In fact, there’s probably nothing that separates Americans so much as differences over just how big should be the role of government in our lives. There are two sides to this issue. And one can make good cases for more and for less government.
But this doesn’t happen. Instead, every real difference of policy, be it this one concerning the proper role of government, be it education, immigration, health care, any number of others, takes on the form of a shouting match between those for and those against, with no attention being paid to actual proposals from one side or the other.
During the campaigning going on right now President Obama and candidates Romney and Ryan are mostly concentrating on loudly putting down the other side, especially in the eyes of the voting public, while paying little attention to the substance of the other side’s proposals, and doing little to explain to that public the validity (and superiority) of their own side’s positions.
The Obama camp is shouting that Ryan-Romney will drastically cut if not remove the combination of old age and health care entitlements that the Federal government has put into place during the past 80 years or so, and that because of this the public should beware their being elected to office.
The Ryan-Romney camp is shouting no less loudly that Obama’s proposals would turn the country into another European-like failed welfare state. How? By seizing and then redistributing larger and larger percentages of the earnings of the entrepreneurial classes and thereby threatening the country’s only source of new wealth, the only source of a better life for all.
There are, in fact, legitimate policy positions on both sides. And Obama is probably no less supportive of the entrepreneurial classes than Romney. And Romney is probably no less interested in protecting the health and old age benefits of our parents and grandparents than Obama.
But there are differences between them, reasonable differences that ought to come out during the campaign, certainly in a debate between the candidates, but so far there is only the shouting match.
On the one side there is Paul Krugman who says: “Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV.”
Whereas if ever there were a serious man it is certainly Paul Ryan. In this regard, in regard to “seriousness,” he and President Obama have much in common. Even the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, became more “serious” when he chose Ryan as his vice-presidential candidate.
On the other side we hear, such as from Jennifer Rubin’s Right Turn Blog, this sort of thing: “Obama bemoans the negativity in the campaign while indulging in character assassination. In his mind his behavior is justified, we learn, because he thinks Mitt Romney is unfit for office and “weak.” …. Politico’s Glenn Thrush in a new e-book makes clear how far Obama has departed from hope and change. He’s now practicing search, smear and destroy.”
We’re told that Ryan (and Romney) are not serious, that Obama, rather than be serious, is directing a campaign of smearing and destroying his opponents. But don’t we know that the three, the four candidates are good men, and serious men? Does anyone really doubt this?
This is not to say that they are without weaknesses, without faults. But these four men do have “serious” views of the country, and what is best for the country, and their views should be heard. Drown out by the media shouting match they are not.
Ryan is serious. Maybe too serious. Isn’t he confronting head-on the challenge of the country’s burgeoning deficit? For it’s clear to him, just as it’s clear to everyone, that the cost, in particular the cost of the nation’s health care, is now more than the nation can bear without going further and further into unsupportable debt.
We all know that the nation’s health care expenditures will have to be cut. But so far the other side, the President’s side, instead of entering into a real debate regarding how the cuts might best be made and managed, accuse Ryan-Romney and the Republicans of wanting to take away essential health, old age, and other support benefits from the poor and the aged.
The President is no less serious. Hasn’t he made a number of serious proposals regarding the management of the country’s deficit, and in particular the cost of health care?
But time and time again the other side, especially and most recently the Republican majority in the house, has refused to talk, refused to even consider his proposals, let alone meet him halfway, while accusing him of wanting in each instance to expand the powers of the Federal government.
It may be that the President’s “shouting” during the campaign is mostly the result of the Republicans’ failure to ever consider his proposals seriously. The president wants to do the right thing.
This was made clear to me in the one instance, that of the so-called Dream Act, an act of the Congress that if passed would have allowed several millions of the children of illegal immigrants, who have been living in the country all if not most of their lives, to eventually become American citizens.
The President must have deplored the failure of the Congress to act. For by an executive order he made the essential part of the Dream Act a reality.
Well with these and other such thoughts going through my mind I read the following passage from today’s NYTimes:
“Thanks to a decades-long safety net, we have forgotten the trials of living without it. This is why … it’s easy for some to speak fondly of a world without government: we can’t fully imagine or recall what it’s like. We can’t really appreciate the horrors Upton Sinclair witnessed in the Chicago slaughterhouses before regulation, or the burden of living without Social Security and Medicare to look forward to. Thus, we can entertain nostalgia for a time when everyone pulled his own weight, bore his own risk, and was the master of his destiny. That time was a myth. But the notion of self-reliance is also a fallacy.”
Now wouldn’t this be something. That these words not simply remain in the opinion pages of the New York Times but that they reach the “conversation” between the candidates? What, I wonder, would Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan say to the idea that it was a myth that there ever was a time when everyone pulled his own weight, bore his own risk, and was the master of his destiny, or that the notion of self-reliance was a fallacy?