The number one problem the United States is now facing isn’t the debt. It’s the lack of leadership. This is not news – conservative news-watchers have been telling us for a long time: for 4 years, in fact. We will see how it plays out in the next few weeks, in the President’s inauguration speech on January 21 and the State of the Union address on January 29. But let’s also think about what we want to see.
For those trying to make ends meet, the graphs and charts and speeches of national figures sometimes don’t mean much – and for those souls, food and bills are much more urgent than “leadership”. But without strong, disciplined leadership, we could face an endless stretch of these same problems, with only government solutions.
The true solution has to come from the administration, not from armchair quarterbacks. For all our electronic avenues to criticize, like, or LOL, we have no direct vote in a representative democracy. We need to make our commitments known through the framework we have, or give ourselves over to mob rule under an emperor who can fiddle as the edifice we’ve fought to defend for over 200 years burns to the ground – because the firefighters have been laid off.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that our country is in the midst of a serious financial crisis. And before we can tell how serious a condition we’re in, we need an accurate diagnosis – which in this case would be a federal budget. Yet in spite of this critical need, the continuing administration has not produced a budget in the four years of its first term. Will an explanation for this failure be provided in the Inaugural Address for a second term? What would we see in that budget, and how would we as citizens communicate to our leadership about our support for it, and for what we as a country need to cut from it?
Some of us might feel we have no say in such matters, and that’s why we elect representatives. This is a true statement, yet we are as accountable as our representatives are: how can they represent us, if we don’t tell them? What do you have to say about $16.4 trillion dollars in national debt?
National debt is nothing new – it was part of Alexander Hamilton’s original plan for the U.S.’s economy, to help show the new country’s creditworthiness. However, Mr. Hamilton would never have accepted the magnitude of debt we are now facing, nor its accumulation in the course of 12 years. In those dozen years we have seen a turn of the tide, with more Social Security expenses flowing out than revenue coming in (as it was in 2000), as well as two major economic downturns: the dot-bomb crash in 2001 and the national housing market balloon’s collapse in 2008. Sitting here on the receiving end, sometimes it can feel like our darkest hour. But leadership – true leadership – does not respond by playing blame games or figuring out how to ease the discomforts of certain categories through entitlements, to be assessed on certain other categories – such as those who have been successful.
The grasp of this vortex is not on ourselves alone and not just our children. It is reaching past our grandchildren, and now has its sights on our great-grandchildren. It will engulf the creative and the strong – those who have the abilities to lead us out of its shadow – as well as the weak that the administration is expanding itself in order to lessen the suffering of the masses. Its limits on our freedom and our opportunities reach out from the unseen federal budget. And anyone who has ever had to fight an enemy they can’t see will tell you how hard that is.
The debt is the symptom. The lack of leadership to address it is the disease.
If the current administration and its executive cannot produce a budget, the chain of leadership needs to be developed in the House of Representatives. Yet we have seen our elected members of Congress disconnect themselves from the responsibility to lead us out of this situation by stating they have no choice but to go into debt. We need more from our leaders than such “accommodation”.
We need the facts and we need a plan – not only for launching our offensive against this threat, but for giving We the Citizens the grounds to believe in the administration and our elected officials. Four years of crisis management - of “we HAVE to do this” and then waiting until the deadline to do it – has not achieved significant results for those of us trying to keep a roof over our heads. Nothing the administration has put forward to date will stimulate respect, integrity, and positive options for the future – for us all.
And even worse, this apparent mismanagement shows the world that we cannot run our own household, as a nation – as Alexander Hamilton intended for the debt. And that we as citizens of this country have allowed ourselves to be distracted from it. Now, when you’re out of work and trying to keep food on the table, your priority is on providing for your family and not what the politicians are saying – in Washington or even Atlanta. But we cannot allow this to be our permanent level of ignorance.
Instead, we’ve been told “you can’t cut your way to prosperity” – a loaded sound bite, dismissing the urgent need to cut back this unseen threat – the federal budget – and implying that the administration and its entitlements are the only way to national prosperity. Is our faith in the future being blinded by fear – a fear of what would happen to the largest generation in the U.S. if the government did not take care of them? Fear that the administration and Congress does not have faith in their fellow men and women to be strong and to commit to overcome with whatever resources we have – as we have in the past – and that most of us have been able to do without guidance from our government? Is there also lurking in it a suggestion that we will be better off by being born into debt so our government will have to have a hand in almost every aspect of our lives? How much debt should a child be born with?
A line needs to be drawn in the sand: if the debt ceiling is not working, and no one in the administration believes that we’re spending irresponsibly, but morally justifying the irresponsible behavior without answering how much debt is enough. This ill-adjusted focus can easily be corrected: if instead of coming out with 4,000 new regulations, the government focused instead on eliminating hobbling regulations. Instead of the solution of expanding the size of government to stimulate the economy, as an incentive to the private sector to keep pace with government – how could the private sector be shown
that the government is there help support them, not tax them out of prosperity? Anyone who claims taxes are good for business, has never been in business.
As a nation, we don’t want to end entitlements; we know a civilization is judged on how it treats its weakest members. But we have over-promised an entire generation: we have to have entitlements we can afford. And we have to have leaders who recognize what we can and cannot afford.
This is the responsibility I expect from the elected leaders of the United States. And I trust that my fellow citizens will be looking forward later this month to what our elected representatives have to say – about the State of our Union, and how they’re going to lead us in a more positive, fiscally conservative direction – and a federal budget to show us how its going to work.
Together – both our leaders and We the Citizens who elected and will hold them accountable – we need to keep watch over this generation currently in office, especially if it gives an appearance of having moved into its retirement phase and of abandoning its responsibilities to a form of rule-by-mob in a generation-dominated democracy wrapped around our own representative form of government. We have not come this far to allow the government’s Big Brother to set itself up to watch and control our lives. We need to watch and respond to our leadership, to find a more responsible direction than the one we’ve had for the past 4 years.