National Review’s Jim Geraghty:
If indeed, this election turns on whether the American people are willing to hear hard truths they don’t want to hear, it may be worth asking how our society reached the point where so many people are so resistant to hearing these sorts of hard truths: You can’t spend more than you have. There aren’t many substitutes for working hard. You can’t rely on someone else to improve the quality of your life — particularly not the government. Government cannot be Santa Claus. There is no free lunch.
When we look at the current worsening problems of our country, what’s particularly infuriating is how predictable they were, and how many folks have been sounding the alarms, only to have most of our leaders, inside and outside of government, ignore those warnings. Throughout the 1990s, the threat of al-Qaeda metastasized and grew; our government responded by launching cruise missiles at tents. Our growth in the past decade was fueled by an unsustainable housing bubble, predictable to anyone buying a house and seeing the tax assessment increase by $100,000 per year. Way too many of our schools stink, and we’ve been only half-responsive since A Nation at Risk, a 1983 presidential report that “warned that the education system was ‘being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.’” Children from broken homes can grow into happy, productive, well-adjusted adults — but the odds are much tougher. A popular culture that celebrates materialism, instant gratification, self-absorption, and so on will sow the seeds for disappointment and frustration and displaced rage. If children grow up believing that rock stars, movie stars, and professional athletes are the most celebrated and glamorous roles in society, you will get many competing to play those roles — and fewer aspiring doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and inventors.
Now we face the “fiscal cliff,” a downgraded national credit rating, and more economic dark clouds on the horizon. The Tea Party was in large part an echo of the H. Ross Perot candidacy of 1992, worrying about runaway deficit spending and debt. Back then the national debt was $4 trillion. Now it’s $15.9 trillion; about $5.2 trillion has been added since January 20, 2009. …
Today’s political debates often include an element of elitism vs. populism: Do you trust the government or individuals? While many of us on the right yearn for a society with as much individual freedom and individual responsibility as possible, after witnessing enough mass stupidity, some Americans yearn for government to save people from the consequences of their own decisions. The Nanny State instinct is driven by all of our fellow citizens who demonstrate awful judgment. We’re not capable of knowing whether we can afford a house. We’re not capable of obtaining our own contraception. If you don’t take care of your health, the mayor of New York wants to take away your large sodas.
In political debates about “elitism,” someone will often ask whether you want an “elite” brain surgeon or whether you want an “everyman,” and someone else will respond that making good decisions in government is, quite literally, not brain surgery. …
Looking at our decades of failing to act on runaway entitlements, the growing debt, an ever-more complicated tax code, and failing schools, it is easy to conclude that the argument in favor of “elitism” would be stronger if our current crop of elites did a better job in their perches.