The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal writes about the dark mood that has enveloped many business people outside the Washington beltway. She writes:
The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes. The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.

Many of us in the Center watch national politicians act like spoiled children. They spend trillions without any concern about the long-term effects of debt. They tax—but only millionaires (they claim)—forgetting that there aren’t enough millionaires to pay for their excesses. They lie (there is no polite way to characterize it) in an effort to convince the masses that their profligate ways are “paid for” and that government revenue (taxes) will be collected only from the “rich” to be redistributed to the “poor.” Their abject irresponsibility is breathtaking, but the funny thing is, like all spoiled children, they live in a fantasy world of unlimited resources and expanding benefits.

Peggy Noonan asks a core question and then tries to answer it:
Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.

They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.

But there’s more too it than that. Far too many of the political class in Washington have never done anything but work for government or in positions connected to government. They’ve never held a real non-governmental job, never met a payroll, never grappled with limits imposed by forces that impact what you can borrow, what you can spend, and how you can acquire revenue.

That’s the profile of our President and a significant number of influential members of congress. It’s the profile of people who have lived privileged lives, gone to elite schools, and then graduated to become “leaders.” The real question is: where are they leading us?