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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is the American Dream dead?

I admit it.  I could not have written on this subject more eleoquently than Ms. Coppock.

The "American way of life" and many other similar phrases, have been deliberately hollowed out -- rendered ineffective for conveying a sense of meaning.  It's almost like going to work one day and discovering that every time you say the word "blue", everyone acts like they never heard it before and have no idea what you mean by "blue".

We can stop this trend.  In upcoming articles, I'll explore options.  Meanwhile, please offer comments and direction for that effort.


Talking politics with strangers
By Nancy Coppock

Travel presents an ideal laboratory for viewing the perspective of the public
at large. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. I had a brief conversation with
the man sitting next to me on the plane as we flew by the Washington Monument
and the beauty of the reflecting pool. The man was an architect for a large firm
that does work on buildings and associations of which we are all familiar. I
told him I was in town for a conference called Defending the American Dream, and
here is where the laboratory was revealed.

When we use phrases such as "the American Dream," "preserving the American
way of life" and "protecting the future for our children," we must understand
that the ideological war has been busy since Rules for Radicals came on the
scene. These phrases are being dehydrated of their meaning. Refreshing them is
the front line in our effort to right our ship of state, because the man sitting
next to me asked, "So what do you believe?" The ideological war has been so
successful that the phrase "Defending the American Dream" didn't make sense to
him. Therefore, I gave a 30 second "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"
lesson, to which his reply was, "So what do you think about Health Care Reform?"

"Well, we don't think what Congress is doing is reform," I answered, and
rattled off maybe six ideas of true reform. This is where the communication
break became clear, because his response was, "Well, I think we need to have a
debate about ideas. People are thinking crazy things, like there are death
panels in the bill." The off-loading tunnel was hooking up to the plane, so I
had to be quick. "Wait a minute," I said, holding out my hands in a pie shape.
"If you have a budget pie, there are going to be cost saving measures taken.
That's a given. What we are saying is get rid of the whole pie mentality. Let
everyone purchase the insurance policy that's right for them. Why have the
government force me to have maternity insurance when I can't have children? And
what's the first thing you do when your car's value drops below what you could
collect from insurance if it's wrecked? You call your insurance guy and cancel
full coverage because that saves you money. And, do you really need hair
transplant coverage?"

"We want you to be able to be as prosperous as you can be, and then support
the charities of your choice for those in need." The man paused. Then he smiled
genuinely, understanding my point. Our now-productive conversation finished with
him uttering a simple "Thank you."

What I learned from this encounter was that we cannot expect to be understood
by communicating in phrases that have been drained of meaning. We are living in
an age of shifting, dried out definitions, making informational communication
difficult. When the man said we need to have a debate after I had already listed
numerous examples of reform, the former teacher in me quickly grasped the
failure to communicate. His brain responded with the MSM fashionable soundbite
because he had no response to actual ideas of true reform. His political
complacency had dulled his cognitive skills. However, the visual budget pie I
made with my hands revived his understanding. It was clear when viewing this
that someone else was going to be making decisions about his life. The
illustration was undeniable.

What we on the Right perceive as understandable phrases are being parched out
of the national understanding. This is not to say that true Americanism has been
totally erased from everyday living, but the culture of nihilism has been busy
trying to obliterate these icons as surely as a school kid filling in the O's on
his school book cover, then later blocking out the entire word in an ink void.
We must provide an environment that refreshes our thirsty ideals.

Later, in the hotel elevator, a young security guard asked me if I was
enjoying my stay. I told him I was having a wonderful time and was here at a
conference about Defending the American Dream. I asked him if he knew what the
American Dream was, and he said, "No," with that schoolboy tentativeness
suggesting fear of giving the wrong answer. "Ah," I said with engaging teacher
compassion, "you've got to know about the American Dream. Life, liberty, and
the..." and he chimes in, eyes glowing, "pursuit of happiness!" The truth was
now feeding his soul and I could tell he was soaking it all in. He stepped out
of the elevator to continue the conversation, and I began to remind him of how
the American Dream comprises so much of what gives life meaning. "To be the best
you can be..." he adds, "to love my family and to provide for them." His roots
were now drinking freely in the truth that causes buds and blossoms to sprout.
He understood the Dream.

