On the evening of November 4, a newly elected President said, "This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids." Today's youth may look back at those words and wonder why the doors remained closed.
In his first 100 days, President Barack Obama has undermined America's future prosperity, putting us in danger of breaking one of our country's fundamental promises: to leave America better for the next generation.
Military Supremacy No More
defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled the administration's proposed defense budget by saying his "decisions have been almost exclusively influenced by factors other than simply finding a way to balance the books or fit under the top line."
Gates tried to preempt critics, adding, "Some will say I am too focused on the wars we are in and not enough on future threats." He anticipated such criticisms because his formulations were indeed budget driven and, as a result, focused on the near term.
As defense expert and former Sen. Jim Talent observed, Gates "referred to the 'limited tax dollars' the department will have available in the future" and did not mention that the military "is facing a shortfall of at least $50 billion per year in the modernization funding that is absolutely necessary to maintain America's military predominance."
How else could Gates defend ending the F-22 program that is designed to ensure technological advances by Russia and China do not jeopardize our air superiority? The administration's blueprint threatens to saddle our children with a deteriorated and hollow force that may not be capable of winning future wars. As Gates' predecessor Donald Rumsfeld infamously said, "You go to war with the Army you have." This budget will not give the next generation the military it will want or need.
During the past eight years, federal education funding increased 58% faster than inflation. Yet President Obama believes "too many of our schools do not prepare" our children to compete in the "global economy." He is right, but his solution -- to double down on the spending -- is wrong.
Even worse, he intends to eliminate one federal program that is helping disadvantaged children. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which costs only $14 million annually, allows 1,700 children to escape the nation's worst public school system. One could understand the President's decision if the program was ineffective. After all, he said his administration would "use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with [our] precious tax dollars: It's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works."
However, if that is the metric, he should be expanding the program. A recent administration report found students who used the scholarships were far ahead of their peers in reading and that education gap accelerated over time. Now, children stuck in dangerous, underperforming schools may never have a chance to break out of that environment and compete in the global economy.
Universally Poor Health Care
In his address to Congress, President Obama said, "Already, we've done more to advance the cause of health-care reform in the last 30 days than we've done in the last decade." He was touting the dramatic expansion of SCHIP, which is a recipe for low-quality care for many children. But two other policies threaten to make things worse.
First, the administration is seeking to repeal federal "conscience clause" regulations, which ensure that health-care providers are not forced to perform procedures (i.e. abortion) that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. Repealing those regulations would jeopardize legal protections for doctors who perform abortions, faith-based hospitals that do not allow such procedures and pharmacists who are morally opposed to the "morning-after" pill. This violation of freedom would have dire consequences for our already struggling health system, including reduced access to care.
Second, the administration is pushing for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) to be primarily organized by the government. The type of information collected by CER could eventually be used inappropriately if a "Federal Health Board" was created to decide which types of treatment would be available to whom and when. Most Americans, and many people who are on government-run health care, are skeptical that unaccountable and unreachable government bureaucrats can improve the quality of their health care.
Expensive, Unreliable Energy
The President talks fondly of what he calls a "new energy economy," describing it as not "just a challenge to meet, [but] an opportunity to seize." To "truly transform our economy," he says, "we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy."
How do politicians make expensive, unreliable energy profitable? They can tax cheap profitable sources, subsidize unreliable sources, mandate the use of expensive sources, or all of the above. President Obama's quest to replace affordable energy with expensive energy would, by definition, raise the cost of electricity in America.
The President is intent on creating his own market with a system that taxes CO2 emissions, commonly referred to as a cap-and-trade program. Not only would this tax on energy production raise electric bills, but it would further deteriorate the nation's manufacturing capacity and undermine our global economic standing. High energy prices, a weakened economy, dramatic job loss and an economic disadvantage on the world market is not a recipe for our children's success.
Generational Theft Through debt
"There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay." President Obama said this in his first address to Congress, after signing a $787 billion stimulus bill hat could cost the American people more than $3.27 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The President's budget plan, when combined with the stimulus, could result in the doubling of our public debt over the next decade. At that level, as a percentage of GDP, the debt burden we are leaving our children would approach the aftermath of World War II. If we want our children to be the next "Greatest Generation," we need to allow them to succeed, not force them to swallow a McMansion-sized mortgage before they graduate from high school.
President Obama also told Congress that "We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity." He appears to be repeating and compounding those mistakes. If he continues to implement his agenda, our children will inherit a country much different than the one we or our parents knew. Crippling debt, expensive and scarce energy, no alternatives to poor public education and health care, and a weakened military does not open doors, it closes them.
Dan Holler is deputy director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First Appeared in Human Events