Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is America Ready for Real Sacrifice?

If you put aside the hyperbolic rhetoric we are seeing from Obama and even Members of Congress, the answer is probably not.
But before we run the forensics on whether or not Americans are up to a voluntary sacrifice of any magnitude, let's first look at what Obama has proffered. Nothing in his campaign rhetoric, nor anything since he won the election, would suggest he subscribes to the civic virtues of sacrifice that was so in evidence in the 30s. Indeed, one could argue that our era and the one some seven decades earlier are so different in degree as to constitute a different civic species.

To wit, beyond the fact that today's middle class enjoys a quality of life that would stun those who suffered the staggering penury of the 30s, those poor souls could only dream of the multi-tiered safety net that we take for granted, and, that gives rise to a misguided civic complacency regarding risk and economic misfortune. And, isn't it the case that the nearly $1 trillion that Congress, our president, and president-elect are proposing to spend, is evidence that suffering has been consensually redacted from our civic lexicon?
But there is another problem with the terminology as well.

While the generation of the 30's certainly suffered, it would be hard to aruge they sacrified in terms of economics (that cannot be said for World War II). Today, the question is how does one define suffering? Truly, there are those in this country who are suffering, those who are struggling, who are just getting by and the concerns of such individuals is not to be taken lightly. But how would we define suffering now. As noted above, the social safety net all but guarantees that individuals will not suffer even a modicum of what the earlier generations did, particularly when you consider that even families fully dependent upon welfare and government subsidies have color TVs and cable television.

The greater concern I have is that the definition of sacrifice underlying the Obama and Democratic Congress vision of sacrifice is sort of "Robin Hood by government fiat" in which certain groups will suffer and sacrifice more than others.

If this economic downturn truly is an event requiring great national sacrifice, then the sacrifice should be national, not cherry picked, and should be suffered equally. Of course, such a notion is foriegn to the Democratic party as there is always a victim group that is more worthy than you.

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