SMALL GAINS NOW, BIG CHALLENGES LATER
Recently the political chasm in this country was bridged by compromise. Gridlock was overcome, as Lyndon Johnson used to say, by "the art of the possible." But what salubrious effects did this turn of events render? The national debt ceiling was raised by several trillion dollars. That's a mixed blessing to be sure, but at least a government default was averted. $2.5 trillion in spending cuts are deliverable over ten years. That's a mere drop in the bucket, but it's better than nothing. There's no spike in tax rates. This is true, at least for the time being. A future vote on a balanced budget amendment is also guaranteed! This is a hopeful sign, but try spitting in one hand and hoping in the other, and see which one fills up faster. This is the kind of "resolution" that reminds me of a morbidly obese patient who, while he can no longer walk, considers dropping a few pounds each year. Well, it's a start I guess, but not very heartening.
No doubt about it, these are modest steps in view of the monstrous dimensions of the problem. But they are still affirmative ones. If any reasonable person questions their wisdom, the severity of his doubts should be allayed somewhat by Emanuel Cleaver, right, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who described this legislative outcome as "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich." Hey, that's music to a responsible citizen's ears.
"You can always judge a man not by his friends," a wise person once said, "but by the quality of his enemies." So it is with public policy as well. Let me be blunt. The fact that the chairman of the CBC and others like him think that the federal government has taken a dreadfully wrong turn here should infuse thoughtful Americans with at least a modicum of optimism.
Sure, "the deal" represents, on one level, a repudiation of Barack Obama and his flawed vision of hope and change. Throughout the recent crisis, he again demonstrated that he is out of touch with mainstream America. He advanced few helpful ideas or suggestions for addressing the looming disaster. Indeed, it seemed at times that his intention was actually to continue overwhelming the system with improvident spending. (But what red-blooded American could really suspect his President of such despicable, if not treasonous, behavior?) Mr. Obama appeared to many as little more than a demagogue spouting platitudes or, worse still, a detached spectator playing his fiddle. He did what he has always done best; he postured before cameras and read from TelePrompters. He was nothing if not an obstruction.
What some Republicans and a few Democrats accomplished this week was on a par with that of the Dutch boy, who put his finger in the dike. It should be appreciated too, as far as it went. The real test, however, will confront these members of Congress, as well as conscientious Americans, down the road. Entitlements and defense spending are sure to compete with each other. Very hard choices must be made. But can they? Will they?
I am not at all sanguine about future efforts to reform the culture of spending in Washington, D.C. How can Americans address this issue except they pull together in a strong, informed way? This is the foundational concern underlying all others. As I have repeatedly emphasized, Americans have lost their sense of community. Comparatively few citizens are reflecting upon the common good. The nation's population has degenerated into an assortment of factions, a number of quarreling tribes. Each thinks only of advancing its own provincial interests. Mr. Cleaver's small-minded, myopic comments comprise a case in point.
Let me tell you about another lurid case. In a NAACP rally this year at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., the large bronze statue of George Washington, which graces the premises, was covered up. That's right, covered up! The last time I checked, this man was "the father of his country." I guess that some do not feel as compelled to honor that fact as others do. The episode only serves to highlight the terrible divisions which exist among the American people.
One more example of the current state of things. Direct your attention to South Texas, also known as "the Northern District of Mexico." The preponderance of Latino leaders are already complaining about prospective cuts in entitlement spending, although their indignant protestations definitely don't stop there. They are nursing deep resentments over Mr. Obama's inability to deliver a "comprehensive immigration package," which is euphemistic for paving the way to citizenship for illegal aliens. Because states like Arizona, Washington, Alabama, and Georgia have taken steps to protect themselves from the brown plague of poverty, pestilence, and crime, Mr. Obama's poll numbers have fallen like a rock among Latino voters since 2008. It's entirely irrelevant to many of these people that the flood of illegal immigrants continues to be causing social service programs throughout America to hemorrhage. Why is such a fact so readily ignored? Well, it's a tribal issue, which means that it is by definition a justified concern. Bull crap!
Make no mistake about it. President Obama has not turned his back on the Hispanic community. Far from it! Didn't he appoint a rather non-illustrious Latina to the Supreme Court? Has he not relaxed border security and poked fun of enforcement efforts? The question is, "What more at this point can the man do for this 'united race' than he's already done?" Should he make a special trip to Robstown, Texas, in order to crown the next queen of Feria de las Flores, after she performs traditional folklorico dances from the Mexican state she's been chosen to represent? That might satisfy a few people. Or perhaps he could issue an executive order that the Himno Nacional Mexicano be played in this country immediately following, or (better still) before, "The Star-Spangled Banner." That too would undoubtedly be hailed by some as a nod in the right direction.
My point is that irresponsible spending in Washington is only one symptom of a cancer with deeply embedded roots. As long as the American people are divided culturally into many opposing factions, and each is screaming for "distributive justice," there will be no solution to our debt crisis or any other catastrophe we may face. Problems will, in fact, only intensify until chaos is reached. Don't expect politicians to provide answers. They are part of the problem. They will always tell the various tribes what they desire to hear, much like whores who whisper sweet-nothings to their drunken patrons.
Before the debt crisis can truly be resolved, America's sense of community will have to be restored, or at least on the way to restoration. Tax loopholes will have to be eliminated, so that billionaires pay their fair share of taxes. Convicted felons, residents of government-subsidized housing, recipients of food stamps (especially the ones who could work but don't), and those who have refused to assimilate to traditional American culture (by failing to develop fluency in English and learning to appreciate American history and tradition) should find themselves on the outside of the community looking in rather than on the inside making policy demands. There must be a paradigm shift, a revolution, in American community values. Another word for that change is basic "morality."
And why not walk another road? Is it really necessary to ask according to what law of God or man a productive, civilized people are required to accommodate parasites of any stripe with a say in government? Who would argue that intelligence, law, and morality require the tail to wag the dog? This makes no more sense than declaring that the American constitution provides Islam a foothold by which to establish Sharia law in our midst. Who says? Were the American people made for their constitution, or was it made for them? They can have the kind of culture and society they wish, period! The rest of the world doesn't have to like or agree with it. Nor do mushy-minded leftists.
There are few, if any, politicians among us who have the courage to voice these ideas. That's because they are cowards. They are dedicated to nothing so much as themselves as power brokers. Most have paid for their positions with their souls. They contemplate nothing with steadfast logic except their next election. Unless they are required by circumstance to do so, they will never concern themselves with the requirements of citizenship and suffrage. Nor will they lose sleep from accepting large corporate donations. Most couldn't give a tinker's damn about salvaging traditional American culture.
So where does this leave us? Let me tell you. American citizens must unite and demand restoration of what they have lost or have long since given up. A few dedicated men and women can do a lot. A large number can do much more. Mark my words: when throngs of Americans bind together as a wall of steel and stand upright and strong, marvelous chapters will then be written in American public life. It has happened in the past, and it can happen now. The most resolute Will invariably wins the day.
August 4, 2011