The Last Chance
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) sent President Obama a letter last week in which he said, "More and more people have come to believe that America is becoming a deadbeat nation." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran into a buzz saw last week when he said,
"The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple -- food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp president in American history. More people are on food stamps today because of Obama's policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history."
On his website, Mitt Romney said,
"[U]nless we curb Washington's appetite for spending, the national debt will grow to the size of our entire economy this year."
Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) understands the problem, too. He has proposed cutting federal spending by $5 trillion over the next five years. That's more than any of his competitors for the GOP nomination.
Rubio, Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum are on the same page where fiscal responsibility is concerned, and all three of them are correct. President Obama has done more than any president in modern history to enshrine living on the dole as an integral part of the American Dream, and Romney was correct when he warned that our debt would grow to the size of our national economy "this year." It happened in August 2011.
In my book If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot, I put it a little differently. I refer to the U.S. as a freeloader nation:
"Not only do we spend too much money, but ... half of our population pays no federal income taxes. They freeload off people who do pay taxes. The wealthy among us, people that the Obamanistas like to blame for our fiscal problems, pay for almost everything we do as a nation, and the president thinks they should pay more. The scary part is that we've promised to spend so much more money in the future that the wealthy don't have enough resources to pay for all the promises we've made."
Obviously, Rubio, Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum agree with me, but I'll go one step further: we may have passed the point of no return. Today, people like to use the phrase "the tipping point." It's a term that was introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point. According to Gladwell,
"The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do....The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point." (Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little Brown and Company, New York, 2000, pp. 7 and 9.)
Gladwell uses metaphors from the medical profession because they describe what's taking place perfectly. He uses the word "contagion," for instance, to describe an idea at the embryonic stage. That's when a few people are infected, but they don't pose a major threat to the larger population. However, some contagions do spread beyond confined borders and become "epidemics" that have the potential to kill thousands or even millions of people.
Ideas spread the same way. They originate in small communities (the contagion stage), and if they have legs, they take off and "infect" the larger population (the epidemic stage). For instance, that's what Facebook did. The company started out in a college dorm room as an idea in the mind of one man, Mark Zuckerberg, and it spread to the entire world in less than 10 years. It's been reported that the "Arab Spring" that engulfed the Middle East in 2011 was driven along by ordinary people who communicated with each other via Facebook.
Our political leaders have infected this nation and some would argue the rest of the world as well with a deadly virus that has the potential to alter the course of human events, and not for the better. Food stamps, welfare, and seemingly permanent unemployment support are only part of the problem. Our government has lavished entire segments of our society with largess that makes absolutely no sense from a fiscal or moral perspective. Ethanol is an excellent case in point, but it is by no means the only example. In my book, I say,
"President Obama has a 'green energy' fetish, and its effect on food prices shouldn't be minimized because food and energy inflation are taking a big bite out of US consumers' paychecks, and they are contributing to world hunger. Consider ethanol, for example. For the 2011-2012 marketing year, the US has mandated that 13 billion gallons of biofuels will be produced -- almost all of it coming from corn. At a minimum, 4.65 billion bushels of US corn will be diverted to ethanol production, thus depriving a hungry world of that precious source of nutrients and driving up the price of corn for those who can afford to buy it."
If ethanol were a good substitute for gasoline, increasing ethanol production despite its effect on commodity prices might make sense, but it's not. Ethanol production reduces tax revenue from the sale of gasoline; it drives up the price of gasoline at the pump and contributes to inflation; it damages vehicles and increases repair costs; and it robs the world of a food staple. The only thing that ethanol has going for it is a president with a "green energy" fetish. If the decision to blend ethanol with gasoline had been made based on the merits of the case, there would be no ethanol blend fuel on the U.S. market today, and as I said, ethanol is just one example. There are many, many others.
Thankfully, Congress has started the process of ending "the era of big taxpayer support for biofuels," but the battle is far from over. In fact, it's just beginning. Every line item in the federal budget needs to be carefully scrutinized to identify wasteful spending, and Congress has to summon up the courage to make the necessary cuts. But that's not enough. We need a president who realizes that we can't continue on our current path because it leads to insolvency or worse. President Obama is definitely not that person.
Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily. His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.