Americans are far from enthusiastic about the state of the national economy at this time. And rightly so. More than 14 million of them are unemployed, and many of these have been unemployed for more than six months. In June 2011, 45.2 million Americans received food stamps – close to an all-time record number. The Census Bureau reports that 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2010 – a 17 year high.
A recent independent poll found that 77 per cent of Americans believe that the country is in recession. If this belief is factually correct, it implies that the country has slipped into a double-dip recession. And it has done so because of misguided economic policies promoted and imposed by the federal government, most especially since September 2008.
The angst that naturally attaches to such an apparently bleak situation undoubtedly embraces a large majority of the population – as it should. Unfortunately, it accentuates an already-existing political divide that threatens to balkanize the United States – a divide between makers and takers within the political system:
Consider today’s economic reality. Last year, 47 percent of Americans paid no federal income tax. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly half (48.5 percent) of all Americans received ‘some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010,’ according to census data, making American families ‘more dependent on government than ever.’ Matt Mackowiak, ‘Makers, takers and occupiers’. The Washington Times, October 26, 2011
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Americans are roughly divided between those who are net contributors to the federal government – the makers – and those who are net recipients from the federal government – the takers. Not everyone will split accordingly into supporters of limited, fiscally responsible government, on the one hand, and into supporters of unlimited, fiscally irresponsible government, on the other. Traditionally, that has not been the American way. But one cannot ignore the reality that political incentives lie somewhat in that direction.
In such circumstances, given the economic reality that America must balance its federal budget and drive down its indebtedness if Americans are to compete successfully in the global market-place, one would expect that the President would lead the nation to confront its fiscal imbalances, while reassuring the takers that this is the only road to their becoming makers in the not-too-long-distant future.
Alas! President Obama has chosen to abdicate such leadership and instead to pursue re-election in 2012 by accentuating the political divide between the makers and the takers, pressing for tax increases on the makers and for deficit-enhancing expenditure increases targeted at the takers:
Class warfare may make for useful political rhetoric, but one inconvenient fact persists: As Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity has said, ‘I never got a job from a poor person.’ Matt Mackowiak, ibid.
Fundamentally, all Americans are in this crisis together and, as Abraham Lincoln so wisely pointed out 150 years ago, ‘A House divided against itself cannot stand.’
An effectively working capitalist system is the only route forward for this great nation. For that to happen, self-seeking politicians had better stand aside and allow the restorative impulses of laissez-faire capitalism to work their magic, as they have done so many times in the past.
As the economy pulls itself out of recession, many of the takers will become makers and a working political majority will reinforce the shift of the United States out of state crony- capitalism into laissez-faire capitalism as a stable political as well as economic reality.