Jeb Bush has issued a withering attack on the spending proposals of the Obama administration in front of a large crowd of Catholic activists in Italy, warning that the government’s policies will enlarge the role of the state at the expense of personal freedom.
He then suggested viable alternatives to the proposals, and gave as examples three faith and community-based initiatives he developed when he was governor of Florida from 1998 to 2006.
Addressing the gathering in Rimini on Aug. 28, hosted by the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, the brother of former President George W. Bush warned that the past has shown that such government intervention doesn’t work, but rather leads to a lengthening of a recession and restrictions on individuals from pursuing their dreams.
“There is an inverse relationship between the size, scale, and scope of government and human freedom,” he said. “The bigger the government is, the less freedom individuals have to pursue their dreams, and the pursuit of those dreams is an integral part of our progress.”
Liberty and freedom, he went on, “create more creativity, innovation, and prosperity for more people than any government program ever created. Most, if not all, great advances in life occur by the creative genius of peoples unencumbered by the shackles of the state.”
He added that large government makes people less responsible and engaged about solving problems in their own communities, families, and societies. “People begin to believe that compassion is measured by how much government is expended to try and solve the problem, and we don’t achieve the desired result,” he explained. “In fact, it becomes harder and harder to solve the problems as families, and as individuals in community.”
Bush stressed that the Obama administration’s spending proposals exceed those of the Great Society and the New Deal, and then went on to list them: the $787 billion stimulus package(of which only 15 percent has been spent), the $1.2 trillion healthcare bill, plus hundreds of billions in planned spending for cap-and-trade.
“The debate that we’re having in the United States, and here as well, might be a little different if we actually had the money, but in fact we don’t have the cash,” he said. “Today the budget deficit is $1.8 trillion and the Obama administration expects it to grow to $9 trillion in the next eight years. That is a rosy prediction because it requires economic growth of 3 percent per year for the next nine years.”
Furthermore, Bush highlighted a “toxic cocktail” of government intervention in both financial services and the auto industry which, he predicted, will bring “conflicts with far-reaching implications” beyond just these two sectors of the economy. “Even without a recession and new spending, the cost of government will increase in the coming years,” he warned. “Without a return to limited government and without reform, the cost of these programs combined with the projected debt will sadly exceed our ability to pay without eliminating the funding for our defense, environment, education, and other social services.”
But he stressed there is an alternative: a focus on subsidiarity and the importance of the family. “An alternative approach recognizes that the family is the most important political organization ever created,” he said to loud applause. “Loving parents whose organizing principle is the love and betterment of their children at their own material expense is a powerful force for social progress. In fact, if wholesome family life were the norm in the U.S., a significant amount of the demands placed on government would evaporate.”
Stressing the importance of subsidiarity, he said it was not only an integral part of Catholic social teaching but also a foundational principle in the creation of the United States. “Wherever possible, government should empower individuals, families, and faith- and community-based organizations rather than craft them out with mind-numbing rules, regulations, and command and control policies.”
He then alluded to three programs he initiated in Florida to show the effectiveness of this approach: The first was a community-based childcare system that he said was a vast improvement on a state-run system and led to more adoptions into loving families, better trained foster parents, and fewer abandoned kids. The second was to set up a totally faith-based prison, run by volunteers of many faiths and which has a significantly lower re-offending rate compared to state-run prisons. The third was an award system, with financial incentives, given to schools that showed an improvement in results. Florida schools, he said, now have results that exceed the national average and “lower income students have made the greatest gains.”
Bush said that while he would like the debate to be a “little more civil and substantive.” he said he was “heartened” that a “very lively debate” was now taking place about the proper role of government in society. He said an “emerging coalition” is coming to the fore, one which is increasingly supporting the belief that “government cannot spend its way to our prosperity” and that “strong families and a robust civil society have been, and will be, at the core of our successes.”
How this new coalition emerges in the next few years, he said in closing, “will have much to say about who we are as a nation as we move forward in these exciting and perilous times.”
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