Election 2012: Where’s my free stuff?
November 13, 2012
By a slim percentage of the popular vote, 49.9-percent to 48.7-percent, America voted to continue under President Obama. And, once again, America proved it can handle such important matters without the violence that is so often the case in other parts of the world.
But will this choice see the continuation of the decline of American influence in the world or will it presage a reversal of our current economic and foreign-policy misfortunes?
Some of us recall the 1950s as a golden time in American history. Our parents and grandparents had gotten us safely through the Great Depression and World War II. President Eisenhower, a seasoned general, was in the White House. He could fend off the Soviets while we enjoyed the “sunlit uplands” of post-war America.
By the way, for a great trip along memory lane of the 1950s, read “When Saturday Mattered Most: The Golden Season of Army Football,” by Mark Beech. Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and, of course, West Point fans will love this recital of what college life was like back in America’s Golden Age.
Yet, in the late ’50s and early ’60s, we rightly got to thinking that America was not perfect for everyone. Some of us marched for civil rights in the South. But, about the same time, there was the Bay of Pigs fiasco followed by Soviet Premier Khrushchev’s browbeating of President Kennedy in Vienna. That led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the brink of a nuclear war neither side could win. President Kennedy bravely backed Khrushchev down in Cuba but the two leaders continued to contest over Vietnam.
From that point, it all began to go horribly wrong and we fell into the turmoil of the late 1960s. For a recent account of America losing its grip on its Golden Age, read: “Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot” by Bill O’Reilly with Martin Dugard.
But even before Kennedy, the advent of the atomic bomb threw the Founder’s careful balance between Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court out of balance. Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles cut our response time to less than 30 minutes. So, Congress and the Supreme Court ceded enormous powers to the executive branch, resulting in today’s Imperial Presidency. Not to be outdone, Congress decided to be imperial as well.
Quite naturally, our great wealth caused us to try to improve the lives of the poorest among us. Arguably, LBJ’s Great Society did more harm than good and resulted, as Alexis de Tocqueville predicted, in a welfare state whose clients would start to influence the outcome of our elections.
In 1835, M. de Tocqueville wrote: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
On Nov. 6, Americans voted for four more years of loose fiscal policy. Based on what M. de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, maybe this is the time to change the motto at the bottom of the Great Seat of the United States of America from E pluribus unum to Qua est meus solvo effercio which means: “Where’s my free stuff?
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.