Last weekend as America celebrated the 234th anniversary of its independence from Britain, there was a reminder of how increasingly dependent too many Americans have become on our government.
The New York Times headline read: ‘‘Illinois Stops Paying Its Bills, but Can’t Stop Digging Hole.’’
The Land of Lincoln has become a land of mounting debt: $5.01 billion to be exact. That may not seem like much compared to the growing federal debt — calculated on the National Debt Clock at midday July 4 at $13,189,792,856,331.20 — but as the late Illinois Republican Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen is reputed (but never proven) to have said, ‘‘A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.’’
Illinois’ Comptroller, Daniel W. Hynes, says the $5.01 billion is what the state owes to schools, rehabilitation centers, child care, the state university and he told the New York Times, ‘‘it’s getting worse every single day.’’ He calls the state’s inability to pay for essential services ‘‘obscene.’’
The real obscenity — in Illinois, California, New York and especially Washington, D.C., is an inability to live within the means taxpayers provide. Despite record high taxes in these states and more coming at the federal level, government never has enough of our money. But it isn’t all government’s fault. Too many Americans have come to rely on government to take care of them and government has passed the point where it can do so any longer.
Politicians, whose sole aim is re-election, behave like enabling parents, giving the children whatever they want hoping for ‘‘love’’ in return, or in this case votes. The obituary of Senator Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, said he served more time in Congress than anyone else. That, too, is an obscenity. The Founders did not intend public service to become self-service.
The definition of ‘‘addiction’’ best describes our increasing reliance on government: ‘‘Complete physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (heroin, nicotine, or alcohol), characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.’’ Just substitute ‘‘government’’ for the drugs and ‘‘psychological’’ for ‘‘physiological’’ and you have characterized our addiction to government. There are toll-free hotlines for drug addicts who wish to get clean. Who do you call to break free of an addiction to government? Certainly not the politicians; they’re the pushers.
This is classic co-dependency. Politicians tell people what they want to hear and voters elect them out of a sense of entitlement to other people’s money. If you are successful and resist, you are called greedy, uncaring and a Republican! This class warfare has enriched the politicians who practice it, but it is impoverishing America.
Too many expect too much from government and too little from themselves. It used to be the other way around, but concepts such as initiative, self-control, frugality, persistence, honor, integrity and virtue went out about the time baby boomers began their cultural counterinsurgency.
The reason so few jobs are being created in the private sector (the labor force is shrinking and unemployment is more than 10 percent, if those who have given up looking for work are included) is because government has grown too big and is strangling the private sector which is uncertain about the cost of Obamacare and tax hikes.
The progressives want more reliance on government and less self-reliance. But this is not what America needs. Republicans, should they regain a majority in Congress this fall, and the White House in 2012, must have a serious talk with their fellow countrymen.
We can’t go on like this. We can’t keep spending and taxing. We must stop asking our country to do more for us and begin doing more for ourselves.
Is there a visionary who will say and then do such things, regardless of the political consequences? He (or she) could quote Thomas Jefferson: ‘‘To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.’’
E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.