February 9 2012

CPAC Live Blog: Give Me Liberty and Give Me Fairness

Hadley Heath

I didn't get to see every speaker this afternoon at CPAC, but I did get to see two of my favorite people. 

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli was recognized for his efforts in the past year with the "Defender of the Constitution Award."  He's now known nationwide as one of the first attorneys general to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).  I've heard him speak about this several times, but today he included an interesting sidenote I'd not heard before about the events of 2010:

The health law passed on March 21, but it was actually signed into law on March 23.  About 34 minutes later, we filed our suit in the Eastern District Court of Virginia [in Alexandria].  Later we found out, though we didn't realize at the time, that 17 blocks to the east, 235 years ago to the day, that is where Patrick Henry delivered his famous 'Give me liberty or give me death' speech.  On the same street.

Ironic, isn't it?  After all, the legal challenges to ObamaCare - as Cuccinelli said again today - are not about health care; they're about individual liberty.

Following Cuccinelli was Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

I love hearing Brooks talk because he usually emhasizes a topic near to my heart, and that is the morality of free enterprise and capitalism.  Today he opened by saying that conservatives need to explain that the free enterprise system isn't "just good for Americans and prosperity, but it is the most moral system."

Brooks went on to discuss the fairness crisis in our country that President Obama's been talking about lately.  He agreed that we have a fairness crisis, but defines it very differently from the President.

It's not fair, he said, that government is spending wildly now and saddling the youth generation with insurmountable debt.  It's not fair that public workers can carve out sweet deals and negociate salaries and benefits much greater than those of their private sector counterparts.  It's not fair that poor people who might seek to start a new enterprise face tax and regulatory burdens that discourage business creation.  It's not fair that Washington continues to practice crony capitalism, picking winners and losers and shielding certain firms from risks and leaving all of us with the tab.

There is a fairness crisis, but it's very different from how the President describes it. Brooks read a quote from President Obama at a recent Univision townhall:

But let's say that [you] wanted to teach... Or you wanted to go into public service, or work for a non-profit... we will give you additional help if you go into helping professions like teaching that are so important to our future.

First of all, there's a serious problem in encouraging young people away from the for-profit sector. Even though I work for a non-profit, I know understand the importance and morality of profit.

Secondly, upon hearing these words, my blood nearly boiled: "Helping professions?!?!!"

Yes, I understand like the next person that there are certain professions, like nursing, doctoring, teaching, counseling, etc. in which there's a great deal of personal interaction, but the problem with the President's remarks is that they presume that other professions, for example businesspeople, aren't helping.  But isn't it a help to society when someone like Steve Jobs creates cool new products?  The government shouldn't be in the business of determining who's helpful (and deserving of subsidies) and who's not. 

Brooks ended his speech by encouraging conservatives to not simply talk about policy in terms of dollars and cents, but to take on the "fairness" meme from the left.  Big government creates winners and losers and that's what's truly unfair.  Brooks said, "We can't avoid the argument and we shouldn't, because it's one we can win."

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