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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jon Kyl

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jon Kyl

Last Build Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

Targeted, Timely, and Temporary

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

It isn't timely because over half of the discretionary spending in the bill won't occur until 2011 or after. Hopefully, the recession will be over by then.

It isn't temporary because it creates over 24 new government programs and the mandatory spending (which Congressional Democrats are unlikely to cut) will cost nearly $300 billion over the next 10 years.

And it isn't targeted because it makes the same mistake as last year's rebate checks. The theory was that individuals would spend these checks, thereby helping businesses (and subsequently, the economy).

But it didn't work that way. Instead, over 80 percent of the money was saved, because families understood their first priority in uncertain times is to pay off debt (like credit card debt), not go on a spending spree.

The equivalent of last year's $600 rebate is a reduction in tax withholding of $20 a week, which is the centerpiece of this bill. The result will be no different since most families need to continue to tighten their family budgets, not start spending more.

In addition to the hundreds of billions being spent on initiatives which will have little stimulative effect, the bill is also laden with pork and unrelated spending. For example, there was a provision that would have provided a $256 million tax credit to Hollywood movie studios.

There are also provisions to provide hundreds of millions for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and millions more to World War II Filipino veterans in the Philippines. I agree with a recent Washington Post editorial that these "potentially meritorious not belong in legislation whose reason for being is to give U.S. economic growth a 'jolt,' as Mr. Obama himself has put it."

Everyone is struck by the absolute seriousness of the crisis that faces our country, and we can't afford to waste the opportunity to do things that will actually help. But simply throwing over $900 billion of taxpayer money against the wall and hoping it trickles down won't work.

A bill of this magnitude should have been constructed from the bottom up with things we know will stimulate the economy and create jobs, not with things that fulfill campaign promises or spending that Congressmen haven't been able to get approved over the last eight years. Despite assurances from the President that the bill would embody both Democrat and Republican ideas, virtually every Republican effort to improve this bill with amendments was soundly rejected by Senate Democrats.

For example, there was a measure I authored with Senator John Thune of South Dakota. It would have made serious changes to existing tax law for families and small businesses, creating almost twice the amount of projected jobs as the Democrat bill, but at half the cost to taxpayers. There was an amendment by Senator John McCain to cut some of the unrelated spending and earmarks from the bill, but that, too, was rejected by Democrats.

The massive government expansion proposed by the Democrats' trillion dollar spending bill is the wrong prescription for our ailing economy. It won't stimulate economic growth, but will only serve to increase the indebtedness of our children and future generations.

President Bush's Lasting Legacy: Missile Defense

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600

But, something stood in President Reagan's way: the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This treaty was a classic example of arms control promising much more than it was ever able to deliver.

The theory was that by ensuring mutual vulnerability to nuclear missile attack, the incentive to build increasing numbers of offensive forces would be removed. History proved that theory wrong. And, in fact, strategic nuclear forces expanded not just quantitatively, but also qualitatively.

The ABM treaty also stood in the way of developing defenses against rogue regimes that were - and are - developing ballistic missiles. Deterrence is simply inadequate in dealing with rogue dictators. To depend only on nuclear deterrence - that is, rational decision making - with the Iranian and North Korean regimes would be irresponsible. And so, President Bush officially withdrew the United States the ABM treaty in June 2002.

Four years later, in 2006, the wisdom of President Bush's action was demonstrated when North Korea tested its Tae Po Dong 2 missile and detonated a nuclear device. Had it been necessary, the Missile Defense Agency was able to provide the president a real missile defense capability to combat the threat posed to the American people by a rogue regime armed with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The United States missile defense system is now composed of 26 Ground-Based Interceptors in California and Alaska; 18 Aegis ballistic missile defense warships, complete with 65 interceptors on board; an advanced system of command and control; and surveillance and targeting radars. This is a significant capability, but it represents only the beginning of what's needed to protect the American people.

It is now President Obama's responsibility to ensure the safety of the American people against all threats, including the ballistic missile threat. The available evidence suggests this will not be easy. In recent years, Democrats in the House and Senate have made significant cuts to the missile defense budget, including restricting the development of defenses against future threats we know our adversaries are developing.

Our new president should also welcome Congress' recent decision to reverse an ill-conceived decision that it and President Clinton made in 1993 to abandon the study of space-based interceptors for missile defense. As a result of this reversal, the Department of Defense can now move forward on a study that could provide a roadmap for both a future defense of the United States from ballistic missile attack and a defense of our critical national security space systems. Opponents of this decision are already at work to stop the positive momentum created by Congress' decision to fund this study. They will not only attempt to cancel it, they will attempt to permanently shackle the defensive capability of the United States with a "space weapons ban" treaty, which could not work and would effectively amount to nothing more than feel good arms control.

