When Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) came to the crossroads the entire country faces, he named the street signs.
“About a year and a half ago, I was riding from my district back to Washington, DC, and thinking about what is actually going on in our country, what is dividing us, what is steering us in a direction that I didn’t think was in the best interest of this country,” Neugebauer said Tuesday at The Heritage Foundation Bloggers Briefing. “And so, I basically wrote a paper on the plane on my way back called ‘Entitlement v. Empowerment.’”
To Neugebauer, those two words accurately label the competing interests on either side of the intersection. To the left curves a road of “something for nothing” – a road that eventually dissolves into dirt and, then, nothing at all. To the right winds a road of potential – for both success and failure.
“[Empowerment] is about making sure everybody has the opportunity to succeed,” Neugebauer said. “But also, there are consequences for poor management, bad decisions, exorbitant risk-taking – and you’re going to suffer the consequences of that.”
Those two words of “empowerment” and “entitlement” also happen to be the watchwords of one of Neugebauer’s newest initiatives: the Empowerment Project.
“A virtual clearinghouse of tools to empower America,” the Empowerment Project utilizes web videos and other new media tools to link interested Americans to experts who can speak to the problem of increasing entitlements – and, even more importantly, to potential solutions.
In the first episode of the Project, Heritage’s own Bill Beach, director of the Center for Data Analysis, spoke about the Index of Dependency on Government. Another recent episode featured Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the original sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment. The latest web video highlighted the work of Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), one of the 10 founders of the Tenth Amendment Task Force.
Neugebauer also plans to eventually introduce the “Empowerment Agenda” – legislation to advance empowerment and reduce entitlement.
He recognizes, though, that empowerment occurs on the individual level before it occurs on the governmental level.
“One thing about the empowerment agenda – it is also about personal responsibility,” Neugebauer said. “The Founders intended for this to be a nation where you were rewarded for your good behavior and for your hard work and your success. But also, it was a nation where there wasn’t anybody here to pick up the pieces when you failed.”