for its own sake. Wealth is the means--and people arc the ends. All our material riches will avail us little if we do not use them to expand the opportunities of our people.and
Last year, we improved the diet of needy people--provided more hot lunches and fresh milk to school children built more college dormitories--and, for the elderly, expanded private housing, nursing homes, heath services, and social security. But we have just begun.
To help those least fortunate of all, I am recommending a new public welfare program, stressing services instead of support, rehabilitation instead of relief, and training for useful work instead of prolonged dependency.
But in matters of health, no piece of unfinished business is more important or more urgent than the enactment under the social security system of health insurance for the aged.So to sum up: Barrasso plucks a one-sentence quote from President Kennedy's 1962 State of the Union Address to Congress, and outright lies about it's meaning, not to mention the meaning of much of the rest of the speech.
For our older citizens have longer and more frequent illnesses, higher hospital and medical bills and too little income to pay them. Private health insurance helps very few--for its cost is high and its coverage limited. Public welfare cannot help those too proud to seek relief but hard-pressed to pay their own bills. Nor can their children or grandchildren always sacrifice their own health budgets to meet this constant drain.
Social security has long helped to meet the hardships of retirement, death, and disability. I now urge that its coverage be extended without further delay to provide health insurance for the elderly.
I admit that this may not be the most outrageous lie among the many we've been subjected to. I'm not sure why it got under my skin. Maybe it's because I am utterly appalled that a United States Senator cares so little about history, about the seriousness of his office, and about the memory of President Kennedy.
It is, however, more proof that the Republicans know they can't win on their own ideas.