My wife and I were driving to the Baltimore Washington Airport on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the news broke about planes being hijacked and intentionally crashed into iconic American buildings. I still have the airline tickets. Like millions of other travelers, we drove home, five days to Colorado under skies absent of contrails.
Out of the doleful weeks following “9-11” grew a palpable sense of community across the entire nation. I will never forget the lovely manner that we observed citizens treating each other as Maryann and I made our way home. Whether arranging with the rental company to return their mid-size in Denver, waiting to be seated at a crowded Cracker Barrel in Indiana, or negotiating through a traffic jam in Kansas City, Americans seemed to be purposefully engaged and courteous with one another.
The social culture of this nation today is a stark contrast from its personality just eleven years ago. And I believe that the first fracture occurred on January 23, 2009. On the third day of his Presidency, Barack Obama hosted a meeting with Congressional leadership from both parties to discuss the terms of the $825 billion stimulus plan. When Republicans questioned the new President’s intentions to include refund payments to people who had not paid taxes, Barack Obama responded with, “I won.”
From its very beginning, the Obama Presidency has based its economic philosophy on the imagination of John Maynard Keynes. In this thinking, governments are a nation’s benevolent cost center, much like the research and development department of a product company. The internal investment contributes toward profitability but does not directly generate revenue.
In private industry, corporate would spend some portion of revenues as an investment in research and development. In the Keynes model, the Research and Development Department is also a self-important Corporate Controller. The problem with this model is that governments do not have a product that generates wealth. So when a Keynesian like Barack Obama calculates that the economic challenge is large, he becomes very ambitious in what it sees as an investment in future returns.
Over the objections of a weakened opposition party, the Obama Administration proceeded with spending money that it does not have, operating at a revenue deficit and adding to the debt. It is no surprise that America’s debt balance now ends at fourteen positions to the left of the decimal point.
Four years into the Obama Administration, Democratic Party leadership realized that it needed Republicans; not for their ideas or even for their votes. They need the tax revenue suppliers to fund their Keynesian aspirations.
So the divisiveness began on January 23, 2009. Tax credits were transformed into payments designed to redistribute wealth that was yet to be earned. The Obama Administration even teamed up with Mexico to promote the American Food Stamp program to Mexican citizens. The number of dependents were increased toward an army of voters in 2012 who would vote self-interest of government supply.
Neither of the two presidential candidates attempted to appeal to broad america. Barack Obama executed a nakedly divisive class warfare campaign. Mitt Romney spoke dismissively of the 47% of voters whom the President had hooked on government subsistence.
Barack Obama transformed the United States from a single culture of aspiring breadwinners into what Michael Barone recently called ”Two Americas.” We now have the needy ones who are in the system for good and the selfish suppliers who are accused of hoarding their wealth.
As happens at the conclusion of every election cycle, there are plenty of water cooler conversations across America about moving to some pristine island that has not yet been ruined by the ambitions of bureaucratic government micromanagers. And indeed, some U.S. citizens will flee to one of the very few countries like Costa Rica that are moving in the opposite direction of America in terms of government controls. But, alas, most dominant government philosophies are even more shortsighted than John Maynard Keynes.
Conservatives felt a mournful loss on Tuesday at the moment that the Ohio electoral delegates were declared for the Obama campaign. It was not at all the kind of disappointed reaction to your favorite sports team losing the big game. It was more like receiving the news of a kidnapped child.
A remarkable commitment to the community will continue by most spirited Americans, in spite of the disturbing embrace of an historically discredited scheme. Conservatives are terrifically worried about the outcome, still wanting to dream.