Posts Tagged speech

This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Wolf Budget Speech

Radio Program Schedule for the week of February 13, 2016 – February 19, 2016

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association; Matthew Brouillette from the Commonwealth Foundation and Kevin Shivers from the National Federation of Independent Business-PA have a Capitol Watch analysis of Governor Tom Wolf’s annual budget address
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on the proposed closing of the Public Employees Retirement Commission

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Stephen Moore of Freedom Works and Fox News about President Obama’s proposed oil tax
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on why the president’s budget is dead on arrival in congress
  • Eric Boehm is joined by Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation for a Watchdog Radio Report on Pennsylvania’s budget crisis
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on Donald Trump and the Republican Presidential Nomination

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

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GOP Launches a New ‘War on Poverty’

In his 1964 State of the Union Address President Lyndon Johnson launched what became known as the “war on poverty” saying: “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it, and above all to prevent it.”

Like the war in Vietnam, which he simultaneously fought, Johnson lost the “war on poverty.”  In 1964 the U.S. Poverty rate stood at 17.3%, after a half century with spending totally in the trillions of dollars, that rate today is stuck at 15%.

The “war on poverty” has been lost because the central theme of Johnson’s address got subverted to the cause of big government.  Anti-poverty programs sought not to “relieve the symptom of poverty,” but rather to entrap poverty stricken families in a web of government dependency.  At that the “war” has been successful as, for example, a record 47 million U.S. households today receive food stamps.

Although President Johnson’s anti-poverty initiative failed in its stated goal, it has been a resounding political success for his party.  Under the guise of compassion, Democrats have been successful in creating an entire class of voters dependent on government.  As a result entitlement programs now make up an unsustainable percentage of the federal budget and are driving trillion dollar budget deficits.

Conversely, Republicans have been portrayed as modern day Scrooges who care more about the bottom line than about the needs of poor Americans.  While the negative fiscal impact of deficit spending is real, the GOP has enhanced this reputation by failing to provide realistic solutions to fighting poverty through the provision of human services.

That, however, is changing.

In what is shaping up as a major change in how Republican policy-makers deal with poverty and the confusing and inefficient labyrinth of human service programs designed to combat it, major initiatives are underway at both the state and national level to develop a new – and hopefully more effective – anti-poverty paradigm.

At the national level Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 Vice Presidential nominee, has spent years researching and developing hisExpanding Opportunities in America program. Ryan proposes reforms to the nation’s educational and social safety net programs.  He also wants a review and streamlining of the thousands of federal regulations that frequently are a roadblock to providing effective services.

Funding for human services trickle down to the state, and ultimately to the county level where many such programs are actually implemented.  So, in addition to federal bureaucracies a level of state administration gets overlaid on human service programs before the dollars actually get to the counties and nonprofit organizations providing service.

State Representative David Reed, who serves as Majority Policy Chairman, last year launched his Empowering Opportunities: Gateways out of Poverty Initiative.  Reed returns to Lyndon Johnson’s original promise saying: “With more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians struggling in poverty today, our responsibility is to begin the discussion anew on the most effective and successful means of transitioning our citizens from a life of poverty to self-sustainability.”

Congressman Ryan and Representative Reed have thus laid the groundwork for a major change in the way our nation and state address dealing with persistent poverty.  But, bringing about such systemic change will not be easy.  Defenders of the status quo will predictably claim the proposals lack compassion, and some conservatives will balk at a continued major role for government in combating poverty.

After fifty years of failure it is crystal clear that what we have been doing simply hasn’t worked. Ryan and Reed are proposing a way forward that could begin the process of actually addressing the root causes of poverty in a way designed to lift people out of government dependency.  At this point we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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PA GOP at Crossroads

In what was perhaps one of the most famous speeches in American political history, Ronald Reagan’s national career was launched in the closing days of the 1964 presidential campaign with his “A Time for Choosing” speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater.  It failed to turn the electoral tide, but did become the rhetorical foundation of the Republican Party for the decades which followed.

Pennsylvania Republicans now find themselves at their own “time for choosing.”  While the situation may not be as grandiose as the “rendezvous with destiny” the party and the nation faced at the time of Reagan’s speech, the next few weeks will give definition to – or perhaps make it impossible to tell – what it means to be a Republican in Penn’s Woods.

At issue is the annual state budget which is constitutionally required to be in place by the close of business on June 30th.  Election year spending pressures and a revenue shortfall are complicating the process.  For six straight months the state has failed to achieve its revenue projections creating a $532.5 million deficit.  Add in proposed additional spending, and the deficit facing the governor and lawmakers climbs to over $1 billion.

The revenue shortfall should come as no surprise.  The national economy continues to lag as the “great recession” drags on.  The Lincoln Institute’s Keystone Business Climate Survey taken in April found 26% of business owners and CEOs reporting the state’s business climate continues to get worse, while only 14% saw improvement.  Uncertainty caused by the Affordable Health Care Act, and massive new regulations are cited as key reasons for the pessimism.

Republicans control the three budgetary levers of power: the governor’s office, the state House and state Senate.  To the unsuspecting this should amount to easy sailing for the new budget.  But the actual situation is quite the opposite.  The party is divided on how to proceed.  The governor and a majority of the conservative House are opposed to higher taxes, a faction in the GOP caucus in the state Senate are open to additional revenue.

