- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

OP-ED:

Now that the conventions are behind us and the political season is in full swing, the American voters are faced with the question of what role they wish their government to play over the next four or more years. On the one hand, Democrats are proposing a government that gets involved in our lives by lending a hand out, or a leg up. Republicans offer a government that sets and enforces the rules, but otherwise gets out of our way as we pursue our own aspirations. One wonders, though, whether such a fundamental choice truly encompasses America’s ideals.

For the past eight years, the party that traditionally offers us freedom has arguably enslaved us even more. Objectively speaking, Americans enjoyed less liberty under the Bush administration. Whether one agrees with the reasons or not (that the increase in executive power and dilution of constitutional protections under new laws such as the Patriot Act were necessary evils required to ensure national security), the fact of the matter is that Americans enjoy less freedom of speech, movement and liberty than before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. One need only visit an airport, or try and take a leisurely stroll around the nation’s capital to see concrete barriers erected around our government - a symbol of its increasing distance from the people it has been elected to serve.

Furthermore, government has grown drastically in size and bureaucratic complexity in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Our country has spent almost a trillion borrowed dollars on a two-front war with dubious aims and nebulous gains. We also created a vast bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, which, in consuming other agencies such as FEMA under its auspices, proved to be a behemoth incapable of adequately responding to national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Moreover, while our taxes have gone down nominally for now, our national debt has skyrocketed, which in effect raises taxes on future generations.

Meanwhile, the other alternative waits in the wings. The Democratic Party, out of power for eight long years, now thirsts for an opportunity to control the taxpayer’s dollar. It has have promised a whole new slate of big- ticket social spending, ranging from universal health care, to increased funding for education and massive spending on domestic infrastructure. This new American Marshall Plan aims to put almost all Americans on the government payroll, to nationalize private industry and expand exponentially the Government’s already disproportionate share of the gross national product.

While this might sound good to those currently struggling to make ends meet, before signing on the dotted line, it might be prudent to consider the costs. On the one hand, having the government take over the medical industry might offer those portions of Americans without medical care a needed benefit. On the other hand, while providing some care, the medical industry, which is already saddled with government regulation and red tape, may be slower to innovate and solve the health challenges of tomorrow. With only one customer - the government - doctors, pharmaceutical companies and health-management organizations, may not be as quick to respond to the pressing needs of other segments of the public.

Furthermore, promising every person in America a college education will not necessarily solve our talent dilemma. As it stands now, we are forced to either export many of our technical industries abroad or rely on a broken immigration bureaucracy to import talent to America. Meanwhile, the rest of the developed world and much of the developing world has far surpassed America in developing the math and science talent needed to keep them competitive. Assuring that everyone, irrespective of talent or dedication, can have access to a college education does not solve this problem.

Rather, imposing rigorous standards in early education assures that student’s talents and abilities are nurtured and honed before they reach the college level. As it stands, there are more than enough private and public resources to ensure that those who are qualified have a decent opportunity to go to college. The problem with our education really exists on the primary and secondary levels, where social promotion and under-resourced teachers have left our children behind the curve.

Finally, in assessing our government, we must think of the principles we expect of ourselves as individuals. We must stop to consider whether the love of leisure, worldly acclaim and personal fortune are more attractive to us than love of country, personal accountability and respect for our spirit. We should not look to our future in the pop icons of today, which will very soon be utterly forgotten, but in the timeless, disembodied principles that our creator has instilled within us to help guide us in times of turbulence and peril.

Armstrong Williams‘ column for The Washington Times appears on Mondays. “The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast on WPGC-AM 1580 in Washington and XM Satellite Power 169.