Suddenly, with few exceptions, everyone’s a conservative. Even Tom Brokaw suggested that he, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings were probably centrists. The entire ship of state is listing starboard. Ballast is scarce…Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Richard Gephardt and Arlen Specter.
Gone are the phrases “tax fairness” and “economic security,” replaced by a Contract with America that suggests real security is provided by one’s own work and acumen. “And inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things of right belongs to those whose labor has produced them…To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government.” (Abraham Lincoln, Dec. 1, 1847)
We should not, however, deceive ourselves into thinking that the Contract with America is an end product. Rather, it should the prelude for meaningful reforms that have yet to be addressed. Welfare reform that does not drastically reduce the number of qualified applicants will be meaningless. The present system was designed as a political payoff and is so inclusive that it encourages the able-bodied to choose welfare support as an alternative to earning a wage. The cost should be measured not only in dollars, but also in terms of the loss to the human spirit.
Our system of taxation is a national disgrace. I have a 25 year-old son who recently took a job in sales. This week he received his first commission check. A commission check is different than a salary check in that it directly reflects one’s achievement for a specified period. He had accepted the challenge of measuring himself by his production and enthusiastically looking forward to his first real payday. I will never get over the look of defeat in his face as showed me his paystub…48% to the governments, and 52% for himself. I could only say “I’m sorry.” It hardly seemed sufficient.
The point is not my son, but rather a more far reaching realization that we ought not allow ourselves to be slaves to the state. Devolution of the spirit accompanies the promise of something for nothing just as readily as does the confiscation of the fruits of one’s labor. Either course places on higher value on parity than on liberty, and the protection of liberty is the first role of government.
We are not a nation of whiners and wimps, but one of industry and accomplishment. A government that punishes virtue and encourages vice can not prosper. We may not yet be conservative enough.