Let's compare the ideas expressed by President Obama and Governor Jindal in their respective speeches last night. Specifically, I'm going to look at what they think are the proper duties of government toward the entrepreneurial sector of the economy.
Obama (emphasis mine):
I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.
For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.
In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.
During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.
There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes - and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.
To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people.
As a response to Obama, Jindal's speech fails. Both agree that the government should empower American enterprise. But Jindal never answers head-on why government investment can't also empower enterprise--which is Obama's point I emphasized. Jindal's argument that Obama's policies will just "saddle" us with more debt does not work for this purpose because Jindal's policy alternatives would also increase the debt.
I'm not saying that there is no good response out there to Obama's vision of government and the entrepreneur. I'm just saying that the Republicans are not making that response.