Don’t buy the politics of despair.
I covered the Obama rally in Ft. Worth a week ago last night. Among other things, he said this:
“You know, everywhere I go I hear stories of struggle and stories of hardship.”
He went on to describe people losing their jobs to overseas markets, people unable to pay their mortgages and buy medicine at the same time, old people only taking half their prescriptions and old people competing with teen aged kids for fast food jobs. See the clip below.
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Now the, “Ya got trouble right here in River City” theme is a staple of politics. If everything is OK, there’ s no need to vote for the new guy. And I have no problem with Barack Obama making these statements in a campaign speech. Everything he said was true as far as it goes. And for those experiencing unemployment and crippling debt and the loss of their homes, life is certainly difficult and disheartening.
Where I start having the problem is when I’m asked to reach an incorrect conclusion. Barack Obama would have me conclude that the whole of America is mired in despair. He would have me believe that America is a country that is largely bereft of opportunity. He wants me to believe that America is a country with a fatally flawed economic model that favors the few at the expense of the many. A country in need of radical change and the massive intervention of government.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
Let’s look at some history.
In 1789, the year that the United States adopted its current constitution, the social model it was adopting was radically new. Everywhere in the old world of Europe, the government consisted of a top-down model headed by a king or a czar or a potentate of some description.
Politicians in today’s America rail against a poverty rate of approximately 12 percent. In 18th century Europe, the poverty rate exceeded 80 percent. Kings and nobility and an extremely small cohort of landowners rarely comprised as much as 20 percent of the population. The remaining 80-plus percent were peasants. They worked land they did not own. The retained very little of what they produced and they suffered crushing poverty from which there was no possible escape.
America’s model of bottom-up government, coupled with widespread freehold tenure of property, in other words individual ownership of land, was a radically different model that was given little chance of success in the late 18th century.
But succeed it did and by the late part of the 19th century, Europeans left the hopelessness of the land of their fathers in droves and came to America with nothing but the promise of the freedom to try to make it on their own.
Yes, Senator Obama, there is poverty and suffering in America. There is today and there was yesterday and there will be tomorrow. But Senator, poverty and hopelessness do not define America. Poverty and hopelessness are the exception. And America was the first country on earth to make this so.
I, Senator, believe in the American miracle. Want proof? You don’t need statistics. You need to go to a Brookshire’s. Or an Albertson’s. Or whatever grocery store you can find close by.
You will learn by walking through any randomly chosen American supermarket that there is no more productive worker on the planet than the American farmer. No industry on earth gets more output per unit of input than American agriculture. As a result, food is abundant and cheap. For little more than the change in your pocket, any grocery store will sell you more food calories than any nutritionist would recommend that you eat.
Or how about this. Go to Europe or Asia or the Middle East and try to find the equivalent of a Carnegie Hall or a Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Where is the analogue to Tyler’s Cowan Center in any city comparable in size to Tyler anywhere in France? What is London’s answer to Dallas’s Scottish Rite Hospital for Children?
It amazes me that the first thing an American does when he or she succeeds is start giving money away. It amazes me that in America medical and scientific breakthroughs, soaring accomplishments in the arts and care for people who can’t afford it are all taking place using buildings and resources that were freely given as gifts.
American generosity is unique in the world and unique in all of history.
America has problems. We always have and we always will. But our problems do not define us. America is defined by its creativity, its generosity, its optimism and by its on-going success in making prosperity available to the masses. We were the first country to do it and we are still the best in the world at it.
Not for nothing do we have an immigration problem.
If a politician hustles your vote based on his or her stated belief that he or she is the answer to widespread despair that doesn’t really exist, you are being sold a bill of goods. Don’t buy it.
That’s my word. What’s yours?