The moment the TV networks declared Barack Obama the president-elect, something wonderful happened. The perception of the United States changed around the world. America was the international good guy again. There was dancing in the streets of the great cities of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Happy times are here again. At least I hope so. I believe Obama can be a great president, as great as FDR in battling many of the same kinds of problems. I hope that we Americans can soon be dancing in the streets, too.
Obviously, my feelings are in the minority in most of the Old South, which Obama lost. A load of e-mails and letters have explained to me Southern angst about Obama. I understand the feelings, even if I don't agree. I am a Southerner and a cracker. I know where the anxiety is rooted.
I received one note from an old friend, which sums up rational fears and loathing of the coming Obama era. My pen pal asked for anonymity. Please read his note, and see what you think. Please don't write. I am into serious overload now.
Dear Shipp: This is being written on the eve of election night 2008, where it has become obvious that Barack Obama will be our next president. In addition, both the House and the Senate will have increased Democratic majorities.
So why do I take time to write you this letter? It's to say you were right.
Some three years back, I asked you what our society would look like in 30 years. Your answer was something like "our country will be similar to how Western European countries govern now. The government will provide extensive services to its people from birth to death, but taxes will be much higher."
So now I have other questions I need you to answer.
How did our society change so quickly? If I had told you 25 years ago that a black man, from a mixed-race couple, who admitted to cocaine abuse, who associated with a known domestic terrorist, who sat for 20 years in front of a preacher that said G--- D--- America to his congregation and who said everyone is better off if the wealth is redistributed would be elected president, what would you have said?
What happened to the famous Democratic mantra "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" that Kennedy so eloquently stated?
Why would anyone want government to provide our health care? Is government not the most inefficient organization to provide any service?
Why did the Republicans not make it clear that the genesis of the financial meltdown we have just experienced was Democratic-based? The pressure on banks and on Fannie and Freddie to make or guarantee "subprime" loans came mainly from the Democratic Party. Why would any business want to make a "subprime" loan?
So here we are at the Turning Point. To paraphrase the famous quote, Democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. To me, this election is our defining moment in the turn to socialism.
To fund all the promises government has already made plus the new ones promised by Barack Obama, tax rates will have to go up on a much larger percentage of the population than the 5 percent Obama has promised. But other changes will come. Many government payments will probably go to a "means testing" system. If the recipient has other means, then the government payments will be reduced. Don't be surprised to see Social Security benefits or Medicare benefits reduced if you have certain amounts of interest, dividend or retirement income. But those that haven't saved and have little other income will receive full benefits.
The same means testing will apply to the tax you pay. Already, 85 percent of Social Security benefits are taxable if you have a certain level of other income. It had always been stated that since your contribution to Social Security was not deductible, the later receipt of benefits would not be taxable. But now we have means testing. In the future, this same concept will apply to veterans' benefits, Roth IRA distributions and a variety of non-taxed benefits.
Means testing always punishes the person that has been industrious and saved and has accumulated some level of wealth. It also rewards those who have not.
All of this to ask, how do I convince my children to work harder and invest wisely so they can make more income? But by so doing, they will be taxed at higher rates now and at retirement will receive less in government benefits (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) than those that didn't save.
I am desperately awaiting your answer.
Answer: I am working on it.
Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. E-mail him at email@example.com.