Free Markets, Free People

Reality Begins To Dawn In America

For the first time since 1975, Social Security recipients will not get a cost of living allowance increase in their Social Security check. Another in a long line of ominous indicators that, to quote President Obama’s favorite disavowed preacher, the fiscal “chickens are coming home to roost.”

We seem to have been living in a dream world for the last few decades where the majority of Americans ignored the reality and believed we could continue to increase the size of the welfare state forever with no ill consequences. The small coterie of realists claiming that it was indeed a fantasy world we were living in were declared alarmists who were using scare tactics and dismissed by the politicians.

Now, with huge deficits, we’re about to see the US go from one of the least-indebted developed nations to one of the most indebted. The IMF reports that for the US, general government debt as a percentage of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year.

That’s huge and, with the revised deficit of almost 10 trillion over 10 years, getting larger.

Even without the numbers and reports, Americans have increasingly come to understand that the government we have and the programs it funds through our tax dollars and massive borrowing are unsustainable. And, as I’ve pointed out, that realization has been brought to a head by the recent financial problems we’ve suffered and government’s reaction (under both the Bush and Obama administrations) to that problem. And yet the supposedly tuned-in Obama and the Democrats simply don’t seem to understand that, or, perhaps worse, don’t want to believe it, given the agenda they’ve undertaken. Matt Welch lays it out well:

After 11 months of federal bailouts and freakouts, Americans have become bone tired of panicky power grabs from Washington. It’s the big government, stupid.

The message of the various Tea Party protests, which predated this summer’s ahistorical media panic over town hall “lynch mobs,” has been pretty simple, says Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the nonprofit that has helped organize the protests, told Reason magazine this spring. “It was: stop spending so much money, stop borrowing so much money, and stop bailing out people who were irresponsible.”

It’s a reality that surely haunts the politically sensitive Obama administration: Ever since George W. Bush first tried to cram the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) down the throats of largely unwilling citizens, bailouts of failed institutions, from AIG to American Axle, have been enormously unpopular.

What Obama and the Democrats are left with then, when pursuing an agenda that is a naked attempt at even more government expansion, is a natural resistance that has been building since before this administration took office. Either the Democrats and Obama completely misread the election results and assumed a mandate that wasn’t at all present, or their natural hubris left them believing that even if that was the country’s attitude, they would be able to allay the fears and talk them into supporting more big government.

As is obvious, it’s not working. And the mood of the country seems to be at a point where it is swinging in exactly the opposite direction.

You have some Democrats who are realizing that – Senator Kent Conrad (D-SD) among them – who are talking about a vastly scaled back health care bill (I stick by my claim that Democrats realize they must pass something called “Health Care Reform” or the Obama presidency is DOA).  But that too flies in the face of polling which says that a majority of Americans would like to see this version scrapped and for lawmakers to start over. The obvious implication of that poll result is the public is not happy with the size, depth of intrusion and cost of the current proposals.

Bill Clinton once famously said that the era of big government was over. And most cheered. But that turned out to be a mirage as Republicans took over, became Democrat-lite and expanded government yet again. Big government came back with a vengeance. As pointed out by Welch, the Tea Parties, which were the first public evidence of discontent within the country, began under George Bush and had absolutely nothing to do with Barack Obama.

If, as with most protests, the protesters represent the tip of the iceberg, we may be seeing the political sea change that many government minimalists have been hoping for for decades.

The winning political issue is out there for the politician and party smart enough to grab it. Smaller and less expensive and intrusive government.

Who will grab it and how will turn it into a winner is at this point unknown. But Americans are very uneasy right now and their anger at being marginalized by their politicians and ignored is mounting. Not only is 2010 going to be a very interesting year, but depending on who emerges on the right and how they approach addressing this anger, 2012 could be equally as interesting.


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13 Responses to Reality Begins To Dawn In America

  • “The political issue is out there for the politician and party smart enough to grab it. Who that will be and how it will manifest itself to this point remains a mystery.”

    As far as I can tell, the Republicans are incapable of grasping this, otherwise they would be out there pounding this message relentlessly. Instead, we get RINO’s ‘helping’ to write healthcare legislation.

    Could there be any more of a leadership gap in this country?

  • ‘Realty’ begins to dawn?

  • I agree that the Democrats misinterpreted what the electorate wanted when it voted out so many Republicans. I think that they figured that it was a backlash against the Iraq war and the potential threats to individual liberties of Americans. It seems as if it was mostly a backlash against the expansion of government and the expansion of the debt that occurs as a result. In other words, the thing that voters hated most about the previous administration was the thing that the incoming administration wanted to continue to develop, and develop even further.

    That disconnect may be the reason for the confusion amongst the left, and their insistence, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that the uproar is nothing more than a small number of well-paid rabble rousers making noise disproportionate to their actual numbers. The Paul Krugman’s of the world are genuinely baffled at Democrats who are concerned over their constituents, because he feels that those constituents fully support the ‘progressive plan’ and their congressmen simply don’t realize it.

    Perhaps even Obama himself is similarly at a loss to understand why his approval numbers are tanking, and why support for his proposals is sinking fast, even in polls that are weighted in his favor. With any luck, the fringe left won’t realize the damage they’re doing to the party and continue to wage war against the same voters who helped them gain the White House and a congressional majority.

