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And let’s not forget what’s obscured by Obama’s class-warfare rhetoric: the simple fact that the economic disaster waiting down the road is not the lack of revenue, but the explosion of spending on entitlements. According to the Heritage Foundation, by 2050 spending on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Obamacare will reach 19% of GDP, an amount that would devour all federal tax revenue at current rates. Given the popularity of Obama’s call to raise taxes on the “rich,” however, these fact-deficient appeals suggest that many voters either don’t understand those facts or don’t care, as long as their own interests are served.
Since Obama has worsened our economic troubles by increasing both budget deficits and entitlement spending––under his watch, the number of Americans living in households receiving government aid has jumped to 50%–– his only reelection strategy is to ignore economic fact. Instead, he must play on the irrational emotions of class envy, and make veiled promises to give even more money to the “takers” by filching it from the “makers.” Such behavior validates the criticisms of democracy from antiquity to the American founders. They had the example of ancient Athens, where by the mid-4thcentury B.C. every citizen was receiving state money almost every day of the year, and state funds were directed toward “public festivals and sacrifices,” as the historian Theopompus said, instead of national defense. How similar to our country today, where defense spending is facing a $1 trillion reduction over the next decade, even as Obamacare will cost $2.6 trillion, without any assurance that it will reduce costs or improve health care.
So are we Americans the “mob” or “dunces and weaklings” of democracy’s critics? Some data seem to suggest at least many of us are. By all historical indicators, given the sorry state of the economy Obama should be heading for McGovern-like disaster, losing to Romney in November by 5%. Yet polls show Obama virtually even with Romney, and his “likability” numbers are 20 points higher than Romney’s. Could it be that, like the Athenian Assembly in Thucydides, nearly half of our citizens––those millions benefitting from federal largesse at some level––are motivated by their own short-term self-interests no matter how damaging to our national future, and manipulated by appeals to irrational class hatred, class-envy, and unworkable utopian visions of cost-free equality and affluence?
We’ll see in November. Meanwhile there are other signs that enough Americans are not “dunces and weaklings.” The continuing influence of the Tea Party, recently evident in the surprise nomination of Ted Cruz to run for the Senate in Texas, suggests that this truly populist movement for fiscal sanity and traditional virtues will be as effective in November as it was in the 2010 midterm elections. The mass demonstrations in support of Chick-fil-A executive Dan Cathy’s First Amendment rights are another sign that a critical mass of Americans are sick of the totalitarian arrogance of progressives and eager to fire the Progressive-in-Chief. Perhaps these are portents of a renewed vigor and virtue among the American people that will prove democracy’s critics wrong.
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