America faces a philosophical "cliff" even more dangerous than the impending "fiscal cliff."
The highest stake in the game of chicken between President Obama and the Republicans isn’t money—it is mindset.
Throughout its history, America has been richer or poorer in money. But what has made our country so exceptional, from its founding, has been a constant store of philosophical wealth. In America, a person’s wealth (whether material or spiritual) used to be defined by a dedication to the virtue of striving.
What made every American great was a belief in potential—a belief that there are no limits to what an individual can produce for him (or her) self, instead of relying on a government to give away, take away and redistribute. It was a belief that abundance is virtually limitless in human capability, but it is unvirtuously limited by big government.
In Obama’s new abnormal America, the national diet for many citizens is changing from high fiber ambition for upward mobility to high fat consumption of an ever-expanding gravy boat of entitlements, ladled out by ceaseless government spending.
As The Heritage Foundation points out, “Today, more people than ever before—67.3 million Americans, from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries—depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and other civil society institutions.”
Federal entitlements consume 62 percent of federal outlays—the highest level in our nation’s history. The Declaration of Independence that created America is being distorted into a Declaration of Dependency encouraged by President Obama. This is not just a crisis of the wallet. It is a crisis of the soul.
What is happening now—the way in which Mr. Obama really wants to “fundamentally transform America”—is that he wants to use the fiscal cliff to propel us over a far more perilous philosophical cliff, which is bottomless in its destructive depth.
I can only conclude that the president is trying to transform America from a society of aspiration to a society of envy—and if that happens, America risks falling into a philosophical poverty that could starve our country’s uniqueness to death.
People who love our country should be advocating that we become an Opportunity Society. Resentment of achievement, resentment of success, resentment that people differ in their capabilities and acquisitions, fosters a Misfortune Society. That is a zero sum society, where anyone’s striving and accomplishment necessarily turns someone else into a victim. And in a Misfortune Society, victims must be made whole with pieces taken from so-called “unfair” victors, to be poured into more government spending and more entitlements to insure that voters keep “investing” in the big government that subsidizes them.
There is a difference between fair share and sharing fairly. America has a progressive system of the fair share that citizens give up to government, regardless of whether it is in the form of money or government control.
But President Obama wants to stretch that fair share to an unfair point. Instead of citizens admiring success and thinking that with a combination of hard work and limitless opportunity they, too, could achieve the heights of others, Mr. Obama wants to create a citizenry that's indignant about the success of others. He wants people to believe that someone else’s wealth or possessions of any kind must be punished by being diminished and redistributed, according to the president's standards of “fairness.”
What is lost in this warfare of extraction is that you can confiscate and redistribute money or any other kinds of resources. But you cannot insure that wealth and resources will grow and perpetuate unless people have the philosophy—the mindset and attitude—that they will leverage opportunity to personally produce more and more of what they desire. Just as you cannot tax and spend your way to prosperity, you cannot tax and spend away the innate ambition of Americans and expect prosperity to flourish.
America can survive falling off the fiscal cliff. But America cannot survive as the engine of hope, change, growth and leadership for the world if it falls down the philosophical cliff that President Obama wants to create.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.