Category Archives: Good Government

Democratic vs. Republican Presidents Part 2: Energy Policy

Ivanpah solar energy facility, California

Ivanpah solar energy facility, California

(This is the second installment in a series about differences between Democratic and Republican Presidents in areas where they have direct control. See our Democratic vs. Republican Presidents category for the rest.)

In June 1979, Democratic U.S. President Jimmy Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the roof of the White House, for water heating. By 1986, Republican President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed, and also:

gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers.

This see-sawing between Republican and Democratic presidents on energy policy continues today. It’s fair to say that Republican presidents never saw a fossil fuel they didn’t like, while Democratic presidents have made efforts toward conservation and the development and use of clean, renewable energy.

Democratic vs. Republican Presidents Part 1: Communications Policy

Janet Jackson's FCC "Nipplegate" moment

Janet Jackson’s FCC “Nipplegate” moment

Under the U.S. Constitution, presidents have certain limited powers, but in the 21st Century, the president also controls a huge machinery of government. It’s almost impossible to come up with an exhaustive list of all the things presidents exercise authority over, but we’ve started such a list. We’ll be doing a series, with each post describing one or more categories where presidents are heavily involved. Please take a look at the series, and you will see the difference between having a Republican and a Democrat in the White House, and why the 2016 elections are therefore so crucial:

Yosemite National Park: the best of good government

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

We have previously touted the benefits of “good government,” from Social Security to Superstorm Sandy relief. But perhaps no result of good government is more beloved than America’s fabulous national parks. And the first park land set aside in America by the federal government for public use — by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 — was the land that is now Yosemite National Park.

Republicans pummeled by two hurricanes

President George W. Bush's "Brownie" moment, Sept. 2, 2005

President George W. Bush’s “Brownie” moment, Sept. 2, 2005

The anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina (landfall in Louisiana August 29, 2005) and Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy (landfall in New Jersey August 29, 2012) represent a perfect storm that continues to damage the Republican Party. Katrina showed President George W. Bush‘s detachment, and the criminally negligent incompetence behind his administration’s hands-off conservative Republican governing philosophy (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”) Sandy is said to have helped President Barack Obama win and the Democrats do well in the 2012 elections, but that’s only true if one rejects the Republicans’ “government is bad” frame and accepts the Democrats’ “good government” philosophy. Apparently, many Americans have done just that.

Fighting for Amtrak, transportation and good government

High speed trains in London

High speed trains in London

The recent Amtrak derailment in Pennsylvania has once again exposed America’s embarrassing train transportation system. Parts of this system are up to 150 years old, and it’s falling apart. Yet, when Democrats, including President Barack Obama, propose to modernize our train system and build high-speed trains, Republicans oppose these plans.

Predictably, after the Amtrak accident, in addition to the horrible optics of simultaneous Republican budget cuts, we are hearing the usual Republican talking points about America’s train transportation system. Here are the main GOP talking points, along with some possible responses:

Republicans suddenly love Big Government

George W. and John McCain share birthday cake in Arizona as Katrina hits New Orleans, 2005

George W. and John McCain share birthday cake in Arizona as Katrina hits New Orleans, 2005

One of the Republican Party’s key tenets — indeed, one of its mantras — for decades has been “smaller government.” Recall Republican President Ronald Reagan‘s 1986 speech, where he stated:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

In recent weeks, however, Republicans have been calling for all kinds of Big Government:

Good government and capitalism meet near Las Vegas

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

Las Vegas, perhaps the ultimate symbol of capitalism, ironically is bookended by two huge examples of business/government partnership. The first one, as we all know from Rachel Maddow‘s MSNBC “Lean Forward” videos, is the Hoover Dam, located about 30 miles from Las Vegas. Hoover Dam is an example of government working with business to create a huge public project that business could not accomplish by itself. In the case of Hoover Dam (the creating legislation for which was signed by conservative Republican President Calvin Coolidge), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the Department of the Interior, partnered with a consortium of large corporations known as Six Companies, including familiar capitalist faces Henry J. Kaiser Co. and Bechtel Corporation.

Good roads come from good government

 

Route 66 in Flagstaff, AZ, where the highways meet.

Route 66 in Flagstaff, AZ, where the highways meet.

Route 66, America’s “mother road,” was built in large part by the federal government. This includes funding going back to the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 and the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921. In the 1930s, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt put thousands of unemployed young men to work completing Route 66. Likewise, America’s Interstate Highway System was constructed pursuant to the 1956 National Interstate and Defense Highways Act envisioned and signed by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. All of this federal highway construction has brought about tremendous benefits for Americans, from commercial to recreational, and it could not have been done without politicians from all sides participating in Good Government for patriotic reasons.

Good government vs. bad government

 

10521626333_18e2468ec7_zPresident Bill Clinton once proclaimed, “the era of big government is over.” That did not turn out to be entirely true, but what we all should want is good government. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are a good example of bad government. A personal anecdote from here at home provides an example of good government.

San Francisco’s business of government

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A road trip from Southern California to San Francisco blows up the conservative myth that “government is bad for business” from Mile 1. First, you’ll likely drive up Interstate 5. That’s one of the highways largely built with taxpayer funds as part of the Interstate Highway System. I-5 runs through California’s Central Valley, where a big portion of America’s fruits and vegetables are grown, and it’s not unusual to see agricultural trucks making up 50 percent or more of the road traffic. Those truckers, growers, store owners and consumers throughout the U.S. depend on I-5 and other federal and state highways to move commerce to market efficiently.