During the Presidential Election, I had to do a lot of soul searching. I am a life long republican, and still believe in the previous core tenets of market based economics, smaller government, and letting the states and local governments figure out what is best for their constituents. While those philosophies and values work when the playing field is level, the huge economic recession that occurred in the 4th quarter of 2008 changed everything. So I voted for President Obama, although most of my other picks, especially locally, remained republican.
As the last couple of months have unfolded, I have become more and more concerned about the growing trend of entitlement in America. Whether the topic of discussion is welfare, poverty, education, highways, energy policy, unemployment benefits, health care reform, water rights, or any other current issue, there seems to be a growing sentiment among all Americans: “You owe it to me!”. Somewhere along the way we have transitioned from a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality, and developed the idea that, work or not, we deserve to have the American dream.
One of the biggest problems with this new entitlement mentality is that it is not sustainable. Debt comes due too quickly. High paying jobs are hard to come by quickly and often require higher education. Poor planning and living paycheck to paycheck can make a small problem quickly become a financial crisis. However, instead of recognizing these realities, we provide a list of excuses. Eventually the tab will come due and if it’s not this generation it will be the next. We would do well to remember the reasons for the establishment of our independence and let that motivate us to once again liberate ourselves from debt, vice and cling to honesty hard work and virtue.
Our government is leading us by example, and I don't mean that in a good way. For years, it has spent us into oblivion, mortgaging our future for programs we can't afford, and Americans have happily followed suit, running up credit card bills and home equity loans for things they never should have bought. Unfortunately, we're also learning something else from our government: how to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.
Now, with the new Administration, when there has been a clear mandate for change, and we are in the most dire straights since the great depression, we are entrenching even more into partisan politics. The Democrats are being accused as verging on socialism, and the huge stimulus plan and 10 year budget plan that relies on at least 4% growth in 2010 and beyond, to get us back to $500 billion deficits, is not helping deter that charge. On the flip side, the Republicans have apparently decided to ignore the past eight years and the contributions that their leadership, and lack of leadership, have made to the current crisis. The elimination of oversight and regulations on the banking and investment community, coupled with the war in Iraq, back to back dot.com and housing bubbles and subsequent bursts, have wreaked havoc with our economy. This has painted the Republicans as out of touch and irrelevant. Thinking back to Rodney King, I ask, "Why can't we all just get along?"
Americans have become disenfranchised because after working hard to support their families and to raise kids who understand the difference between right and wrong, their leaders do exactly the opposite. While I support eliminating the tax cuts that were enacted under the Bush administration, I abhor the philosophy that encourages the position where wealth is vilified. This only provides an opportunity to remove the incentive for any of us to work hard to get ahead. Would we feel better if the government was our answer for everything?
If both parties would focus on the common good, and meet in the middle, I think we could, as a country, as a community, and as individuals, dig ourselves out of this mess we have made for ourselves.