I get a lot of email from people who ask if the final degeneration from capitalism to collectivism is now inevitable. Entitlements are never repealed, after all, and we just got saddled with a back-breaking entitlement, piled atop a national debt that was already crushing us. It seems like it would take a miracle just to undo the damage Barack Obama has done in a single year… and that would just get us back to where George Bush left us. Dependency, unemployment, economic contraction, and socialist politics are a perpetual-motion engine of national decline.
I also hear from people who wonder just how bad things really are. If they’re so awful, we should be thinking about unthinkable alternatives. If not, maybe we should follow David Frum’s advice, and work out reasonable terms of surrender with our new socialist overlords. After all, Obama’s not the first guy to wipe his feet with the tattered “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Perhaps none of the wounds from 2009 and 2010 are all that deep, and we’re just a few elections away from Bush-era prosperity again.
Thoughts about the future shape our actions in the present. If you believe the events of the past week have permanently and irrevocably deformed the American economy and culture, your feelings are likely to consist of anger, or despair.
I can understand why some are tired of fighting the good fight. Robin Koerner at The Moderate Voice reacts to the Obama Administration’s plan to offer incentives if mortgage holders will forgive part of the principle on overvalued homes:
A few months ago, the principal on my mortgage was comfortably more than the place was worth, and my low income was in decline. So I did the responsible thing, cut my expenses back to the bone, and raised and moved whatever money I could to cover it, and to try to pay it down. I wanted to deal with the fact that I was upside down on the mortgage and dangerously exposed to future rate increases; most of all, I wanted simply to reduce my monthly payments.
Why did I bother?
If I had not been so responsible, Obama’s plan (I still cannot quite believe it) would have given me (via my bank) YOUR money, humble tax-payer, as a gift to reduce my mortgage, and I would have gained to the tune of many thousands of dollars.
Those who play by the rules find themselves dealing with a lot of these sucker punches lately. It’s the nature of a politicized economy. Health care will work the same way. If you’re not part of a favored constituency, the government will milk you for the money it needs to buy the votes it requires.
When you object that such behavior is wildly inconsistent with the Constitution, you’re quickly assured that, on the contrary, these outrages are legally unassailable. Decades of court precedents, often laid down by activist judges, have become a weird quantum formula that somehow proves the Constitution was actually designed to guarantee a titanic redistributionist State with virtually unlimited powers. The ruling class can even spend weeks openly discussing the idea of passing laws without voting on them, when it’s not sure it has the votes to do what it wants.
My own vision of the future includes peril, but not doom. We’re in a bad place right now, but we can turn things around. We can do better than pacing slowly backward through the wreckage of Obama’s term, until our feet begin crunching on the empty pill bottles of George Bush’s unsustainable prescription-drug entitlement.
When I look to the past, I see a central government that has never been able to keep the promises of its welfare programs, or respect the limits of its budget projections. Even among those who accept the premise that health care is some kind of “human right,” I find it astonishing that anyone could ignore history to the degree necessary to believe politicians can provide it. It’s even more amazing that anyone could watch those politicians blindly stumble across various legislative land mines – less than a week after passing the bill – and convince themselves these people have any idea what they just signed. Only someone with religious faith in the State could look upon the rotting heap of fraudulent budgeting, deception, and last-minute deals that spawned this monstrosity, and believe it will have a happy ending in which its promises are kept.
The future holds the final, systemic crash of the New Deal and Great Society. How far away is it? It’s hard to recalibrate the doomsday clocks fast enough to keep up with our current tidal wave of deficit spending. I think we have about fifteen years, after factoring in the poisonous effects of desperate measures taken to hold off disaster, like the Value Added Tax. I can imagine many world events that would accelerate that timetable considerably.
Social Security is running deficits now. Its collapse is a matter of actuarial fact, not opinion. The Congressional Budget Office just released a report that says the national debt will reach 90% of our gross domestic product by 2020… and the CBO usually under-estimates the effects of economic slowdown on federal tax revenue. Two years ago, the CBO thought Social Security would not be in the red until 2019. Five years ago, Barack Obama’s party confidently assured us the program would remain solvent for decades. These people have always been wrong. They just compounded their errors with trillions of deficit spending from a bill none of them read.
So, yes, the situation is serious. You can’t wait fourteen years to deal with a meltdown that’s fifteen years away. Even if the system was not due to implode into a black hole of unfunded liability, the offenses against freedom required to create and sustain it would still be wrong. Those offenses did not begin with the current President. They began long before I was born. That doesn’t make them any more excusable. We should not accept decades of error as an insurmountable obstacle to doing better.
The task awaiting us at the ballot box is difficult, but not impossible. Laws have no magical, talismanic power – if they did, we wouldn’t need law enforcement. We can change laws. We can dissolve any body that tells us otherwise. No one can hold us down in our national deathbed. We are instructed to worship the political traditions of the 1940s, 60s, and 70s, when vast and eternal departments of limitless appetite and wretched inefficiency were constructed. Our birthright as Americans includes a far older, stronger tradition from 1776, which teaches us that only our liberty is eternal.
There’s no reason a country with vast natural resources, tended by a bold and innovative people, should suffer double-digit unemployment and capital flight. A compassionate nation, whose daily industry has done more for the downtrodden than every utopian scheme combined, has no reason to lower its head in shame, and tolerate the extraction of “charity” at gunpoint. The veterans of bloody wars against lawless tyranny should not accept a system that makes fools of the industrious. A great people, who live in reverence of equality, require no lists of class and racial enemies from opportunistic politicians.
This is the hour for passion and reason, not anger and disgust. The strength to restore our prosperity lies in the muscle and imagination of citizens who have been programmed to think of themselves as sheep, by those who seek power as their shepherds. The time for averting a painful disaster is short… but the most amazing chapters of American history were written in the last seconds before midnight.
It’s time for us to be amazing again. I hope you find that as invigorating as I do.
Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.