This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.
If you want to see arguments as old as the republic on this President's Day, look no further than congressional deliberations over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Americans historically have been of two minds about spending federal money on roads and canals, harbors and bridges, schools and universities, scientific research and technological innovation.
One school of thought has seen this as an unjustifiable burden on the national treasury, as pork favoring some portions of the country. Leave such things to the states or private enterprise, they say.
Another strand has considered such major undertakings as being beyond the resources of the states or private enterprise alone. Such spending is an investment in the nation, they say.
Today, as we mark the February birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it's worth looking at this debate. Washington and Lincoln were firmly in the second category, supporters of what were called "internal improvements" in their day.
Washington pursued public investment in a national university and military academy, buildings for the nation's capitol, roads and canals to facilitate communication between distant regions. At every step, he was opposed by what he considered to be narrow-minded, provincial interests.
In Lincoln's day, it was the Democrats who opposed public works funded by the federal government. They denounced such subsidies as a "wild extravagance" and "monstrous impertinence."
To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.