Leaders Among Us

The time for pretense has passed.  As a nation, we are on the cusp of an economic cataclysm if immediate steps are not taken to correct our unbalanced national checkbook.  As our debt already spirals out of control, the specter of the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, looms ominously on the horizon.  When the retirement of the baby boom generation hits with blunt force, our economic state will be in shambles and our country will default.

These problems do not appear lost on President Obama.  Congratulating himself for bringing us out of a recession, he has touted a new era of fiscal sobriety.  But after telling Tea Party Americans that he was going to "call their bluff" and propose "difficult choices" to get our runaway deficits under control, what did the president offer in terms of a budget?  He put forth a plan that would see the federal government borrow more money in his four years than under the previous 43 presidents combined.  And what tough choices did he recommend to rectify the massive unfunded liabilities that are preparing to devour our economy?  None.

The president's budget is such a disgrace that even Evan Thomas, the Newsweek writer who once compared Obama to God, called it a "profile in cowardice."  Obama has called for a scalpel to be taken to federal spending when a fleet of jackhammers and buzz saws are in order.  Knowing the calamity that awaits us, he prefers to mortgage our children's future in order to avoid the necessary cuts that might jeopardize his own re-election bid.  That's not hope.  That's not change.  That's not leadership.

But all is not lost.  Despite the miserable failure in the Oval Office, there are leaders among us.  They are emerging in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.  Indeed, while most political analysts were focusing on the historic turnover in the U.S. Congress, the most significant impact of the 2010 midterm elections is proving to be what happened in statehouses and governor mansions around the country.  There, the people handed the machinery of government over to the Republican Party with one demand: stop telling us what we want to hear simply to get elected, and start telling us what must be done to save our Republic.

That's precisely what Governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and New Jersey's Chris Christie are doing.  At a recent town hall event, Governor Christie bluntly told the audience, "We have big problems in this state. And it's time to deal with them."  Christie later went on to explain how state benefits were "too generous" and had to be reprioritized.  These are not things that the recipients of those benefits are going to greet warmly.  But they are things that true leaders must be willing to say.

The same is true in Wisconsin.  No one could make the argument that it was a politically easy decision to take on the state teachers' unions.  But Governor Walker recognized that his state was broke, and the exorbitant and unparalleled benefits going to state employees like teachers were largely responsible.  Consequently, he made the tough choice to call for modest cuts in those benefits only to incur the wrath of union activists and opportunistic Democrats throughout the country. 

Angry teachers walked off the job, lied to their employers by calling in sick, and paraded around with signs demanding that the Governor relent to their demands to continue shackling the children of Wisconsin (ironically the same children these teachers supposedly committed their lives to serving) with the cost of their full pension and healthcare costs.

Seizing upon this opportunity to choose cheap political points over leadership, Minnesota Democrat Representative Keith Ellison called Walker a dictator, liberal columnist Paul Krugman labeled him a third-world oligarch, and Massachusetts Democrat Representative Michael Capuano rallied the union mob equipped with signs touting crosshairs over Walker's face to "get a little bloody when necessary."  That's apparently the new era of civility they've been preaching. 

For his part, Obama dispatched senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to tell MSNBC, "The president thinks...we should sit together with the unions...We're all having to tighten our belts, but we ought to be able to do that in a constructive way."  Pray tell, how do you tighten your belt in a "constructive way?"  This is political hackery and rhetorical rubbish coming from an administration that is scared spitless at the thought of having to deny anyone their taxpayer funded goodies.

Democrats around the country are employing a new strategy of "No temper tantrum un-pitched, no pouting fit un-thrown," by fleeing the legislatures in Indiana and Wisconsin in order to obstruct the democratic process.  Yes, the same party that recently chided Republicans as the "Party of No," now resorts to hiding in neighboring states to avoid doing their jobs.

The Preamble to the Constitution charges us with the solemn responsibility to "preserve the blessings of liberty" not just for ourselves, but to our posterity.  Democrats from the White House to the statehouse have chosen to use their moment in history to cushion their own blessings at the cost of our children's liberty.  History will judge them harshly for their selfishness.  In the meantime, thank goodness there are men like Christie and Walker to lead us past them.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana. Email peter@peterheck.com or visit www.peterheck.com.