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President Obama and Superman Statue in Metropolis, Illinois (wiki)
We all grow up watching and daydreaming about superheroes to one extent or another. That wonderful suspension of disbelief is a big part about what makes being a kid so special. A good friend of mine growing up never took off his Superman cape. He had the underoos too. But when his father challenged him to fly off the deck attached to their house, even the kid with the cape knew what was possible and what was pure fantasy. When it comes to science fiction and superhero lore, it’s healthy for people to explore the idea of being able to do much more than we mere mortals are capable of doing.
Unfortunately, it seems that in some ways the fantasy world we clung to as children has survived in the minds of government officials in Washington and elected leaders across the country. The result is not the ability to leap tall buildings at a single bound, but rather a crisis of confidence that is shaking the very foundations of American freedom.
Confidence in our government is at near record lows despite the fact that our misguided government aims to do more for more people than ever before. Both parties have been trying to play the part of Superman for far too long and the result is a bloated, chaotic, overreaching that government Americans can no longer afford. That’s true with or without the sequester.
A Gallup poll last fall showed that nearly half of Americans have little to no confidence in government to do what is right when it comes to domestic policy. In 1972 that number was only 29 percent. It would follow that the more you over-promise and under-deliver, the more skeptical the public will be. Then throw into the mix, a fiscal crisis, a jobs crisis and the fact that more Americans are starting to wake up to the fact that regardless of tax bracket, they’re paying for failure on a host of fronts – and you have the makings for a disconnected, cynical electorate.
Americans simply don’t expect the government to solve every problem for them. They expect to live in a nation where freedom is protected and their individual gifts are allowed to realize their full expression. They expect to be able to get a job, work hard and have the security that permits them to thrive. Yet their leaders perpetuate this farce that government can be all things to all people.
The President’s State of the Union and January’s Inaugural Address are just two recent examples of this Superman complex among our elected officials. Of course, it’s not fair to beat up on just Obama when both Republicans and Democrats have been guilty promising everything to everyone.
It’s time someone actually leveled with the American people – especially the more than 20 million who are out of work or underemployed. It’s time someone had the courage to tell Americans that it’s simply beyond the institutional competency or fiscal prudence of the government to handle the range of issues politicians talk about with such pathological optimism.
Let’s use Obama’s address a couple of weeks ago as an example. The President’s speech dealt with new government policies, programs or funding for education, immigration, voter reform, climate change, gun control, the minimum wage, job creation, healthcare, entitlements, defense and foreign policy. I’m sure I’m missing a few.
Here’s the problem that Washington doesn’t realize – every year fewer and fewer Americans are buying the notion that government will solve these problems. It’s just talk. It’s fantasy. It’s a bunch of rich, mostly white men trying to play Superman with your money. They’ve taxed, borrowed and spent us all to the brink of economic ruin without solving the most pressing problems of our time, yet they still wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see that red cape fluttering in the breeze.
There is a clear miscalculation concerning what most people want or expect and what government is attempting to provide.
I don’t expect Progressives to leave the superheroes to the comic book writers, but fiscal conservatives have an opportunity to help change the dialogue by focusing their attention on the issues Americans believe are the most important. They should pick two and charge forward with them.
A Quinnipiac University poll in early February revealed that 35 percent of U.S. voters said the economy was their top concern, and 20 percent pointed to the federal deficit. The poll also found that more than half of the respondents felt the U.S. economy was still in a recession even though economists have said the downturn officially ended in July 2009. Gun control polled at only 15 percent and healthcare was even lower. In short, people think government is too big and too expensive while, the job market is still too sluggish for too many Americans. Don’t take Quinnipiac’s word for it. All of the major polling agencies had similar findings.
Yet do you hear a real plan from the President or the Congress to make America more competitive, to create an environment that will produce jobs, or to give people greater opportunity to provide for their families? I don’t.
The crisis of confidence doesn’t just come from a lack of focus and overreach. It comes from a belief that Americans aren’t that bright. After all, the electorate is responsible for permitting the runaway borrowing, spending, taxation and regulation we’ve seen over the last forty years.
To the contrary, the American people know that Congress can barely agree on what day it is, let alone solve all of those problems. What conservatives and libertarians must do now to frame the policy debate is focus like a laser on policies that will help create jobs. More gun laws? More good money thrown after bad for education? More funding for windmills and electric cars? Immigration reform that would force massive increases in government spending? Like Nancy Reagan said, “Just say No,” – at least until other more pressing work is done.
Americans are tired of the D.C. Beltway’s warped view of the possible and the practical. Americans don’t want nor do they expect Supermen to run the country. Most of them just want some political courage that will help give people confidence in their government and in their own ability to make the American dream a reality.
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