March 22, 2010

March 22, 2010

Regardless of your politics, last night was a historic night for the United States. Good or bad, it has changed the fundamental direction of our country, IMHO.

Our great nation was built on the backs of those who wanted a different–a better–system of government. Rejecting the feudal ways of Europeans, our ancestors set out to a create a system of government by, and for, the people. Our founding fathers sacrificed fortunes, popularity, and even the safety of their own family member’s lives to construct a set of laws that would allow those less fortunate to have a fair shot at making a better life in America. That carefully and eloquently crafted set of laws known as the Constitution has made the U.S. the economic, military, and righteous powerhouse that it is because it was built on the foundation of personal freedoms.

Personal freedom–the right to make GOOD AND BAD choices–is what gives America its power. We revel in achievement and boo failure. Our Constitution was designed to level the playing the field (as much as possible). It will never be perfect and/or make everyone happy. But it is the implicit assumption of competition hidden in its words that have allowed one of the few republics left on planet earth to prosper. Warren Buffett understands this which is why he has a devout faith that America will overcome anything it encounters. I still concur, but last night’s vote has me worried.

This philosophical retreat from personal responsibility and toward entitlement has created an United States of Entitlement.

No moral being can be opposed to helping those that need it most. Certainly not me. I accept the graduated income tax system in this country because I beleive those with more have a moral obligation to help those with less. But endangering the very system that has allowed many hardworking Americans to prosper and be generous is not going to help those less fortunate. Quite the contrary.

This new healthcare bill endangers America because it endangers the fiscal viability of America. The financial shenanigans played by both parties in Congress to “score” the cost of the bill is shameful. Hell, it’s plain old irresponsible. If any business ran the way the we run our country, it would be bankrupt. If any household used the accounting logic used by Congress, it would be bankrupt. I believe those that want respect must lead by example, and Congress is not setting a good example for its citizen. Ergo, I’ve lost respect for our Congress.

David M. Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office from 1998 to 2008 and current President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, has crunched the numbers for us. Sit down, they’re scary. Before this new entitlement bill was passed, Medicare carried a $36.3 trillion (with a “T”) unfunded liability. Social Security: a $6.6 trillion unfunded obligation. National debt, military and federal employee pensions, and other sundries added another $13.5 trillion in unfunded obligations for a grand total of $56.4 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That’s $184,000 per citizen and $483,000 per household.

If this populist shift from personal responsibility toward entitlement continues to work its way into American psyche, I fear America will have more in common with struggling socialist Euros and their continental cousins than the prospering ever-rising capitalist ways of China and its Asian cousins.

Good intentions are not good enough. Kicking the financial burden down the road will catch up to us. If you don’t believe me, ask the Greeks.