Much has been made in the media over the intra-party competition between so-called “establishment” Republicans and “tea party” conservatives. Closer inspection shows the policy differences between those factions are small.  It is more accurate to say the Pennsylvania GOP is divided along geographic rather than ideological lines.

A number of legislators from southeastern Pennsylvania – the Philadelphia suburbs – are labor union-supported tax and spend liberals.  Those hailing from the balance of the state, particularly the central Pennsylvania “T” and southwestern Pennsylvania are economically conservative.  It is this divide over which the battle for the soul of the state GOP is being fought.

In trying to improve the state’s business climate, Governor Tom Corbett has steadfastly opposed adding an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale companies.  That is because those businesses already pay all the same taxes as every other Pennsylvania business – plus an impact tax enacted several years ago.  An extraction tax would be piling on.

Moderate southeastern Republicans, led by State Representative Gene DiGirolamo of Bucks County, are advocating for an extraction tax.  They also want to halt the phase-out of the Capitol Stock & Franchise Tax, an arcane bit of double taxation on businesses found in no other state in the nation that instantly makes Pennsylvania less competitive in attracting investment and jobs.  Mr. DiGirolamo has gone so far as to offer his own version of the state budget, which appears to be little more than the Democratic budget on new letterhead.

The “time for choosing” for the GOP is this:  will the party stay the course by holding the line on taxes and continue to enact policies that will encourage business growth and job creation, or will it allow the southeastern tail to wag the dog and become Democrat lite?

Ronald Reagan once warned the GOP that “A party cannot be all things to all people.  It must represent certain fundamental beliefs . . . (it must) raise a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels.”  If the Republicans in control of state government settle for “pale pastels” there will be little to distinguish it from the Democrats and voters will opt for the real thing.  The time has come for the GOP to act on its pro-growth principles. Because otherwise, what is the point of even having principles?

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provide author and affiliation are cited.

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State of the Kingdom

“Leader, n. A person who influences a group of people toward the achievement of a goal.” – Webster

“Dictator, n. A leader who holds and/or abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make laws without effective restraint by a legislative assembly.” – Wikipedia

In the days before President Barack Obama’s fifth annual State of the Union Address, the president along with his administration’s spokesmen made clear their intentions to act unilaterally – that is without the approval of congress – if the national legislature failed to agree to the president’s policy demands.  “Where congress isn’t acting, I will act on my own,” the president said during his weekly radio address.

His remarks signaled not so much a change in approach to governing as a remarkable and arrogant public admission of what he has been doing since taking office.  Barack Obama has run roughshod over a weak and rudderless congress, enacting by executive order that which he cannot achieve legislatively.  Even when he has had legislative success, as with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, he has routinely at his whim altered the law.

From immigration to energy virtually no part of the nation’s policy agenda has been immune to presidential action by either executive order or the promulgation of regulations.  For the past five years congress has had little effective voice in the nation’s governance.  Democrats, who hold a majority in the U.S. Senate, are content to line up like sheep behind every presidential initiative.  House Speaker John Boehner, leader of congressional Republicans, has been unable to offer either vision or leadership.

Thus the playing field has been effectively ceded to the president who is more than willing to act without congressional input or approval.  This is not what the nation’s Founding Fathers intended.  Power in our national government was divided among three branches to provide for a system of checks and balances. No one branch was to become dominate over another.  While all presidents tend to take an expansive view of their position within the federal structure, outside of wartime none have grabbed as much executive power as has Barack Obama.

Obama apologists will argue that the president is showing leadership by acting on issues where congress has failed to reach consensus.  But there is a fine line between leadership and dictatorship. Some presidents have been highly skilled, such as Lyndon Johnson, or highly effective; think Ronald Reagan in working with congress to accomplish their legislative goals.  Those two presidents took the federal government in opposite directions, but both worked within the confines and lived up to the spirit of constitutional government.

Although blessed with exceptional oratorical skills, President Obama has shown no aptitude for effective legislating. Have served a scant four years in the U.S. Senate – and campaigning most of that time for the presidency – he never developed legislating ability.  That carried over to his presidency where he has been stunning lax at legislative grunt work while imperious to the point of dictatorial in exercising executive power.

Such an approach to governing creates a climate ripe for abuse.  An administration accustomed to trampling congress easily does the same when it comes to individual rights.  The NSA has invaded the privacy rights of ordinary Americans.  The IRS has targeted conservative groups for harassment. The Justice Department has investigated journalists. All are logical extensions of an authoritarian administration run amuck.

Not satisfied with by-passing congress, the Obama Administration is now working to supersede the courts.  The IRS is working on a new set of rules limiting the free speech rights of 504c4 organizations recently upheld by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case.   Numerous groups conduct lobbying and limited political activity under the 501c4 designation.  Conservative groups have been much more effective at utilizing the designation, so the Obama IRS is working to curb their ability to function in direct contravention of the Supreme Court ruling.  The issue likely will again land before the high court, but not before handcuffing such groups in the 2014 and possibly 2016 elections – which is the goal of the IRS rulemaking.

Throughout the course of U.S. history presidential power has ebbed and flowed.  The current imbalance of power is extreme, and given recent presidential pronouncements it is going to become more so in the months ahead.  The time has come for congressional Republicans to make a concerted effort to curb this presidential power grab before the pendulum swings so far it cannot swing back.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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