What's the Republican takeaway from President Obama's State of the Union address? That they should be unwavering opposition to an unconditional increase in the U.S. debt limit. The statutory debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion will soon be reached. Republicans should oppose increasing it to permit more borrowing without meaningful spending cuts as part of the deal.
The vision that the president presented to the nation in his speech, that we need more government, a lot more, to address the challenges before us, shows he sees the world no differently than he did when he entered office two years ago.
He's added a trillion dollars, almost a 40 percent increase, to federal government spending over this time. The federal government's take from our economy has increased from one dollar out of every five to one dollar out of every four.
Aside from the point of principle that with every incremental increase in the scope of government there is a corresponding decrease in the freedom of every citizen, there is also no practical argument to justify this vast government takeover.
Unemployment has hardly budged, and the economy, although recovering, remains sluggish.
This economic machine clearly needs an oil change and a different kind of fuel. The president clearly doesn't see things this way. Republicans need to offer a clear alternative and let the American people choose.
If Republicans offer a bold alternative to seize control from politicians and bureaucrats and return power and freedom to citizens, they can bet on public support.
Only 31 percent of Americans in a recent Gallup poll say they are "satisfied" with the "size and power of the federal government." That's down 10 points from just two years ago and down 20 points from 10 years ago.
Certainly it's true that when we get down to the details of what to cut, even many who know that government has gotten out of hand push back when programs they are used to are put on the block.
This is where leadership comes into the picture.
Just consider our last one-term Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. He became president at a time of economic crisis in the 1970s and his presidency was defined by the vision that we needed more government to solve our problems.
Carter created two new departments -- the Department of Energy in 1977 and the Department of Education in 1979.
The Energy Department was created in response to the so-called "energy crisis." Its annual budget has consumed over $600 billion since it was created and none of this can be associated with production of one new barrel of oil, one new ton of coal, or one new cubic foot of natural gas.
Yet, a good portion of Obama's State of the Union focused on proposed new government energy programs. The Energy Department will spend about $40 billion in 2010, up 70 percent from 2009.
Since 1970, federal government education spending per student has tripled with hardly any effect on test scores.
Since inception, the Department of Education has spent almost a trillion dollars with negligible influence on improving our children's education. It spent $100 billion in 2010, up 67 percent from 2009.
Yet, central to the president's education message is more federal dollars.
Republicans must stand firm on their proposed minimum of $100 billion in spending cuts -- a paltry 3 percent of the federal budget -- before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. This could be easily pulled from the Energy and Education departments alone.
We've got to decide if the center of gravity of our nation has shifted to government and bureaucrats or if we can get it back to individuals and families.
This is the choice Republicans need to make clear.
Examiner Columnist Star Parker is an author, and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org). She is syndicated nationally by Scripps Howard News Service.