Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Very American Distrust

By Alan Caruba

Barack Obama has crashed headlong into a wall of distrust. If he had any understanding of American history he would know why, but his sole interest is himself and he proved that by writing not one, but two memoirs.

The men who waged the American Revolution and then met in secret to write the U.S. Constitution all shared a distrust of government. They understood government was necessary, but they wanted to keep a federal government small and ensure that most powers resided in the individual states and in “the people.”

For most of American history, the federal government was small. Its main function was to maintain armies and navies to protect its sovereignty and its commercial interests. Early presidents encouraged the exploration of the continent and its populating by the many discontents who arrived seeking a better life than the Old World could or would provide.

America promised the intoxicating opportunity to be free to make a life for oneself that had few restraints so long as one did not break the law, honored one’s contracts, and took part in the process of debating issues and electing representatives. This necessity to rise above family bonds and other allegiances to participate in the affairs of one’s community, one’s state, and one’s nation has been the glue that has kept generations of old and new Americans connected.

George Washington and other former revolutionaries were most fearful of what he called “factions” and what we now call political parties, but it didn’t take long for such parties to emerge because it is the nature of men to come together around commonly held beliefs.

The wonder is that, despite serious differences on how the nation should be run, the parties traded power back and forth, new presidents were elected without rebellions (other than the Civil War!), and the conduct of the people’s business progressed smoothly. Some policies worked. Others did not. Pragmatism was and is the order of the day.

What people understood in the early years of the republic was that government was not intended, nor expected to take care of them from cradle to grave. The Constitution is an enumeration of the many things government is not supposed to do. The process by which legislation gets passed is deliberately slow so people have the time to be heard.

President Obama has come smack up against a very American tradition and attitude. It is the distrust of a central government or, for that matter, any government. Obama arrived in the highest office in the land understandably convinced that his gift of oratory would provide a smooth road toward his goals. His party had solid control of the Congress…or so they thought.

To the degree that his campaign was a remarkably successful charade intended to hide his lack of any real experience to be President and to hide his true intentions, one can understand why Obama now feels buffeted by the system that has served Americans well since 1776.

Americans do not want to turn an excellent health system over to the government and especially to a government that was not been able to function well in the wake of a monster hurricane; a government whose existing Medicare and Medicaid programs are not only insolvent, but have $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities; a U.S. Postal Service that lost $7 billion last year; and Amtrak that has never shown a profit since it was created in 1970.

All the smoke and mirrors of the campaign have been replaced by the reality that the President and the Congress work for US. We decide the kind of programs We want and We discard those that don’t work. We may be equal before the law, but that’s where it ends. Those that work hard expect to enjoy the benefits of that work and resent those who live parasitically off of them.

The days of infinite borrowing and spending are over. Both political parties share blame, but the party whose principles have always been about fiscal prudence will benefit most in the coming elections.

The national spending spree is over. Everybody knows this except Obama and the Democrats in Congress.


Red said...

The thing that will implement true change for the better is convincing people to shed their entitlement mentality. That's why big government has succeeded for as long as it has. Social programs need to be cut-not done away with - but cut drastically. The myriad of government agencies needs to be done away with. Bigger is not better. I think that's absolutely clear.

Guy said...

A fine piece Alan, with some keen insights. I think most of the American public is finally coming around. However, when I heard Howard Dean spout off on FOX news tonight, it became apparent that we still have quite a battle to fight. When Newt Gingrich stated that the people don't want government-run health care, and that Obama would be well advised to listen to them, Dean came back with the same old rhetoric we've been hearing for months. It's clear that these yahoos still haven't figured it out. I found myself secretly hoping that Obama follows Dean's advice and pushes his plan through, with or without bi-partisan support. It will result in the destruction of his administration and hopefully the liberal Democrats. Then, when the dust settles, we can formulate a REAL health care plan that keeps government in its place and allows America to do what she does best ... innovate and solve our health care problems with American sweat and ingenuity, not with false promises and dictatorial policies.