U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how the radical proposals in the Democrats’ reckless tax-and-spending spree highlight the massive difference between the two parties when it comes to their vision for the future of America. Thune noted that preserving liberty is a fundamental purpose of government, and the Democrats’ policies would transfer some of Americans’ decision-making power over to politicians and Washington bureaucrats.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, Democrats’ push to pass their tax-and-spending spree continues to throw into sharp relief the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ vision of government.
“And it’s about a lot more than just the amount of money we want to spend.
“Of course the amount of money we’re spending matters.
“But it’s also about what that money represents.
“In general, more money means more government.
“And more government usually means less freedom.
“And Republicans don’t oppose Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree just because it would cost a lot of money, or drive up our national debt.
“It would do both of those things, of course, with negative consequences for our economy and the prosperity of American families.
“And the negative economic consequences alone are sufficient reason to oppose Democrats’ Build Back Bankrupt plan.
“But it’s about a lot more than the excessive spending.
“With their Build Back Bankrupt plan, Democrats envision a society in which government is intimately involved in nearly every aspect of Americans’ life – from, to quote a New York Times article, ‘cradle to grave.’
“And that’s not a vision Republicans share.
“Primarily because a government that is intimately involved in nearly every aspect of your life is a government that is going to exert control over your life.
“More government inevitably means more government control.
“Take Democrats’ child care plan in their Build Back Better legislation.
“To hear Democrats talk about it, you might think this plan involves nothing more than cutting checks to American parents to help with their child care bills.
“That’s not the case.
“First, of course, Democrats take the opportunity to add a lot of new child care mandates and regulations.
“According to one estimate, Democrats’ child care subsidy measure could drive up the cost of day care by somewhere around $13,000 per child.
“Good luck working that into the family budget.
“Democrats’ government subsidy program is set up to favor certain kinds of child care and child care providers.
“It’s set up to favor institutional child care, rather than home care or other models like neighborhood co-ops.
“And it’s set up to place religious providers at a disadvantage.
“Despite the fact that a majority of working families who use center-based care opt for faith-based centers, Democrats’ program is set up to put these providers at a disadvantage.
“It denies them facilities funding that is granted to secular providers.
“And it could disqualify many providers with traditional religious beliefs – like those shared by millions upon millions of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim families around the country.
“It could even disqualify a provider simply because the provider gave placement preference to families of its own faith!
“So if you’re a Catholic church with a child care program and you give preference to families who attend your church, you could be accused of discrimination and disqualified from receiving government subsidies.
“And if you’re a parent who can’t afford that program without those government subsidies – thanks to government mandates and regulations that have hiked up the child care bill – you’re out of luck.
“If you need those government subsidies, you’ll have to send your child to one of the providers the government prefers.
“Mr. President, the child care program in Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree provides a perfect example of what happens when government gets involved.
“And it’s about a lot more than how much money the government is spending.
“With government money comes government control.
“The decision is no longer just in the individual’s hands.
“And the more substantial the government involvement, the larger the government’s role in decision-making is likely to be – whether the issue is child care, health care, education, or anything else.
“Mr. President, in his 1967 inaugural address as governor of California, Ronald Reagan said, and I quote, ‘Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.’
“Freedom is a fragile thing, Mr. President.
“Here in the United States, we have enjoyed an unprecedented degree of individual liberty – a liberty that it is very easy for us to take for granted.
“But that liberty is not guaranteed.
“It is something that must be fought for and protected.
“And that doesn’t involve simply safeguarding our liberty from external threats from foreign powers, it involves making sure that government doesn’t start to exceed its proper role.
“The loss of freedom can come dramatically.
“Or it can come quietly, through a steady increase of government encroachment.
“And it’s important to remember that freedom can be eroded or taken away by the well-meaning – not just those actively hostile to it.
“I believe that my Democrat colleagues likely do not see their ideas for dramatic government expansion as threatening Americans’ personal freedom.
“The problem is that when you expand the reach of government, the diminishment of liberty is inevitable.
“Expand the reach of government into Americans’ lives, and it’s inevitable that you’re going to transfer some of Americans’ decision-making power over to politicians and bureaucrats in Washington.
“Mr. President, Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree – and its major expansion of government – is far from the only threat to Americans’ liberties that we’re seeing from the Democrat Party.
“I am increasingly disturbed by Democrats’ tendency to play fast and loose with religious liberty and the First Amendment – whether that involves disadvantaging religious child care providers, threatening individuals’ right to live according to their conscience, questioning judges’ fitness for office based on their religious beliefs, or, as we learned recently from a courageous whistleblower FBI agent, even opening the door for the FBI to collect information on parents voicing their opposition to local school policies during school board meetings.
“I’m also disturbed by Democrats’ clear belief that Americans should defer to government and Democrat-approved experts – as spectacularly evidenced in the Virginia governor’s race, which was unquestionably decided based partly on the Democrat candidate’s repeatedly expressed belief that parents shouldn’t be involved in the content of their children’s education.
“I’m puzzled as to why Democrats are so convinced that Washington elites or Democrat-approved experts are better at making decisions than ordinary Americans.
“As Ronald Reagan said in that same speech, “[I]t's hard to explain those among us who even today would question the people's capacity for self-government. I've often wondered if they will answer, those who subscribe to that philosophy: if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”
“I believe that the American people are capable of governing themselves – of making their own decisions – and that they’re actually generally going to be better at it than a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington.
“And I strongly oppose efforts to substitute the judgments of Washington bureaucrats – or Democrat politicians – for the judgment of individual Americans.
“Mr. President, it states in the Declaration of Independence that governments are instituted to preserve our unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“Preserving liberty is a fundamental purpose of government, but of course before you can enjoy liberty, you have to enjoy the right to life.
“And for a long time now the Democrat Party has consistently denied the right to life of a whole segment of the American population – unborn Americans.
“And there’s no better example of their aggressive pro-abortion extremism than the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act that Democrats in the House passed in September.
“This legislation – which would more accurately be termed the Abortion on Demand Act – would eliminate almost every democratically passed state abortion restriction, no matter how mild.
“It would endanger the religious and conscience rights of doctors and nurses.
“And of course it ignores the clear position of the American people, a strong majority of whom support restrictions on abortion.
“Apparently Democrats are not content with joining repressive regimes like China and North Korea as one of a tiny handful of nations that allow elective abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“No, they want to remove even the mildest and most widely supported restrictions on abortion.
“It’s yet another example of Democrats’ tendency to think they know better than the American people.
“Mr. President, the Republican vision – the conservative vision – the vision I share – is a vision that foregrounds liberty, not government.
“That believes that individuals acting freely generally tend to do a better job of making decisions than a small handful of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington.
“We believe in government as backstop, not Big Brother.
“A system of permanent government dependence erodes individual liberty – to say nothing of the ways in which it undermines prosperity and robs individuals of the purpose and pride that come with work and achievement.
“Government should create the conditions in which freedom, opportunity, and prosperity can flourish – not attempt to secure particular outcomes or dictate the paths Americans should take.
“We are privileged to live in the freest country the world has ever known.
“It’s not a privilege we can or should take for granted.
“And it’s a privilege we can all too easily lose.
“Our liberty is, as Ronald Reagan said, ever only one generation away from extinction.
I will continue to make safeguarding that liberty we’ve been given one of my most cherished priorities – whether that involves fighting for the right to life of unborn Americans, opposing attempts to restrict religious liberty, or fighting against an expansion of government that would push out parents and put the government in the driver’s seat on too many issues.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”