Blaise Pascal, Penseé 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The UnAmerica

I grew up in a little Michigan town in the 1950s and 60s.  I remember going to the barbershop with my dad on a Friday night and watching Fess Parker playing Davy Crockett, on The Wonderful World of Disney. I suppose that more than anyone—John Wayne in his many westerns, Gregory Peck in Pork Chop Hill—Davy Crockett was my generation’s icon of what an American was supposed to be. Our fathers, who had fought the Second World War were living, breathing incarnations of that spirit. The astronauts we watched going into space were the most modern counterparts of what it meant to be an American pioneer. Courage, dedication, self-sacrifice, and a stoic attitude toward pain and difficulty were preached to us all. And then came the sixties, drugs, sex, and throwing it all up—for what? For what we are now going to get.

America has gone through several iterations: America from the Revolution to the Civil War, American from the Civil War to the Great Depression, America since the Second World War. And that could be parsed into finer categories: America since Vietnam. America after the Cold War. But tonight, with the reelection of Barack Obama we have entered an enormously different world, on par with the biggest changes in our national life—the UnAmerica America. It has the following characteristics:

1.     It is based not on an ethic of self-sacrifice for the common good, as the fathers of my generation practiced in the second world war, but on getting as much as you can from the government.
2.     It is based not on an ethic of self-reliance, but on claiming victimhood and demanding reparations.
3.     It is not based on traditional Judeo-Christian sexual ethics but on government subsidized birth control and abortion.
4.     It is an America with no sense of boundaries or reality when it comes to its own habits of consumption and desire. A 16 trillion dollar national debt? Why not a $22 trillion dollar debt? We’re likely to see it at the end of 4 more Obama years.
5.     It is an America that doesn’t lead the rest of the world but is inexorably going to withdraw from it as defense spending is cut in favor of “entitlements,” a word which speaks an entire history. This is going to be a very dangerous world.
6.     It is an America that has been taught to be ashamed of itself and its role in the world rather than proud.
7.     It is an America that hates the authority of religion and so wants to neuter it, by turning it into a private hobby, or by crushing it while regulating its social presence out of existence.
8.     It is an America largely without a fourth estate—a media—that even attempts unbiased investigative reporting.

In short, it is an America that wants stuff, feels it’s owed, and hates anything or anyone who would assert a limit. It is an America that is ripe for soft-core tyranny. This America did not happen over night. Its starting point began when I was a teenager. But we have never so thoroughly embraced it as we did in the presidential election of 2012.

For anyone who thought the first election of Barack Obama a fluke, that idea has been dispelled by returning to office a man who should have been easy to beat, after a disastrous four years of fiscal irresponsibility and arrogant disregard for anything like bipartisan politics. Those of us who were hopeful that Romney, a moderate Republican, would win, must now acknowledge that we live in a very different country than we were in even 10 years ago. What can we look forward to?

1.     A big recession in 2013 as businesses remain skeptical about investing in a country run by anti-business Democrats.
2.     At least $20 trillion in government debt.
3.     A deadlocked Congress as Obama proclaims any real compromise an unacceptable retreat.
4.     A declining military as spending cuts whittle away at its effectiveness.
5.     The disappearance of Catholic hospitals, as they refuse to provide workers with insurance covering birth control.
6.     Iran will get the bomb, causing a Middle East arms race. We will do nothing.
7.     American debt will be downgraded, interest rates on government debt will go up, feeding the overall debt, pushing the country toward insolvency.
8.     The trend to see the Constitution as outdated will grow; there will be a lot of talk about replacing it, and this will be the preliminary to actually doing so.
9.     Four years from now, the Republicans will still be blamed for it all, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose again.

Blacks, Latinos, and single women certainly put Obama over the top. See this Rolling Stone article, which lays out what powered this election: How Obama Won. The 67 to 31 split among single women, who for the first time in U.S. history outnumber married ones, was perhaps the most important demographic. To see the kind of country this group thinks they live in, and the kind of country they want, watch Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren's DNC speeches, shrilly proclaiming what the government owes them.

I suppose historians will try to date the decline of America. Maybe they’ll pick 9/11. Maybe the Great Recession. But I pick tonight as the real date, because this is the day American trumped reason with “what’s in it for me?” and embraced decline. This is the day that America became a different country.

November 8

OK, after one day to cool down, I refuse to abandon all hope. Still, unless courageous steps are taken both in California and in the USA to make significant spending cuts, the day of reckoning is simply going to be even more painful. California's Proposition 30 passage gives the university system in California breathing space, but each of these tax increases erodes California's tax base as more and more people with money--individuals and businesses--leave the state for others where the tax burden is lighter. Combine an eroding tax base with the likelihood of a recession this year, and Prop. 30 may be only a temporary bandaid.

see Victor Davis Hanson's column which has a very perceptive analysis of Democrat strategy in this election, Groundhog Day in America: "In textbook community-organizing fashion, Obama won the election by brilliantly cobbling together factions with shrill warnings of supposed enemies everywhere. Young women were threatened by sexist Neanderthal males. Minorities were oppressed by neo-Confederate tea partiers. Greens were in danger from greedy smokestack polluters. Gays were bullied by homophobic Evangelicals. Illegal aliens were demonized by xenophobic nativists. And the 47 percent were at the mercy of the grasping 1 percent. Almost any American could fall into the category of either an Obama-aligned victim or a Romney-aligned oppressor."

Although the following analysis by Bill O'Reilly is spoiled by the shameless self-plug at the end, it's thought-provoking, and I think right when it comes to Hurricane Sandy:

Much of what O'Reilly has to say is remarkably close to the Rolling Stone article, above. What the Republican party has to get across, if it wants a future for itself and a better future for the country, is that government help for those who need it is impossible if the state is insolvent. That seems obvious, but many people--at least 50% of voters--seem welded to the idea that our ability to extract money from "the rich" is infinite.To Democratic friends who are committed to more income equality: set aside the moral issues this would raise and the government power it requires. Just consider whether it is even possible to generate enough revenue to keep up with our current trend of expenditure.

Dennis Miller echoes my lament:

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