The New York Times headline today calls the SOTU and the Republican response a 'clash of philosophies.' And, I think, they are right. But they fail to show exactly how deeply rooted in our history this clash is, or how often the boundaries of our different levels of government have had to be renegotiated. We see similar argument in the Maysville Road Veto of 1830 where Andrew Jackson held an opinion similar to what that of the Republican/Tea Party position today. Jackson's position might have prevailed 125 years later when President Eisenhower pushed through the interstate highway system if it had not been pushed as a defense measure during the early years of the Cold War. Most people forget that the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 is more popularly known as the Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Those who want a strictly limited role for the Federal Government forget how much of a role the Federal Government has played in our national development. Railroad entrepreneurs pushed into the heartland of the United States well before enough people had moved in to make the venture economically profitable. The Federal Government tipped the equation by giving very providing generous land grants of Federal land (rights of way) to the railroads which then encouraged new settlement by selling parcels to newcomers. The transcontinental railroad was part of a Federal strategy to make sure that California (with its very important gold fields) became an integral part of the Union at a time when the issue of California statehood was very much in contention. Republicans and their business supporters complain complain about government intrusion but in truth government has always intruded. Republicans and Tea Partiers seem to believe that once upon a time we had small government that left business alone because our political leaders adhered to the Constitution. That is pure nonsense. Obama's call to streamline our government, restructure out tax codes, cut unnecessary expenses and invest in rebuilding infrastructure, innovation, and restructuring education is prudent. Perhaps they should look at Japan before they had their own overheated real estate market collapse and how they used the Ministry of Trade and Industry to out transform their industrial economy from one only capable of making cheap toys to one that could give our industries serious problems. Unfortunately, I don't think either side will be able to think outside their very narrow boxes, conservative or otherwise. They are all constrained by political and economic orthodoxies that have reached the intensity of religious orthodoxy. They should remember Moses did not deliver an 11th commandment saying 'Thou shalt adhere to Predatory Capitalism' along with the other ten. And Jesus did not proclaim that capitalism as the path to salvation.
Juan Cole, in a post at Tomdispatch, provides a revealing commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Call it a case of 'same song, different verse.' Again our foreign policy leaders, also, seem unable to break old habits of thought.
We seem to have had a lot of snow out here in the last three months but, according to our weather people, the appearances are somewhat deceiving. The snow level is actually several inches below what we would normally expect. Also, the amount of rain and snow melt is still 6+ inches below what we should have received over the last five months. So even with all this snow we can't say that the 'extremely dry' conditions have abated.