Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.
The three Republican front-runners are now each out with tax proposals. Herman Cain has been selling his 9-9-9 plan. Rick Perry came out this week with a plan centered on a flat 20 percent tax rate. Mitt Romney has had for some time a 160 page, 59-point manifesto on taxes and the economy.
None, in my opinion, has yet touched many hearts nor quickened many pulses.
That’s because more and more Americans are coming to realize that our problems are much, much deeper than policy. What’s in play in this election is philosophy. And that makes it more like a constitutional convention than a political election.
When the country was born, the founders argued vehemently about where to draw the line on the limits of government. If the limits were set too narrowly, the government would be too weak and would thus be ineffectual and the union would fail. But if given too much latitude, the resulting government would, by the very nature of government, tend toward the tyranny from which the fledgling nation had just fought to be liberated.
This philosophical argument, this moment – vigorous and heated – gave us a constitution comprising a spare framework for the conduct of commerce and justice that otherwise pretty much got out of the way.
Independent self-reliance was the cornerstone of the American experiment. There were no safety nets and if you failed, life could be very hard. But fear of failure and its consequences has the virtue of focusing one’s mind and energies. Thus focused, America became strong and proud.
Yet, partly as a perverse result of America’s massive economic success, the country gradually became of two minds.
On the one hand was the independence and self-reliance that gave America the strength to overcome the depression, win World War II, rebuild the nations it had just defeated and to become the wealthiest nation in history.
On the other hand a wealthy society, with the best of intentions, made it possible for those not just unable but actually unwilling to be self-reliant, to become instead dependent on the government for their daily needs. The once unthinkable idea that one could have shelter, food, medical care, transportation and creature comfort without having to put forth any effort at all, took hold.
Fatherless homes, rampant drug use, unlivable neighborhoods, soaring illegitimacy, generational dependence and a bankrupt treasury soon followed.
The candidates are busy bashing one another on tax policy and immigration policy and health care policy and this or that policy. None has yet reached critical mass with the voters.
And none seems to recognize the moment. The moment is, I believe, of nearly as much consequence as the moment that gave us the constitution.
We have, over a period of decades, gradually mitigated the risks attendant to economic freedom to too great a degree. The result is a cancerous nanny-statism, now of unsustainable proportion, that is threatening America’s very existence.
I’m waiting for Romney or Perry or Cain to recognize that this election is different. I’m waiting for one to depart from the conventional political wisdom.
I’m waiting for one to express anew the founders’ philosophical belief in the power of independence and self-reliance.
I’ll care about tax policy later. Right now, I’m waiting for one of them to express heartfelt belief in the creative energy of the American people and to then campaign on that belief.
If one of them has the courage to do that, I believe that a concerned and reawakened American people will make him their next president, and a very consequential one at that.