07 September, 2008

The Candidates and Size of Government

This is the twenty-eighth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.s

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views on the size of government.

It's been over a week since I did any posts on this, and I apologize for that. I've been caught up in the Palin-frenzy, but I want to get back to this, because I'm going on vacation in a few days, and I'd like to finish it up before then if at all possible.

Anyway, to the topic at hand. Despite the beliefs of some to the contrary, the size of government has a direct effect on your civil liberties. A larger government is by it's very nature more intrusive and more controlling.

So, how do the candidates stack up here?

First, Obama:

I've previously commented on Obama's socialist tendencies, and that should be sufficient answer here, but I like to be thorough. Here are a few examples of what I found on the web.

Lawrence Kudlow had this to say:

Obama unveiled much of his economic strategy in Wisconsin this week: He wants to spend $150 billion on a green-energy plan. He wants to establish an infrastructure investment bank to the tune of $60 billion. He wants to expand health insurance by roughly $65 billion. He wants to "reopen" trade deals, which is another way of saying he wants to raise the barriers to free trade. He intends to regulate the profits for drug companies, health insurers, and energy firms. He wants to establish a mortgage-interest tax credit. He wants to double the number of workers receiving the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and triple the EITC benefit for minimum-wage workers.

From his acceptance speech:

I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.

I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy-- wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels....

I'll invest in early childhood education.

I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support....

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves....

Club for Growth says this:

As Senators, it often seemed like Edwards, Clinton, and Obama were congenitally incapable of saying no to government spending. Both Edwards and Clinton voted against defunding pork projects[21] and for the overbloated 2002 farm bill.[22] Clinton and Obama voted to keep the $223 million boondoggle known as the "Bridge to Nowhere,"[23] for the expansive 2005 Highway Bill,[24] and for corporate welfare.[25]

Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are proposing one new government program after another, from universal healthcare, to universal preschool, to an "education SWAT team."[29] The proposals read like a laundry list of new and costly government programs: Obama's $18 billion education proposal;[30] Edwards' $120 billion universal healthcare plan;[31] Obama's $50 billion "clean technology" venture capital fund;[32] Clinton's $110 billion universal healthcare proposal;[33] Edwards' $13 billion renewable energy program;[34] and Clinton's $50 billion strategic energy fund.[35] In some cases, the candidates appear to be competing to see who can spend more taxpayer dollars. Hillary Clinton proposes $1 billion a year to expand the Family Medical Leave Act; Obama offers $1.5 billion a year, and Edwards goes a step further with $2 billion a year.[36] Hillary Clinton put it best when she said, "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."[37] The same could be said for Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Also there's Obama's standing on earmarks:

$740 million over the last three years.

That's just a partial list, but you get the idea. He's definitely going to continue the huge amount of government growth we've seen over the last 8 years.

And now to McCain:

Here's what the Club for Growth had to say about him:

Despite his poor record on tax cuts, Senator McCain's zealous effort against wasteful spending deserves praise. Over his twenty years in the Senate, he has been at the forefront of the battle to eliminate wasteful projects and inject greater discipline and transparency into the appropriations process, often by introducing a slew of cost-cutting amendments. While many of these measures did not pass, they served an important role in shining a glaring light on congressional profligacy. These amendments include:

  • A 2006 amendment to cut $74.5 million for various agriculture programs[17]
  • A 2006 amendment to cut $6 million for sugarcane growers in Hawaii[18]
  • A 2003 amendment to reduce funding for the Yazoo Basin Backwater Pump Project in Mississippi[19]
  • A 2002 amendment to eliminate $2.5 million for coral reef mapping of the waters off the coast of Hawaii[20]
  • A 1998 amendment to cut $78 million in projects from an emergency supplemental appropriations bill[21]
  • A 1994 motion to kill an amendment to provide $40 million for the conversion of a New York City post office into an Amtrak train station[22]

Senator McCain has also voted against a number of pricey bills, even when most of his colleagues preferred to toe the party line. These include:

  • A vote against the 2003 Medicare prescription drug plan[23]
  • A vote against the Farm Security Bill in 2002[24]
  • A vote against the 2005 Highway Bill, one of only four senators to object to the pork-stuffed bill[25]
  • A vote against providing Amtrak with an extra $550 million for the fiscal year 2007[26]
  • A vote against $2 billion in milk subsidies[27]
  • One of fifteen senators to vote for Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) amendment transferring $223 million for the "Bridge to Nowhere" to the repair of a Louisiana bridge damaged by Hurricane Katrina.[28] Senator McCain was also one of only thirteen senators to vote for an amendment by Senator Coburn to eliminate $950,000 for a parking lot for the Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska[29]
  • A vote for welfare reform[30]

While Senator McCain's opposition to wasteful pork-barrel projects and government subsidies is impressive, it should be noted that he cast an uncharacteristic vote for No Child Left Behind which oversaw a massive increase in government spending.[31]

He's denounced the growth of government over the last eight years.

"Why has our party, the party of small government, lately adopted the practices of our opponents who believe the bigger the government the better? I'm afraid it's because at times we value our incumbency more than our principles," the Arizona Republican said in a speech to be delivered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

"We came to office to reduce the size of government. Lately, we have increased the size of government in order to stay in office," McCain said. "Soon, if we don't remember what we were elected to do, we will lose both our principles and our office and we will leave as part of our legacy a mountain of debt and bankrupt entitlement programs that our children's grandchildren will be suffering from."

Surprisingly, he has a reputation as being pro-government growth. A reputation that does not appear to be based upon fact. He does want to spend a ton of money to fight global warming, though.

His website pledges to limit annual government growth to 2.4%. I've read this on numerous sites, but I can't find a link myself. Will update when I do.


Obama: F. As the Club for Growth said, Obama's never found a spending program he didn't like.

McCain: A-. Really, the only thing holding McCain back is No Child Left Behind and Global Warming. His acceptance speech shows a renewed commitment to small government.

Size of Government: Advantage McCain.

Results so far:
  Obama McCain
First Amendment F D-
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
Fifteenth Amendment B B
Nineteenth Amendment B B
Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B
Twenty-Sixth Amendment B B
Taxes D B-
Abortion A+ D
National ID F F
Voter ID A+ F
Card Check F A+
Legalization of Drugs D+ F
Gay Rights A- D
Hate Crime Legislation F C
Growth of Government F A-

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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