With the painful awakening from the "change we can believe in" dream, America began to realize that Keynesian policies create much worse long-term problems than they solve in the short run. For several months now, our president has been under attack from friends and foes for his lack of leadership on what an increasing number of people perceive as the most important economic issue of this decade: our national debt. Some say that his speech last week was a pathetic attempt to portray himself as a visionary with a serious plan. Barack Obama's proposal to deal with the looming catastrophe was rightly labeled "hopelessly inadequate," but how adequate is Paul Ryan's initiative? Even though the debate has been shifted in the right direction and the Tea Party faction in the GOP has put a few good ideas on the table, our public servants are still light years away from finding the right path and developing a feasible exit strategy from the fiscal desert.
For more than two years I have been giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. I thought that he was a Dudley Do-Right confused about right and wrong under the influence of bad ideologies. It turns out that he has no ideology or, if he has one, he is not willing to fight for it. Depending on the prevalent feelings of the day and the make up of his audience, our "shapeshifter in chief" can eloquently move back and forth among socialist, interventionist, and free market motifs. In the blink of an eye, he can go from bashing capitalism and advocacy of "spreading the wealth around" to praising "free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity" and extolling his countrymen as "rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government," because he stands for his reelection above anything else.
Obama's self-interest tells him not to upset too many voters, and he is cunning enough to bank on the fact that we have not suffered enough to learn our lesson. I fear that the president is right and that while we "dislike government spending in the abstract," we are reluctant to take back the responsibility of providing as individuals, families, churches, and local communities much of what we have allowed our central government to buy for us during the last 80 years. So unless we get a crash course in the founding principles of this great republic, we should brace ourselves for at least four more years of the same inadequate debates.