Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Many Americans are poorly prepared for
responsible citizenship

The current economic chaos and the shear silliness surrounding the debt and the debt ceiling issues illustrate dramatically how unprepared many Americans are to comprehend what is going on.

Ideology, self-interest and ignorance combine to produce gross misunderstanding of these circumstances, and gross misunderstanding produces confusion about economic policy and dangerous decision-making.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the simple math of the debt crisis, but it apparently exceeds the capacity of those in the administration and many of those in Congress. It’s easy to convince people who understand simple math that spending 40 percent more than you bring in is not just dumb, but dangerous. Yet, many of those in one political party are prepared to do virtually anything to steer clear of the fiscal responsibility this situation demands, preferring to continue the over-spending that brought us to the brink of financial collapse, and then call members of the other party who are trying to gain control of the economic situation “terrorists.”

Never mind that we’ve been endlessly lectured by the self-appointed guardians of good behavior (or at least political correctness) to always be “moderate” in our speech, lest we offend someone, somewhere. But we see that the guardians have now abandoned their own rules, happily indulging in idiotic hyperbole and viscious smears.

There seems to be only two explanations for this intractable attitude favoring excessive spending: One is that its advocates receive benefits from improper spending by getting votes from those that receive money from the government. The other is a tax-and-spend, wealth redistribution, government-dependency ideology. Both are contrary to everything the United States stands for.

Those people either do not understand the United States of America, its origins and its founding principles, or they dislike the US. The latter reflects folks who would be happier in Greece, Italy or France, while the former indicates a failure of our schools to teach basic civics.

According to the Colorado Model Content Standards for Civics: “Public education in the United States of America has a civic purpose: to prepare informed and participative citizens committed to the preservation of the constitutional republic of the United States.

“The civic culture that defines the United States can be sustained as long as each generation develops a deep understanding and commitment to the principles of our founding documents. The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Federalist papers provide a basis for helping citizens to resolve differences and address increasingly complex policy issues.

“It is through systematic instruction in civics and government that young people develop and apply the intellectual and participatory skills that result in understanding what government of the people, by the people, and for the people really means.”

That is what is wrong. It is difficult to imagine that people who understand why the Colonists were willing to engage in armed conflict to break away from the control of King George, and who understand the principles and goals of the United States, could believe that our government was ever intended to exercise powers such as dictating the purchase of health insurance, or banning incandescent light bulbs, or dictating how much water toilets can use, or trying to prevent a private company from opening a new plant employing a thousand people.

They would understand that federal bureaus and agencies such as the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board, the Department of Energy, and a host of others are not constitutionally allowed.

They would also understand that as badly as people need help sometimes, it is not the government’s job to hand out taxpayer money to people for food, or because they had lost their job, nor is it proper for the government to provide free birth control, or to help kids go to college.

But when you don’t understand what your country is all about, or you don’t take your oath of office seriously, doing improper things isn’t a problem.

The total of all debt outstanding is now $14.58 trillion. That’s $54.2 billion more than average 2010 U.S. GDP. And it surpasses the $14.52 trillion value of all of the goods and services produced in the United States in 2010.

For the first time the United States’ credit rating is below AAA, a direct result of our elected leaders’ failure to maintain fiscal discipline and constitutional government. Their eagerness to spend our money on inappropriate things and out-spend revenue collections for years on end has the nation in the most precarious position since 1776.

Some say that taxes are not high enough on the “rich” and on corporations. However, the US has plenty of revenue, as it currently takes 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product out of the economy to run the government. If we need more than one of every four dollars the US produces to pay for government, we have too much government, not too little taxes.

We are seeing what Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to “fundamentally change the United States of America” really means, and the changes we see are high unemployment, job-killing policies, looming fiscal disaster, and a huge abyss where leadership belongs.

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