Margaret Thatcher distilled all the problems of central planning into this one quote*: “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”  Last night, Sarah Palin gave us a new version of the argument, saying that the sugar-daddy government — and President — has run out of sugar, and we need to cut off the supply of sucrose:

To paraphrase Hemingway, people go broke slowly and then all at once. We’ve been slowly going broke for years, but now it’s happening all at once as the world’s capital markets are demanding action from us, yet Obama assumes we’ll just go borrow another cup of sugar from some increasingly impatient neighbor. We cannot knock on anyone’s door anymore. And we don’t have any time to wait for Washington to start behaving responsibly. We’ll be Greece before these D.C. politicians’ false promises are over. We must force government to live within its means, just as every business and household does.

We can’t close our $1.5 trillion deficit overnight, but we must get as close as we can as soon as we can. Little nibbles here and there over 10 years (spun to sound like they’re huge budget cuts) aren’t anywhere near enough. I know from experience that cutting government spending isn’t easy. As governor, I made the largest veto cuts in my state’s history, and I didn’t make many friends doing it. But we will never recover, we will never get free of devastating debt, unless we make tough choices now. We don’t hear talk like this from leaders in D.C. or from those running for office because they say what they think we want to hear rather than what must be said.

We are in desperate need of real leadership, but President Obama’s solution to everything is to grow government by borrowing more money, spending more money, printing more money, and taxing our job creators. He once said that he “believes in American Exceptionalism…just as the Greeks believe in Greek Exceptionalism.” Well, the path he has us on will make us just as “exceptional” as Greece – debt crisis, stagnation, permanent high unemployment, and all.

As we approach 2012, there are important lessons we can learn from all of this. First, we should never entrust the White House to a far-left ideologue who has no appreciation or even understanding of the free market and limited government principles that made this country economically strong. Second, the office of the presidency is too important for on-the-job training. It requires a strong chief executive who has been entrusted with real authority in the past and has achieved a proven track record of positive measurable accomplishments. Leaders are expected to give good speeches, but leadership is so much more than oratory. Real leadership requires deeds even more than words. It means taking on the problems no one else wants to tackle. It means providing vision and guidance, inspiring people to action, bringing everyone to the table, and with a servant’s heart dedicating oneself to striking agreements that keep faith with our Constitution and with the ordinary citizens who entrusted you with power. It means bucking the status quo, fighting the corrupt powers that be, serving the common good, and leaving the country better than you found it. Most of us don’t see a lot of that real leadership in D.C., and it’s profoundly disappointing.

The mention of Greece should remind people that while we’re begging for more sugar from China and sovereign-wealth funds around the world, we’re also loaning sugar to Greece through the IMF.  We’re bailing out a country that has so far struggled to change course and operate without deficits, while we’re failing to learn the lesson from their collapse.  And this is the same government that ran three trillion-dollar-plus deficits in a row thanks to a massive uptick in spending, and insists that the problem is revenue.

The Obamas have fought a public battle against childhood obesity.  It’s time that they start dealing with federal-government obesity.  Time to cut off the sugar instead of accepting the idea that all we need is a trillion more donuts for government to finally start its diet.

* – It’s often rendered as “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” but that’s a paraphrase; it’s easy to see why the paraphrase is more often remembered.