In many ways, our upcoming presidential election will be about our nation’s essence.
What is it that makes America special? And, whatever the special quality is, is it eroding?
President Barack Obama seems to have weighed in decisively on the issue. America’s special quality, according to him, appears to be guaranteeing a minimum level of benefits for all Americans.
He has made it a top priority to ensure that Americans receive guaranteed health-insurance benefits, government stimulus jobs, continuing unemployment benefits, government help paying off personal debts, food stamps, welfare benefits, and numerous other government-sponsored giveaways. As he once put it, “spreading it around.”
This translates into an ever-greater debt load for our children and a punishing tax burden for the soon-to-be minority of Americans paying for all this stuff.
Greece, here we come!
How ironic that the debate over America’s soul comes at a time when our future is playing out in real time overseas in Greece. That will be America, a decade from now, heaven forbid, if we continue irresponsibly spending so much more than we can afford, and if we keep our exploding budget deficits unchecked. The “change” we’ve undergone over the past few years has not been positive.
This is not the America we inherited, nor what America still is at its core.
America was, and must remain, the land of freedom and opportunity.
The essence of American freedom never involved handouts or bailouts. The essence of American opportunity never was the promise of a guaranteed outcome, unrelated to personal achievement.
A social safety net provided by government is an important part of who we are as a society and people, and there is broad bipartisan consensus in America in support of the safety net. Yet, being on the receiving end of government assistance never defined us as Americans. It was never our hope, never our goal, never the anticipated outcome we structured our economy around.
When Obamacare was rammed through Congress a couple of years ago, however, that bedrock of American culture began to crumble. We were all now, in a real way we hadn’t been before, living and working and struggling to pay for the living expenses of others — which went far beyond the societal safety net.
There’s a big difference between The Land of the Free and The Land of the Free Stuff.
Greece became the land of handouts, of guaranteed government jobs and pensions — in short, of guaranteed outcomes. Its future is now a looming disaster, as it continues to vastly outspend its resources.
Greece’s radical left is now discussing outright confiscation of private property by the government to continue funding largesse upon a possible exit from the European monetary union. It is heading in the direction of Argentina, which confiscated citizens’ private pensions and a huge Spanish foreign investment in the Argentine oil firm YPF. That’s a formula for depression, both economic and emotional.
American freedom, at its core, is freedom from over-reaching government, whose power is supposed to be limited under our Constitution. No Big Brother needed, thank you, even if “for our own good.”
Greece is showing us, in real time, what awaits us if we encourage such “change” in America. Hopefully it’s not too late to reverse course. Freedom must be earned. It’s seldom easy.
Jeff Katz is an attorney who comments frequently on national policy.
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