RFFM.org Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director
Most of us who fall within the category of baby boomers can explain why small government and low taxation served our nation very well. At least we should be able to. A little more than a quarter century ago, the norm included one parent who brought home an income which supported an entire family. Of course, government programs, including the GI Bill, made it possible for millions of families to join the middle class after World War II. But, all the same, jobs in manufacturing were sufficient to bring reality to the well-turned phrase, "a rising tide lifts all boats."
My Father was a baker. He learned his skills in the Merchant Marines, before he plied his trade in the private sector after World War II. He made a salary sufficient to raise a family, buy a modest home in the suburbs and put away enough savings to send his children to institutions of higher learning.
Today, such a vision of domestic tranquility is a thing of the past. In practically every circumstance, it now takes two parents to provide the same quality of life, as the parents of baby boomers enjoyed a mere generation ago.
What has changed? Big government and higher taxes has forced families to adopt a completely different way of looking at what it takes to provide quality of life in the 21st century. The days of a lone breadwinner in a household are long gone. This has created many new problems in our society. Children who were once called latch-key kids are now the norm and this cultural phenomenon has led to problems unforeseen thirty or forty years ago.
Here is something we should have learned. Big government and high taxation has been a curse on America and its society. Unfortunately, Republicans have, for the most part, failed to explain these concepts to the average citizen. Republicans are now looked upon as greedy, money-grubbers who seek lower taxation merely to line their pockets with cash. On the other hand, Democrats are seen as the champions of the dwindling middle class, the saviors of the downtrodden and the only hope for those who haven't obtained the American dream.
Republicans can blame no one else for this misperception of their philosophy. Indeed, in some cases, this description is a reality. There are Republicans and Democrats who want more and more, but are willing to give less and less back. But Republicans are saddled with a negative image of greed that will last until we learn how to articulate our message better.
Will we ever see a day when the salary of one parent will be able to purchase a nice home and send two, three or more children to college? The answer to that question is probably no. The high taxation genie is out of the bottle and, once that monster escaped, it unleashed big government with it.
Sadly, the consequences have been disastrous for the United States. Our nation's schools have taken more and more responsibility for the rearing of children. Government regulations have made it harder for small businesses to flourish. And government waste has become something that is expected.
You would think Republicans would be able to articulate the damage that big government and higher taxation has wrought on the country. But there are those who are so far removed from the days of rugged individualism and citizen government they do not have the ability to present this argument in a rationale form.
This inability leads to dire consequences. Today, polling indicates many believe government should be bigger and wage earners should be willing to give more of their income in taxes to demonstrate good citizenship. In reality, our society has been turned upside down, to the point where government supposedly knows what's best for children than parents do and on and on and on. Yet Republicans do not face an impossible task.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what has gone wrong in what still is a nation where a better future can be obtained for each of its citizens. By now, it should be plain for anyone with a modicum of common sense to understand the Great Society experiment of the 1960's failed miserably. In the same sense, it should be easy to comprehend the remnants from that failed experiment have taken root in America's institutions, including education, business and, most important, society.
Perhaps it is only a matter of education. If conservative Republicans--and Democrats for that matter--can learn and articulate that the amount of money it takes to incarcerate an individual for one year could be used to put that same individual through four years of college, possibly the message would start to sink in.
You see, we are beyond the point of just saying lower taxes and smaller government will fix all our problems. High taxes and big government have done damage which needs to be repaired. However, government can bring us back to sanity through the institution of reasonable programs which re-assert the importance of family and community. It's not good enough to just say, "we need to keep more of our money." But such a statement is not an unobtainable goal. We can get there. However, it will take more than hollow platitudes and catchy phrases like hope and change.
Unfortunately, big government and high taxation is here to stay, at least for a while. Yet like a recovering addict, our nation can wean itself off of this deadly formula which has brought our culture to the brink. The question is: Do we have it within us to do something very hard? That is a question only the American people can answer.
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