  • me again… the Republicans are incapable of grasping this, otherwise they would be out there pounding this message relentlessly. Instead, we get RINO’s ‘helping’ to write healthcare legislation.

    Could there be any more of a leadership gap in this country?

    I agree, though I believe that there are a few Republicans who beat the fiscal drum. Unfortunately, MiniTru takes good care that such people seldom (if ever) get air time. Further, as we’ve seen this past couple of weeks, the dems, MiniTru (BIRM), and certain high-profile RINO’s equate calls for fiscal responsibility with kookiness, mindless anger, or even racism.

    It’s easy, of course, to blame politicians, but the fact of the matter is that people vote for them based in large part on their promises to hand out ever greater gobs of cash. Whether it’s, “Vote for me and I’ll get that new bridge funded!” or “Vote for me and I’ll get a bigger COLA for your Social Security!”, people often vote for the man whos promises the biggest handouts. So, why shouldn’t the politician interested in staying in DC continue to use the same gameplan that’s worked so well for so long? Let’s face it: “Vote for me and I’ll take stuff away from you!” isn’t the greatest campaign slogan.

    Even with a growing segment of the American people beginning to realize that Uncle Sugar’s pockets aren’t bottomless, there aren’t serious calls for a balanced budget or even paying down the debt. There certainly are no serious calls for (gasp!) reducing the size and power of the federal government. As we’ve seen from the debacle in California, there are too many people who have come to rely on government handouts to make it politically practical to start cutting them off. All we have at the moment are calls for, “Don’t make it so expensive!” It’s akin to asking an alcoholic to only get drunk five days each week instead of seven.

    It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Indeed, I’d say that it MUST get MUCH worse before people decide to make it better. Unless and until people grasp the simple concept that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, we’re going to continue to pile up debt and give away more of our liberties in the name of “reform” and “security”.

  • “Bill Clinton once famously said that the era of big government was over. And most cheered. But that turned out to be a mirage as Republicans took over, became Democrat-lite and expanded government yet again.”

    IIRC, Bill pushed a major big government healthcare bill, gun control, and quite a few other big government proposals, including quite a few nasty EOs. The initial Republican pushback was somewhat healthy, and even helped guide Bill in the right direction with respect to welfare reform.

    I’d also suggest that the Republican “take over” was, at most, margional, since Bush at most only had a very slim lead in Congress, and then only for a short time. Hence, no Social Security reform or similar, but “moderate” policies like No Child Left Behind and the Bush Medicare drug bill were able to pass.

    From a domestic policy perspective, the Bush years were a good example of what you get with divided government, rule by RINO/Blue Dog effectivly.

  • Here’s what happened in 2008. The Media nagged the public so long and so hard, they decided to vote for Obama. Seriously, I do a lot of stuff I don’t want to do if my wife keeps on about it.

    and it still continues….Yahoo news headline says “daeth panel distortion” is hurting Rahm Emanuels brother…you know, maybe I could buy it being a distortion of the plan, but his brother definitely said stuff in support of a death panel, i.e. non-productive people should be denied care.

  • Simple solution: do not vote for an incumbent. Of course this solution has lots of ancillary issues associated with it, but I fail to see how the problems created by getting rid of our current crop of politicians will be significantly worse than what we have now. Republican? Democrat? Who cares. If they are in office then do not vote for them.

    And I would imagine a great deal of …reaction? if in the 2010 mid-terms 1/3 of the senate and all of the house turned over. Somebody would probably notice that there was a bit of discontent that translated into actual action – you know: voting.

    • I agree with you completely. I wish libertarian organizations and others, instead of pushing third-party candidates, would attempt to do this. A few hundred or tens of thousands of votes are usually a waste for a third party, but could very well be the decisive factor for a challenger.

  • “. . . I stick by my claim that Democrats realize they must pass something called “Health Care Reform” or the Obama presidency is DOA . . .”

    I disagree with the second clause of this parenthetical remark, that a defeat would significantly damage the Obama presidency. After Clinton’s first two years in office in which he pushed socialist and socially liberal policies and programs (Hillarycare, Don’t ask/don’t tell, etc.), the Democrats were handed their asses in the 1994 midterms. The GOP seized both houses of Congress, including the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952. The combination of electoral fears and the check of a conservative Congress helped balance and moderate the administration. I also think it is too early for a setback to measurably harm Obama’s electoral chances or to set the tone for the whole term. Americans have short memories, his reelection is a long way off, and a lot can happen between now and then.

    However, there are two major differences between the current situation and the one during the Clinton era, which may give weight to your prediction. First, there is a personality difference: Clinton was an opportunist and a realist, while Obama is an egalitarian and an idealist. C.S. Lewis said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. . . those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    Secondly, the Clinton-era programs were nothing compared to the radical socialism of the Obama administration. The effect that will have remains to be seen and depends entirely upon the actual strength of Americans who prefer socialism to a free market and limited government. I really hope it has been exaggerated, but I fear there may well be a shift in the direction of socialism. The only way to find out for sure will be after the results of the next election. This time, it will be abundantly clear where Obama really stands on the issues — as an unequivocal socialist.

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