Then I hit him with the hard reality. What Congress and the Obama
administration are doing is burning out the Dream, selling his precious children
into slavery. "How long would you have to work to pay off a 30 or 40 thousand
dollar debt? And that's just right now, today. The government is still out there
saying they want to pay for our health care! How can they pay when they don't
have any money? That's what I call selling our children into slavery. And why?
Because 'we want'? Because we want right now, we sell our children into
slavery?"

The lesson only needed a conclusion. "The only party offering any hope in
preserving the American Dream is the Republican Party. Remember that when you
vote. And do vote! Vote to protect your family and your own American Dream." "I
will, I will..." he said, a stronger husband and father, and a better man.

This is the project before each of us at the grassroots level. Many people
around us are not indignant that the Dream has gone dormant. So we must find
each individual where they are and refresh the Dream in them. We must water this
grassland. All that's needed is a life-giving shower to reawaken the roots of
the Dream in most people. The Dream feeds the soul. Meeting with like-minded
folks, such as at Tea Party events, strengthens our resolve to help our
neighbors understand. Doing this will invigorate the vote in 2010, 2012, and
beyond. Like irrigation on dry plains, it will be part of changing the future of
our country, and it will give hope to future generations.

Living in Texas through a hot dry summer, I see the magical greening of the
grassland pastures when a late summer rain blesses the land. It reminds me that
we have the water to nourish the American Dream. And so, we must water the
grassland of America in the truth of the Dream in the way each person can
understand. If we all do this, we can, as a country, shift from defending the
Dream back to growing the Dream. Let's resolve to do this, together.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

When Responsibility Doesn’t Pay

Welfare always breeds contempt.

by Steven Transue

While Barack Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand-new, even-more-unsustainable entitlement at the health-care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split-screen — because they’re part of the same story. It’s just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They’re at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is farther upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided instead that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter Twenty (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter Seventeen or Eighteen.

What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th-century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless, insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany, and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social-democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 — or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: Ten grandparents have six kids have four grandkids — i.e., the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility — the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.

So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around?

By the way, you don’t have to go to Greece to experience Greek-style retirement: The Athenian “public service” of California has been metaphorically face down in the ouzo for a generation. Still, America as a whole is not yet Greece. A couple of years ago, when I wrote my book America Alone, I put the then–Social Security debate in a bit of perspective: On 2005 figures, projected public-pensions liabilities were expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8 percent of GDP. In Greece, the figure was 25 percent: in other words, head for the hills, Armageddon outta here, The End. Since then, the situation has worsened in both countries. And really the comparison is academic: Whereas America still has a choice, Greece isn’t going to have a 2040 — not without a massive shot of Reality Juice.

Is that likely to happen? At such moments, I like to modify Gerald Ford . When seeking to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, President Ford liked to say: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Which is true enough. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn’t big enough to get you to give any of it back. That’s the point Greece is at. Its socialist government has been forced into supporting a package of austerity measures. The Greek people’s response is: Nuts to that. Public-sector workers have succeeded in redefining time itself: Every year, they receive 14 monthly payments. You do the math. And for about seven months’ work: For many of them, the work day ends at 2:30 p.m. And, when they retire, they get 14 monthly pension payments. In other words: Economic reality is not my problem. I want my benefits. And, if it bankrupts the entire state a generation from now, who cares as long as they keep the checks coming until I croak?

We hard-hearted small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government: Once a chap’s enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn’t give a hoot about the general societal interest; he’s got his, and to hell with everyone else. People’s sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense.

The perfect spokesman for the entitlement mentality is the deputy prime minister of Greece. The European Union has concluded that the Greek government’s austerity measures are insufficient and, as a condition of bailout, has demanded something more robust. Greece is no longer a sovereign state: It’s General Motors, and the EU is Washington, and the Greek electorate is happy to play the part of the UAW — everything’s on the table except anything that would actually make a difference. In practice, because Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland are also on the brink of the abyss, a “European” bailout will be paid for by Germany. So the aforementioned Greek deputy prime minister, Theodoros Pangalos, has denounced the conditions of the EU deal on the grounds that the Germans stole all the bullion from the Bank of Greece during the Second World War. Welfare always breeds contempt, in nations as much as inner-city housing projects: How dare you tell us how to live! Just give us your money and push off.

Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany, an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it’s over 40 percent. And for the ever-dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward, there’s precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that’s before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year of Greeks who retire at 58.

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?