There have been some fascinating articles lately, describing what the proposed “stimulus” package may do to the American economy… but, more importantly, what it will do to us as a country.
For centuries, we have prided ourselves on being independent, hard-working, and forward-thinking. Many of our ancestors were the ones who chose not to put up with the stifling status quo in England, Ireland, France, Slovakia, Italy, China, India, etc. and instead chose to risk leaving everything they knew to come here, to the United States, believing that, by hard work and perseverance, they could improve their lives in ways that were not possible in the countries they came from. Or, at least, that opportunities would be available for their children.
These were the people, together with the descendants of the slaves brought here involuntarily, who put this country together. The people who scraped together pennies out of their own poverty to build beautiful churches, feed those even less fortunate than themselves, and bring the rest of their families here, often after years of separation.
Because here was different. Yes, it wasn’t as good as many immigrants had been led to believe, but, for most, it was still better than where they had come from.
Americans believed (and many still do) that we are different. For good or bad, we do not have the sense of being as grounded in tradition as almost anywhere else in the world; we pride ourselves on our ability to adapt and invent. We romanticized and idolized each generation of pioneers: colonists, Pilgrims, frontier families in the Shenandoah Valley and Kentucky, “sod busters” on the praries, cowboys.
Who do we idolize now? What does it say about us? Movie stars, sports stars, singers, and those famous simply for being rich and famous (i.e. Paris Hilton). We’ve dropped “work hard and earn your breaks” in favor of “get lucky and never have to work hard again.” If the rich are just “lucky” and not actually smart, hard-working, or talented, then why shouldn’t we all get more? Why assume that anyone actually was archaic enough to have worked for their money?
So, now, we’re all “lucky;” the government is going to save us from ourselves. Earn a measley $80,000 or less? Your kids qualify for government health care. Agreed to a ridiculous mortgage that fluctuates every month, which means you can no longer afford it? Forget admitting your mistake and being foreclosed, the government is going to rescue you. Drove your company into the ground? It’s ok, the government will rescue you, too. Make cars that nobody wants to buy? Forget bankruptcy and restructuring; the government will allow you to keep losing money on substandard cars for years to come.
As a nation, we seem to be morphing from an overall sense that we are owed only, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” into a nation that has an overblown sense of entitlement to actual Happiness and Success, regardless of the level of effort we put into it.
Those who succeed are just lucky, so they deserve absurdly high tax rates to finance the rest of us who just weren’t as lucky. We don’t want to damage anyone’s ego (as much as it may need some serious deflation), so don’t insinuate that the child actually earned an F for failure… call it an E for effort, in spite of the fact that there was apparently very little effort going into the schoolwork. (Which is similar to how we treat corporate CEO’s who drive their companies into the ground and walk away with millions in severance packages.) And don’t you dare point out that taking on an adjustable-rate mortgage that you could barely afford before the rates went up was just dumb… no, you were just victimized by the big, evil corporation who’s trying to steal your money and your home, so we’ll force the evil company to play nice and renegotiate your rate and principal.
If we discourage thrift by rewarding irresponsibility, if we discourage hard work by encouraging government dependence, if we applaud government for doing for ourselves what we should be doing, if even life is controlled by the government because we have legalized abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and euthenasia (both with and against families’ wishes)… then where are we heading?
Will America drift off into history, with nothing left but dreams of back when we were great and an E for effort?
Those in DC must remember what made the United States great in the first place. It wasn’t government intervention and bailouts.