Monday, October 10, 2011

Op-Ed by Brett Lindstrom: American Exceptionalism

The Fight For American Exceptionalism

     For the first time in 235 years of our country’s existence our generation will have the shameful distinction of leaving our children worse off than we are. When we hand over the keys to tomorrow's leaders, we will have to do it with a sense of humility because we could not follow the simplest of rules as stewards of this great nation: “Do no harm."

     As a new father, I have become acutely aware of the very distinctly American virtue of always wanting your children to have a better lot in life than you. If your child does better, it is perceived as a direct reflection of your success as a parent and a source of pride. Sadly, it will be much more difficult for the next generation to surpass our generation in terms of success. What has happened on Capitol Hill over the last several years is nothing short of intergenerational theft. Our political system and, by extension, our politicians have seen fit to give away the farm to curry favor and buy votes through empty promises they cannot keep nor afford. The worst part is that we as voters have allowed it to occur because in some cases we were the benefactors of the perceived government generosity.  Unfortunately, the consequences of those actions will be borne by our children and our children's children.

     The concept of the American Dream, which was once the catalyst to our nation's success, has been diminished. The American Dream was attainable by those who would go the extra mile and those who would fight with every fiber of their being to obtain a piece of it. Now, after years of raising entitled generations, the American Dream is no longer something to strive for, rather it is something expected to be given out to all. We have created a welfare and dependent state that expects things to be handed out in lieu of becoming self-reliant.

     Making people reliant, and in some cases utterly dependent on the government, is great for politicians to get votes, but now as the costs of those promises are mounting up, we are currently reaping what we have sown.

     The ongoing debate over both our debt and the solution to our fiscal crisis is America’s proverbial fork in the road. Our choices are clear: do we empower future generations to be self-reliant and self-sufficient or do we continue to expand government because we feel our citizens are unable to take care of themselves? Do we actually believe government is better suited to meet our citizens’ needs than they themselves are?

Americans have a second chance to right the ship. We have on our hands nothing short of a fiscal calamity that will require a tremendous amount of political courage to meaningfully tackle the very real problems we face. We can no longer kick the can and ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room (out of control government spending).

     There are two schools of thought on how to solve the deficit and spending problems. The left would like you to believe that the best way to fix a leaky bucket is to add more water to it, i.e. raising taxes. The "right “solution is to fix the hole in the bucket first by meaningfully addressing spending.  We cannot realistically think that we are going to decrease the deficit by simply cutting discretionary spending which constitutes only 19% of federal outlays. All areas of the budget should be up for consideration. It is time politicians become less concerned with political self-preservation and become more concerned with making the tough decisions their constituents elected them to make. If there was ever a time to stop telling people what they want to hear and to start telling them what they need to hear, that time is now.

     I reflect daily on how truly blessed and fortunate I am to be born in this great nation. Conservatives need to take a stance and be on the right side of history. We all need to find our internal fortitude to demand more of ourselves and our elected officials in order to face this nation's financial woes head on. If you are truly passionate like I am about what it means to be an American, then we need to hold ourselves and our elected officials accountable.  We need to ensure the essence of the American ideology is preserved as our Founding Fathers intended it to be. Let us continue to lead the world with American Exceptionalism. After all, as President Reagan most aptly put it, America is truly "a shining city on a hill."