Oct. 4, 2012
The Values Bus rolled into Colorado this week. Our first stop was Denver, the site of last night’s presidential debate. Yesterday, we had a chance to meet with some key state legislative leaders at the Centennial State’s impressive Capitol. Like Iowa’s (and Massachusetts’s and West Virginia’s) this great domed structure is covered in gold leaf.
I was especially pleased to renew my friendship with Amy Stephens. Years ago, Amy was the policy director for Focus on the Family when I had that role at FRC. Now, Representative Amy Stephens is the Republican leader in the state house. That’s a nice change.
Wherever we go on the Values Bus, I make it a point to meet and talk to as many local and state elected officials as I can. It’s a most encouraging effort. These are really sharp folks. They are close to their constituents, conscientious, and capable. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Virginia, we had strong support for the Values Bus from locally elected lawmakers.
With the president headed into Denver for his debate, I had the rare opportunity of agreeing with him. Mr. Obama recently said “Washington is broken and we can’t fix it from the inside.” You are so right, Sir! And in my remarks on the steps of the State Capitol, I ventured the opinion that it would have been so nice if the President had realized that before his administration took control of banks, insurance companies, college student loans, the nation’s health care, GM, and Chrysler.
The impression one gets at these majestic, solid state capitols is of people being capable of self-government. They built these impressive monuments to the peoples’ ability to run their own affairs before Mr. Obama pressed on them a stimulus, before he issued mandates, and even before his EPA did an environmental impact study.
We are rolling through the American heartland with our friends from the Heritage Foundation. The Values Bus is a joint project. Heritage’s Vice President for Communications, Genevieve Wood, is another long-time friend. She used to fill that role at FRC. She always generously gives FRC a hat tip at each stop. I return the salute, saying we are honored to work with Heritage Foundation as they ride through the heartland dispensing subversive literature—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution!
Gov. Mitt Romney last night offered this “means test” for a federal program. Is it so critical that we are willing to borrow money from China to continue funding it? So long, Big Bird! And maybe The Jim Lehrer News Hour, too. (Although, after last night’s performance as the debate’s hesitant moderator, it may be we have liberal agreement on that one.)
Whenever I visit a state capitol, I am moved to ask: “Who would think the people who built this are not capable of running their own schools?” SAT scores are continuing their years-long slide under President Obama. I don’t blame him for that. He doesn’t take the tests. But I do criticize him and even some of his Republican predecessors for continuing to shovel money at the unconstitutional and wasteful federal education department. Can any Americans point to a single improvement in their local schools we can attribute to the federal education department?
I should know: I worked there for three years in the 1980s. I served under President Ronald Reagan. When a liberal Republican congressman asked for a meeting with the president to talk about the future of the Education Department. Mr. Reagan wrote in the margin of the meeting agenda: “I hope it doesn’t have one!” Right you are, Mr. President! And, as Genevieve Wood reminds us: This is how you pile up a $16 Trillion debt.
The state capitols are an eloquent reminder of a time when state and local governments served Americans best because they were closest to the people. If we lose the ability to govern ourselves in our state and local governments, we cannot expect wisdom suddenly to descend on the banks of the Potomac. As Thomas Jefferson said: “If we had to wait for Washington [D.C.] to tell us when to plant, we should soon want bread.”