Sunday, April 04, 2010

Why I remain optimistic

To be sure, there are plenty of reasons for pessimism. Government spending and debt is rocketing upwards, the economy remains stalled and our freedoms are eroding at a frightening pace. The elected leadership of this country, meanwhile, reveals itself on an almost daily basis to be equal parts foolish and arrogant. It's difficult not to feel besieged and fear for the future.

Nevertheless I remain optimistic. Why? Because we still have elections. The American people neither voted for the current agenda nor endorse it. During the campaign Barack Obama spoke of both a net spending cut and tax cut for 95 percent of all Americans. While he called for reform of a health care system most people agree is badly in need of change, he spoke adamantly against a mandate for all Americans to purchase insurance. His platform of non-ideological pragmatism was nicely captured by this remark during his inaugural address:
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.
What followed, of course, was a massive expansion of government, as measured both by the money it spends and regulatory authority it wields. As its power has grown the approval of its leaders has receded:

Voter anger over the current state of affairs has also manifested itself at the ballot box, where Democrats have been dealt high-profile defeats in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virgina.

When one studies some of the great issues of the day and how they are perceived by the American people, the surge in disapproval becomes easy to understand. Economic stimulus legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama early last year -- the administration's signature achievement of 2009 -- is seen by most Americans as a waste. Health care reform, widely opposed by Americans prior to its passage, has become even more unpopular since being signed into law:

There isn't a post-passage bounce in the polls, or even signs of a "dead cat" bounce. Instead the cat has simply splattered all over the pavement. The legislation is becoming even more reviled as -- now passed -- Americans begin to find out what's in it.

If the American people voted in favor of a massive expansion of government, or provided their stamp of approval to the current agenda, I would be gravely concerned. This is not the case. Voters in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia have already been given the chance to send their message. In November the rest of the country will get a chance to send its own. It will not be kind to those in power.

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