A Book Review by Dick Morris
The opposite of a socialist planned economy is, of course, free market capitalism. But, by the same token, the opposite of government entitlements is personal responsibility. It is this second dichotomy, perhaps more than the first, which animates the true difference between the governing philosophy of President Obama on the one hand and the Republican Party and the Tea Party on the other.
The more we squeeze out government waste and needless bureaucracy in the various incarnations of federal budget cutting, the more we come to realize that it is our own sense of entitlement that is the real problem. Discretionary government spending now accounts for less than half of the federal budget. The likes of Paul Ryan are quite right that much of that money is wasted. But cash transfers go 100% to the recipient or his service provider. No waste there, just a replacement of individual responsibility for ourselves, our children, or our parents with government entitlement payments.
In Responsibility Reborn: A Citizens Guide to the Next American Century, former Colorado State Senator John Andrews lays out the real problem and articulates the real solution. As the comic strip figure Pogo once said: “We have met the enemy and it is us!”
The burden of Andrews’ argument is that it is the entitlement perspective that truly saps our national vitality and leads us to ask what our country can do for us instead of what we can do for our country. He notes that in the transition from the malaise of the 1970s to the can-do optimism of Reagan’s 80s, the real changes were psychological as we came to take responsibility for our own lives and move up in the world.
President Bill Clinton tried to marry entitlements to responsibility when he announced his new social “contract” of government opportunity in return for individual responsibility. This two-way street called for scholarships in one direction and public service in the other, welfare payments one way and employment as the reciprocal.
But in the hands of Barack Obama, the responsibility part got lost. Now, 2 percent of the taxpayers fund the majority of the government while half pay nothing at all in federal income taxes. The means of upward mobility is becoming political action and self-help has come to mean voting right.
Andrews calls for a fundamental change in the entitlement mind set and a restoration of the values of self-help, entrepreneurial initiative, and independence from government. It is the splendid irony of the Tea Party that while mobs in Greece demand more government handouts, demonstrators in the U.S. want less.
Lest we become lost in the soulless details of economics or the abstractions of philosophy, John Andrews points the way toward a renewal of our individual sense of duty to our families and our community and explains how to get there. A great read from a great mind!