The United States has crossed a major tipping point, with more people becoming dependent on government in the last four years, but there is hope that it can be turned around by an optimistic outlook and approach reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, author Herb London told Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
London, the former President Emeritus of the Hudson Institute and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is author of “The Transformational Decade,” which details changes in American life from the World Trade Center attack to today. London also ran for mayor of New York City in 1989 and for governor of New York in 1990.
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The author said that a troubling tipping pint has been crossed in American society in people becoming dependent on government services.
“If you look at the number of people on food stamps, for example, it has doubled over the last four years,” he said. “If you look at the number of people on Section 8 public housing, that has doubled in the last four years. If you look at the fact that roughly 49 percent of American people do not pay personal income tax, that is another factor.”
He continued, “The question that arises is, are there so many people feeding out of the public trough that they will elect a president who will simply allow them to continue the benefits they are receiving from one from of government or another? And that’s troubling. Plato once said, ‘Democracies can’t work when you have many people who are receiving and very few who are giving.’ And that is the great danger in America.”
He said here has been a “significant shift” in the country since 1965.
“That shift in many ways is undesirable,” London said. “If you were to visit a mesmerist in 1965 and wake up in 2012, the world would look very different. In fact you wouldn’t even recognize America. The largest company in the United States in 1965 was General Motors. Certainly not the largest company and in fact it’s gone through a period of bankruptcy. The largest insurance company was AIG, now partially owned by the American government.”
The shift has taken form in education too, he pointed out. London said America was tops among countries in math and science performance in 1965 and today the U.S. is near the bottom. “So I think that there has been a shift, he said. “Much of it is undesirable. And my feeling is that what we have to do in America today is recapture the spirit that once made this country exceptional.”
The reasons for the shift are many, London said, with technology, politics and culture among them.
“There are technological reasons. There are purely cultural reasons and there are political reasons. We’ve seen over the last four years that this country has been put into a very awkward position when it comes to increasing the national debt,” he continued. “We’ve had one trillion dollar deficits over four years, which is unprecedented in the United States. We’ve seen a president who has apologized for the extraordinary exploits of American soldiers during World War II. We’ve seen great changes that have occurred in the last four years and many Americans are asking, ‘What kind of country do we have? How intrusive is our government? How large should it be?’ Questions that I think go to the very, very fundamental character of what the United States is all about.”
To fix the political and cultural crisis, London said the country needs the spirit of optimism that President Reagan brought to the White House in 1980.
“In 1979 it looked like the world was going to hell in a hand basket,” London said. “The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. There was a change that occurred in Iran. We had Americans that were kidnapped at that time. The major sites in Mecca were attacked by the Wahabists. There were great changes that were occurring in 1979 and most of them very undesirable form an American point of view. And then this guy comes from the West Coast. He gives a sense of optimism about the future. He says, ‘America is the shining city on the hill.’ And there were many Americans who came to believe what Reagan was espousing. That kind of spirit is very important to come from leadership. We’re not getting it at the moment. Perhaps we will get it with Romney if he is the next president of the United States.”
He said it was too early to tell if Mitt Romney can provide the kind of optimistic leadership of Reagan because sometimes behaviors change once a candidate gets into the White House.
“If I were to ask you in 1948, ‘Did Harry Truman have the spirit that would be necessary to lead the country?’ You would say, ‘I’m not sure about this haberdasher who has a kind of pedestrian political history.’ And yet he did manage to lead the country very effectively. I think that when people enter the office of the presidency their behaviors become very different. I’m not so happy about the last four years but I am hopeful that Romney can provide the kind of leadership that Ronald Reagan did in 1980.”
London agreed with columnist Charles Krauthammer that a country’s decline is a choice.
“It is a choice and I think that Americans have to realize we can recapture the spirit that makes the United States unique,” he said. “It’s important to understand that the United States is that one country that most nations around the globe emulate. In 1989 when those kids were sitting in Tiananmen Square worrying about the future and thinking about what China might look like, they didn’t build a statue of Prophet Muhammad.
They didn’t build a statue of the Eiffel Tower. They built the Statue of Liberty in large part because the liberties we are privileged to enjoy are the liberties they would like to have. It seems to me that that kind of America, that America with that spirit and with those unique characteristics should be the kind of guiding post for most nations around the world and something that we as a nation should take great pride in.”
Reacting to the shooting at the Empire State Building in New York City on Friday, London said it all comes back to a “social and cultural problem. “
“Some would argue it’s the ease with which people can obtain guns,” he said. “But I think what has to be recognized is that a gun in the hands of Saint Francis is not a weapon. We have to recognize the fact that evil exists. We have to also to deal with the fact that when you cannot control a society internally, that is, because of the kind of norms that exist in the society, then you have to control it externally by a police force that is clearly going to be vigilant about the excessive behavior of some individuals.”
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