The Character of Our Country

Barack Obama campaigned for president as a “post-partisan.” His mascot should have been the unicorn.

It was a smart setup. Now, President Obama can propose the most liberal expansions of the federal government and call any opposition “partisan bickering.” His tactic sounds believable until one remembers how innately restrained conservatives are.

Tea parties, town halls and other political protests come no more naturally for conservatives today than revolution came for colonial Americans nearly two and a half centuries ago.

The colonists were tough, rugged, hardworking people, but they came to America to be left alone, not to pick a fight. However, the overbearing meddling from London compelled them to act.

President Obama is doing some meddling of his own, seizing an opportunity afforded him by a populace that thought “change” sounded exciting. (Undoubtedly, he was more invigorating than a post-prime McCain or his pre-prime running mate.)

With a perceived mandate in hand, the former most liberal U.S. Senator and the farthest left leaders of Congress are now giving the nation a deluge of politically charged, ultra-liberal, hardly “post-partisan” proposals.

In fact, the electorate was not demanding billions in spending or universal health care. They were simply seeking some life, some emotion, something to believe in.

A good theme song might have done the trick. Bill Clinton’s reach-across-the-aisle style would work, too.

After a failed attempt at universalizing health care in 1993-94, President Clinton worked with Republicans to balance the federal budget, fix welfare and deregulate telecom and financial services. He governed from the center as he had in the conservative Southern state that gave him his start.

The hubris in President Obama’s speech Wednesday night was strikingly less balanced.

“I am not the first president to take up [health care reform], but I am determined to be the last.” As if the world were that static. As if one man or one government body could usher in such finality to such a dynamically complex issue.

From President Obama’s wealth-redistributed, government-equalized, utopian worldview, it must be possible.

President Obama spoke Wednesday of the “character of our country.” He pulled on heartstrings (“large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling”). He cited the initiations of Social Security and Medicare – two programs driving us bankrupt – as examples of government’s rising to the occasion.

The character of our country, however, is not our country’s providing for every character. If it were, our nation’s founding documents would say so. Rather, the Bill of Rights can be summed in this: Government will not get in your way. Intrinsic in that truth is this one: Government will not give you your way. America is a place to pursue your desires freely. But they will not be given to you.

Expanding social entitlement programs misaligns the incentives that do constitute the character of our country.

The most bothersome aspect of the president’s health care push is not that everyone may have insurance, however anemic that coverage may be. Most troublesome is the citizenry’s growing dependence on its government.

Dependence on a taxing, rulemaking authority could not be further from the original character of our country. The founders would have chosen desperation and destitution over it.


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