Review: Libertarian Rebuttal to the State of the Union Address, Wes Benedict

Whew… These reviews are getting long and hard to work through. I’ll actually confess to having done these in a single day but delaying the posts to one a day. I’m tired….

Fortunately, the Libertarian response, as usual, is really short. Last year’s review was an interesting experience, and one I look forward to. If nothing else, the Libertarians offer a counter-point that is often refreshing and enjoyable. Please note that the Libertarian rebuttal is, as usual, a rebuttal to both the State of the Union Address and the minority party’s rebuttal.

Again, in the effort of full disclosure, I’m an independent, but if I ever do join a party, it’ll probably the Libertarians. There is a great deal in that party that I agree with passionately enough to associate myself with them.

  • Speech: Libertarian Rebuttal to the State of the Union Address and the Republican Rebuttal
  • Speaker: Libertarian Party Executive Directer Wes Benedict
  • Date: January 25, 2011

And here we go….

President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won’t really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it’s necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.

Can’t say I can argue with that. Mr. Benedict is certainly right that debt reduction requires much more than a freeze on discretionary spending. He’s also right that it’ll take a hit to defense and entitlement spending.

I did laugh out loud at the refreshingly open statement “I expect more of the same.” It doth appear that Mr. Benedict and I share the same skepticism for any real change, though I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.

While I appreciate the openness and frankness here, I think this is also a problem with national Libertarian leadership. Too many blanket generalities, too few recognitions that things can change and be different. In some ways, he’s right to call President Obama a hypocrite, though he leaves very little room for improvement, and the overall impression is negative.

Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.

First, I think this ignores the fact that the war in Iraq is ending. True, the war in Afghanistan continues, but I don’t think it should end.

Second, Mr. Benedict fails to recognize that whether we should have gone into Iraq and Afghanistan is irrelevant. We went, and we have a responsibility to clean up our mess. We owe it to those people to finish the job we started.

Third, we should reduce our military budget. We spend dramatically more than any other country and much more than our nearest competitor. We need to fight smarter and more efficiently, not bigger. The world is moving away from massive armies to smaller, lighter, more agile forces that can do the job more efficiently anyway. A prime example is the new line of mini aircraft carriers. These ships, which cost a fraction of the big super carriers, are infinitely more agile, faster, and better equipped to handle modern warfare. Why our navy has yet to adopt that strategy while the rest of the world moved that direction twenty years ago continues to boggle my mind.

On the Republican side, I found Congressman Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy appalling…. Republicans don’t want to cut spending — they want to talk about cutting spending.

I won’t copy the laundry list of complaints. Just know that it was long and extensive. As with President Obama, Mr. Benedict truly doesn’t spare Rep. Ryan. I’m more neutral on the complaints against both the president and Rep. Ryan, but it is a valid point. It’s hard to really trust that spending will be cut at all when the evidence of past work is strongly opposed. But where is the chance at change?

It’s time for someone to have the guts to tell seniors the truth: You were promised way too much, and now we’ve got to make major cuts. I’m asking retirees to think about the enormous debts piling up on your children and grandchildren.

Wow…. And he’s right. I would never be so callous and blunt, but he’s right. We did promise too much. But the thing that is really distressing is that they paid too much into the system, and they aren’t getting anything back for it.

Cuts need to happen, but the system in itself needs to be optional. I personally would opt out if the option were available.

Libertarians would stop spending billions on bailouts, the War on Drugs, federal education programs, and we would end mandatory Social Security and Medicare.

Seriously… No beating around the bush here.

Okay… Bailouts? Check. I don’t care for the money spent on bailouts. War on Drugs? Um… I say we keep fighting. Federal Education Programs? More ambivalent, but that is more because I believe local jurisdictions could do a better job. But still, where does the money come from? Ending mandatory Social Security and Medicare? I already said I’d opt out if I could, and boy do I wish I could.

Here’s the point, I gave up in taxes for Social Security and Medicare somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000+ last year in taxes to pay for Social Security and Medicare. If I were allowed to put that money toward my own retirement, would I retire rich? You betcha! If you took that money and placed it in a fund that averaged 10% annual returns (definitely possible by the way) for the 35 years I have remaining until I retire, I’d have roughly $1.2 MM. That is not counting the additional income from other retirement sources like my 401(k).

Granted, such a program is not for everyone, and I’m in a seemingly small fiscally responsible minority, but for those who can manage their money (like me), I should be able to do it. Instead, under social security, the government has promised me around $1500 a month starting at age 67 until I die. If I lived 25 years, I’d have received $450,000 in exchange for the $1.2 MM I could have had….

Today, America is a country that attracts hardworking immigrants from Mexico and around the world, leaving countries that are less free and prosperous. Libertarians welcome these immigrants warmly. But I often wonder if — in 20 years — America will still be a great place to live, or if it will be another declining civilization fraught with poverty and abuse that your children want to leave.

I wonder the same. I truly do.

The future of America may depend on the Libertarian Party steering us towards liberty and away from tyranny.

As with the Tea Party, I take exception to the idea that a single party has all the answers. I do believe the Libertarian Party has value and is a wonderful contributor on the playing field. Personally, I find their local political efforts to be wonderfully refreshing and enlightening. But I question their national and federal stances and ability to perform at that level. Almost by definition, the Libertarian Party is incapable of functioning adequately at the national level based upon their platform and ideals. Would it still work? Probably. Would it be better than what we have? No clue. Am I willing to risk today for that tomorrow? No.

There is still too much at stake, still too much hope, still too much potential.

You don’t have to agree with every single Libertarian position to join the Libertarian Party. You can still make a difference and help us move our country towards freedom.

Like I said in last year’s review, the Libertarian Party is something for the independent voice looking for a home. I subscribe to a goodly number of their positions and ideals. Not all, but a goodly number. One thing I genuinely appreciate about Libertarians is the openness. They are truly the most “come one, come all” party out there, and they thrive on the ideal of allowing each of us, party member or not, to function and exist within our differences.

If you haven’t checked out the Libertarian Party, I recommend it. You won’t agree with everything, but you don’t have to.

And that’s the speech.

Easily the most inflammatory of the four speeches I reviewed, but does that surprise you? Like the others, no real plans, no real solutions. I guess I don’t expect them, but I still wish I’d hear someone say, “We will do X, and you can find details of that plan here.”

Overall, it’s been an especially interesting set of speeches. I did my best to review them all together as closely as I could so that I could feel the genuine effect of their combined words. My takeaway? There’s a lot of good ideas coming out right now, we’ve got a president who seems to have found his direction and stride, we’ve got a congress who is newly reconciled to working together, and we have the fringe elements waiting in the wings to pounce if there are any slips.

It surely promises to be a very exciting year for this nation. Make sure you’re a part of the building going on and, more than anything, follow the President’s example of late of cutting out the anger. We’re all Americans, and at the end of the day, I pray for my kids like you do, I give them hugs like you do, I sing them songs like you do, and I tuck them in to bed like you do.

Admin Note: I’m not sure if I’ll do the Green Party. I’ll look around and see what they say. The same applies for other parties. I’ll look, but I don’t expect much that will be worthwhile for discussion.

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