Things have been a little quiet around here, I know. I’ve been gone for some work travel, had some family obligations, and honestly, just wanted a break from the silliest of the silly in the political season. (Chick-Fil-A? Really? We’re $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt and we have time to give a steaming pile that a regional restaurant owner has an opinion on gay marriage that was shared by everyone from Rick Santorum to Barack Obama until about 5 minutes ago?) There is nothing like the smallness of our politics and too many of our politicians to make our already too large problems seem even larger, and sometimes a guy just has to take a step back.
But while the politicians are small, the problems we face aren’t, and the consequences of choosing the wrong leaders (and more importantly, the wrong governing philosophies) are just plain frightening.
So, it’s time to get back in the saddle here.
If Barack Obama is reelected, we will have a President who believes that both his power to regulate every possible aspect of your life and the reservoirs of Other People’s Money are infinite and unlimited. We’ll have a President who will appoint judges and sign laws that reflect those very incorrect and inevitably unsustainable philosophies. And whatever you think about Obama’s own motivations or integrity, we’ll have a President who will have reworked the American government into a tool of unlimited power that evil and/or stupid men will wish to wield in the future.
I’m tired of the sorry excuse making on the part of media “fact checkers” and Democrats (but I repeat myself) who claim Obama was “taken out of context” with his whole “You didn’t build that” absurdity. The RNC put a nice little video together on that.
But the “You didn’t build that” was, to me, the least bothersome thing about that speech. No man is an island, after all, which is why free people get together and create governments. No conservative – or even libertarian! – disputes this, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or brainless. The “context” that the President’s excuse-makers claim is so important actually made it much, much worse, in two primary ways.
First, he ridicules the idea that individual merit plays a role. “You think you’re smart? Lots of people are smart. A lot of people work hard.” The implication, of course, is that your talent and efforts as an entrepreneur aren’t special or noteworthy, and the person who risks is not differently situated from the person who doesn’t. I’m sorry, but there is simply no comparison to showing up and punching a clock for an employer and shouldering the risk of starting, running, and maintaining a business – and only ONE of those types of folks actually GROWS an economy. Worse, it’s clearly designed to give an excuse to people who aren’t successful – “Hey, he’s right! I AM just as smart and hard working as Steve Jobs or the folks who own that small auto mechanic shop up the street, even though I’ve never invented anything or so much as conceived of a business plan! Clearly, I just need the government to even out the ‘luck’ some more.”
Now THAT’S an incentive structure sure to get out economy back on track!
But far worse was the way he sets government (and himself) as something apart from the people (in this case, small business owners). “Government” isn’t some beneficent deux ex machina that grants wishes in the form of bridges to market to business startups like some hard-hat wearing genie. Any solvent, tax-paying business owner damn well built those roads and bridges and schools, and almost certainly paid more than his non-business-owning neighbor for them to boot.
Ronald Reagan used to say, “When we start thinking of government as ‘us’ instead of ‘them,’ we’ve been here too long.”
Obama is clearly thinking of his government as “us” and the rest of us as “them”. It’s pretty clear he’s been there too long.
Still, it’s too easy to cast Obama as a villain of some kind, and I think that’s just foolish. Maybe he really is a secret Muslim bent on purposely sabotaging the US to avenge the evils suffered by his absent father at the hands of Western colonialists, but somehow I doubt it. I think he really believes in his own greatness, that having your heart in the right place matters most, and that government can perfectly govern if only it just had more power. I think he’s a college know-it-all hippy who intellectually never left the undergrad dorm bull sessions behind, and therefore isn’t smart or wise enough to understand the damage he’s causing.
And what’s frustrating is that he’s had a lot of help from all of us.
After the Supreme Court held that Obamacare was Constitutional with some awfully tortured logic, a friend of mine E-mailed me feeling a bit of despair. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “I really wonder if this is what most people want. If it is, well, I guess the US had a good run.”
My friend is right. If a majority of Americans decide a culture of self-reliance is not for them, and thinks we can live it up on credit cards and Other People’s Money indefinitely, well, no mere piece of paper is going to stop them in the end.
It’s not like the rise of our entitlement state is something that started new in January 2009. Obama may have taken client-group politics to new and dizzying heights, but he’s hardly the first to realize he could legally buy votes with other people’s cash.
So we’d better get serious and get to work enforcing limits on government before those limits become forced upon us. It’s not too late to turn things around, but it gets harder every year. Because if not, we’re going to run up our collective credit cards with unsustainable debt on a social-welfare state, and pat ourselves on the back for our “progressive” and “enlightened” attitudes towards governance while debating the social consciences of various and sundry fried chicken restauranteurs right up until the bills comes due and the whole thing collapses around us. After all, things that can’t go on forever, don’t.