Resolve for a responsible United States this New Year
Contemplating a resolution for the New Year? Here’s a suggestion. Resolve to put America back on the path of greatness. A centralized government that bestows “equality” by redistributing wealth did not buoy the United States to strength and prosperity. Freedom of opportunity coupled with responsibility made America special.
Seventy years ago, most Americans believed in our nation’s founding principles of individual liberty and personal responsibility. While life was often difficult, people worked hard to improve their lives and secure their children’s future. Few people expected or wanted government to provide for them.
For nearly two decades after WWII, citizens of the United States were at liberty to pursue the American Dream. Government provided security and ensured a free-market economy. People willing to trade skills and services for a market-supportable wage comprised the workforce. Entrepreneurs harnessed ambition, innovation, able workers, and abundant resources to build the most prosperous and successful nation in history.
A freedom-fueled economy created a standard of living for Americans that far surpassed the rest of the world. Unfortunately, as prosperity and comfort increased, so did complacency. That was the opening liberal politicians needed to assert control. Government started selling the idea that people could get something for nothing.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson promised Americans a Great Society. His administration oversaw the creation of colossal social welfare programs. These were sold as ostensible solutions for poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental protection.
When asked by a reporter if it was fiscally prudent to fund the war in Vietnam and his social programs at the same time, Johnson replied, “Heck yeah man, we’re rich”. What did all that wealth buy the United States when responsibility was traded for dependency?
The Economic Opportunity Act (1964) led to welfare and food stamp programs that undermined the structure of black families in cities. The Higher Education Act (1965) increased federal money to universities and loan programs, yet colleges became unaffordable bastions of liberal ideology.
The Social Security Act (1965) authorized massive Medicaid spending, though hospitals and health care providers got short-changed. The National Environmental Policy Act (1969) launched an EPA that adopted an adversarial approach to American businesses.
Despite clear failures, President Barack Obama is intent on doubling down on the entitlement ideology of the Great Society. The most egregious example is Obamacare. This assault on the U.S. Constitution deems healthcare a “right”, selectively taxes citizens, usurps free choice in health care decisions, and condemns health care providers to low reimbursement rates. The price tag for taxpayers is in the trillions.
The promise of equal results for all is like the Siren Song of Greek mythology. It can only lead us to our demise. Americans allowed government to expand power far beyond Constitutional limits. The cost of that complacency is today’s massive government, drowning the United States in debt while killing the free spirit of the individual.
Our nation’s founders did not intend for government to provide every need and make every decision. The American people must be free to prove themselves, to go as far as ambition, energy, and talents take them. Some will fail, but many will succeed. Fortunately, the concept of charity from family and churches was not invented by government. Neither was resolve to keep trying.
Seventy years ago most Americans understood the best government is one that governs least. Our objective today is not to resurrect the past. But we must understand that our nation’s ascendance to greatness depended on faith in the individual. Freedom of opportunity, not equality of outcomes, sets America apart.
Liberty coupled with responsibility unlocks inherent talents in individuals, fostering cooperation and experimentation that leads to prosperity and true societal success. But there is a “paradox of success” as former Colorado Senate President, John Andrews, explains in his book, Responsibility Reborn. Success tempts us to ignore responsibility, sowing the seeds of complacency and dependency.
Ignore the Siren Song of Washington, D.C. A bright future for America can only be illuminated by freedom tempered with responsibility. Government must secure borders and uphold the rule of law. As citizens, we are required to harness our own desire and talent in the pursuit of happiness.
This New Year, resolve to make the United States a land where responsible individuals count more than government. Our freedom and America’s greatness depend on it.
This “Right Angles” column was published in Glenwood Springs Post Independent on December 17, 2013 http://www.postindependent.com/news/9378127-113/government-responsibility-america-americans