After reading Paul Ryan's excellent speech that Brad so kindly brought to our attention, and various conversations such as this one at The Corner, I've been thinking a lot about the future of the country.
It seems to me that there are two paths ahead of us, but they are not necessarily the paths we are so often presented with in the media. The first, and I hope the most likely, is the path down which Paul Ryan intends to lead. It is a path back from the brink of fiscal insanity and a return to the values that made America the defining power of the last century.
The Tea Party movement, despite efforts by those on the Left to portray it as racist and violent, stems ultimately from a distrust of government power and grotesquely excessive spending. There are occasional bad actors within the movement, as there are in all political movements and groups, but the vast majority are average citizens who have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by the recession. Citizens who have seen their hard-earned money go to bailouts and takeovers of private institutions or to people who lived far beyond their means when times were good and never bothered to prepare for potential bad times.
The anger may be aimed at the current administration most forcefully, but it is hardly the only target. One need only spend a few moments on conservative blogs and forums to witness the outrage over lavish and irresponsible spending by the RNC and the Bush administration.
An effective leader - such that those of us at LiB see in Paul Ryan - can harness this energy with a vision that is not angry, but hopeful. Hopeful in the resiliency of the American people and secure in the knowledge that we still have faith in the power of freedom and individual liberty.
The other path begins as most conservatives frame it: one towards European-style social democracy. However, we will very quickly reach a tipping point. We are not destined to wander 40 years in the wilderness. The coming fiscal crisis and the insolvency of our entitlement system will push us to tax too much too fast.
The disaster resulting from years of robbing the social security fund and expanding Medicare and Medicaid to unsustainable levels will make the current recession look mild. I do not look forward to that day and I hope and pray we avoid it at all costs, but I am hopeful about what happens after that. One of things that kept us from enacting universal health care and massive government control over the private sector during the last 50 years was the specter of communism.
We saw first hand the danger and destructive force of the Soviet Union. We witnessed the loss of freedom and liberty that goes hand in hand with government control of the economy and pushed back against any effort - no matter how well-intentioned - to do so here in the US. Today we have no such evil empire to show us that dangerous extreme or the failure of government versus the private sector.
If the coming fiscal crisis has the effect that I suspect it will, it will thoroughly discredit the notion that government can provide all things to all people. That it can create jobs and wealth better and more evenly than private enterprise. After that, we will return to a level and form of government that will allow for economic growth and freedom that has defined our role in world history.
I do not want to go down that second path. Though I am hopeful it will lead to a good place, it is full of peril and sure to leave many innocent victims on the side of the road. I firmly believe that we can prevent the economic consequences of years of fiscal mismanagement by both parties.
The American people are awake and paying full attention to what happens in Washington on a daily basis. We see it in our state capitols too. We stand at a great crossroads in the history of our nation and I believe that we will take the first steps down the right path this November. We have the moment, the only question that remains is do we have a man who will lead.
I think we do.