President Bush left office having provided the American people, and his successor, a significant new defense capability. History will not be able to ignore this legacy. President Obama's opportunity to follow this good example has just begun. May history prove his judgment to be as good as his predecessor.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mon, 19 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, Dr. King and other community leaders organized nonviolent protests of segregation laws in many southern cities. These massive, peaceful demonstrations gained national attention and gave hope to many. The March on Washington stirred President Lyndon Johnson and congressional lawmakers to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Foreign audiences even drew inspiration from King and led peaceful independence movements in more than 100 countries.

At the Lincoln Memorial, an engraving marks the place on the steps where Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. From that stone, one can look across the National Mall toward the Capitol, where we will witness another historic event on January 20. The Inaugural swearing-in ceremonies of America's first African-American president give us the opportunity to reflect on Dr. King's dream.

In most respects, it has been fulfilled. Not only have all public vestiges of segregation ended, the attitudes of Americans have obviously changed. You can imagine how proud he would be this Inauguration day.

King's legacy of service also endures in the way we commemorate a day in his honor. In 1994, Congress enacted legislation that recognized Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a national day of service. Schools, families and religious organizations orchestrate and participate in volunteer projects across the country. These include distributing food at homeless shelters, cleaning parks, and constructing homes for impoverished families. Millions of Americans will follow Dr. King's example and serve in their neighborhoods. It is important to recognize that building up America starts with our local communities.

As we remember Dr. King, let us be vigilant of the principles that he firmly held: a firm and confident belief in the Almighty and in the promise of freedom and equality in America's founding documents. We should honor him by continuing to pursue his dream.

Gas Price Reduction Act

Tue, 15 Jul 2008 00:00:00 -0600

Unfortunately, our amendment failed. But, gas prices have continued to rise, and Americans families are still waiting for a solution.

The Democrats' response to high prices has been to oppose every proposal for more American energy development, thus increasing our dependence on unstable regions of the world at a time of record high prices. Republicans, on the other hand, want to take a balanced "use less, find more" approach.

That approach is reflected in a new bill we introduced, the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008, which is a comprehensive plan to meet the nation's long-term energy needs. Like the amendment I mentioned above, the Gas Price Reduction Act would promote domestic development, increasing supply by safely producing oil off U.S. shores and from oil shale on federal lands. It also promotes technological innovations to reduce our energy consumption, as well as transparency in commodity markets to prevent improper speculation.

The Democrats, however, have offered no solutions to high prices, and instead shut off every avenue to allow the United States to increase its own energy supply. They continue to resist increasing domestic production and have thwarted production in our own waters, on our public lands, of our own coal, and of nuclear power. More than 60 percent of every dollar Americans spend at the pump goes to a foreign country, so saying no to U.S. production means saying yes to higher prices, and yes to oil from Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

The Gas Price Reduction Act would reduce our dependency on these foreign sources of oil. It includes four mainstream proposals: It would allow deep sea exploration for oil and natural gas 50 miles or further off the coasts in U.S. waters. The oil companies that lease these areas would make payments to the federal government, to the participating states, and for wildlife conservation. The bill would also allow the safe production of oil shale on public lands in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado - this production could result in an estimated six trillion barrels of oil.

In addition, the Republican bill would support the development of plug-in hybrid technology that will dramatically decrease transportation costs to consumers by reducing the amount of gasoline they use; and it would provide the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission with the resources necessary to ensure transparency in all trading activities.

Senate Republicans have offered yet another proposal to bring relief to Americans struggling with high gas prices. Our unified energy policy would reduce our dependence on foreign nations by finding more of our own domestic resources while relying on less energy from overseas.

Reagan's Wisdom

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 00:21:00 -0600

One president of the not-so-distant past has much to teach us about the challenges we face today, particularly the threats to our freedom, whether from terrorists or hostile and antagonistic regimes.

President Ronald Reagan knew that this country occupied a unique place in the world because of its first principles: "Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth," he said. He also knew that these principles could evoke violent opposition from those who did not share them.

From those enemies of freedom, President Reagan vigorously defended first principles. "Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit," he said. "America must remain freedom's staunchest friend, for our freedom is our best ally and it is the world's only hope to conquer poverty and preserve peace."

President Reagan called peace "the highest aspiration of the American people" and he knew that for peace to prevail, freedom had to win out. Most importantly, he knew how peace is best won and preserved.

President Reagan believed that peace is preserved through strength; in order to keep the peace, the United States must keep its defenses strong. That theme bookended his tenure in office: in his first inaugural address, he said, "We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need to, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength."

"Common sense told us that to preserve the peace, we'd have to become strong," he told the nation shortly before the conclusion of his presidency.

This policy of peace through strength helped defeat our foremost enemy at the time - the Soviet Union - and it is the policy we must continue to pursue as we meet new threats.

President Reagan has words to gird us as we face the current threat from terrorists, or a future threat not yet known to us. "In this blessed land," he said, "there is always a better tomorrow." That optimism should guide us, and remind us that as long as we hold true to this country's first principles we can prevail no matter the challenges.