What is happening to our country? All of the virtues I grew up with and had drummed into me by parents, grandparents and culture are now being challenged and in many cases dismantled. They are being replaced by a socialist, entitlement, envy and redistribution philosophy that says government knows best and it will punish you by taking more of what you earn to give to those with less initiative, risk-taking and dedication than you have.

Tuesday night in Washington, I attended one of those dinners that are all too common in the nation’s capital, except this one was different. It was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute. High school students from across the country were given awards for essays they wrote on civic values, such as industry, responsibility, entrepreneurship, patriotism, loyalty and my personal favorite, limited government.

One of the speakers who preceded the awards ceremony was Jim Rees, the chief executive officer at Mt. Vernon. Rees quoted our first president: “There is no practice more dangerous than that of borrowing money; for when money can be had in this way, repayment is seldom thought of in time, the interest becomes a loss, exertions to raise it by dent of industry ceases, it becomes easy and is spent freely and many things are indulged in that would never be thought of if they were to be purchased by the sweat of the brow. In the meantime, debt is accumulating like a snow ball rolling.”

This congress and this president are violating George Washington’s sage advice. They might also remember the wisdom of another president, often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, but actually said by Gerald Ford: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

We are approaching that point now and it is a threat to individual liberty, the greatest civic, social and moral value of them all.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor.