"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Compact: Obama Version

Mr. Obama is a compelling orator. He is particularly compelling because his message is one of help and assistance. It is always directed toward simple objectives that are described in the form of benefits that will be attained, mostly by those with uncertainty about their own ability to achieve the described benefits on their own. This is not a new approach; it is just an effective approach. When needed, he also describes other and opposing proposals with a special focus on their aspects that can be presented negatively. Let’s consider two very recent examples.

He suggests that his approach to the public reliance on government financed medical care is beneficial to all; he suggests that this approach is consistent with our past commitment to taking care of those who are not able to fend for themselves and he insists that there is money available from the well to do to pay for such a program.

On the other hand, when he addresses the opposition plan, put forth by budget committee chairman Paul Ryan he describes it as a burden on the poor and the old; any savings will go to tax cuts for the well to do and, overall, the plan is a “radical” departure from the America’s long standing social compact.

Pretty clear based on his positive description of his plan and his negative description of Ryan’s plan that any reasonable person would support his plan which follows America’s social compact and reject Ryan’s which does not.

Well, what is America’s social compact? And, if we can even identify and describe this social compact, is Mr. Obama presenting the compact fairly and fully and is he being consistent in all aspects with this compact? Or, is he just doing what politicians have been doing for years; really, forever and that is only telling a part of the story; that part that makes them and their proposal look good and ignoring the parts that don’t work; don’t look good; are not consistent with the complete social compact?

Let’s start with the social compact:

1. We take care of those who cannot care for themselves? Yes or no.

2. If you say yes, we can continue. If you say no, it’s over. We would say yes, but there is a bit more to be complete:
a. We have to be careful to live within our means
b. We have to be careful to not permit abuse by those who will advantage themselves with welfare or handout rather than self reliance
c. We must let private providers compete and encourage low cost providers. Privatization and competition are part of our compact

3. We demand overall financial responsibility at all levels – individual; family; neighborhood; community; governments; all public employees.

4. Citizens must pay in; those with more pay more but even those with less pay a portion; everyone is expected to contribute.

5. We will pay for what we provide as we go. We will not leave debts for following generations. That’s unfair and it burdens others with the costs of our benefits.

6. We will account carefully, completely and currently for everything we do with other people’s money. We must be good stewards of other people’s money. We will demand constant and ongoing accountability.

Now, Mr. Obama is a big supporter of item #1 in the compact. He doesn’t address the other items so we don’t know if he goes along with the other components of the compact. Those dealing with reasonableness and efficiency and financial responsibility. He does not address them. He does not implement plans and spend money based on them. We think he might give them lip service but we know he does not demand adherence to those parts of the compact.

So what to make of someone who picks and chooses which portion of the social compact to be measured against and which to ignore?

In our world, a world of living within ones means and being awful darn careful anytime you take money from someone else to provide benefits to others, we would say a person with selective “social compact” adherence should not be taken seriously. Heck, we are pulling our punch. Let’s be direct. A person who picks and chooses and ignores responsibility while promoting benefits programs while asking for votes is a joke. A fool. A charlatan. In the good old days, when these snake oil salesmen showed up they frequently were escorted to the town borders by either the sheriff or town fathers. Occasionally they were attired in a gooey mess of tar and feathers. Oh for the good old days.

If you don’t care about deficits or rising debt or the inevitable destruction that deficits and debt bring, Mr. Obama is your man. He is your investment guru.  He is your Bernie Madoff. Great returns. Everything will be fine. You’re fortunate to be able to invest with him. Never had it so good. Until the new money sources run out and the scheme collapses.

Mr. Ryan is saying to you that we must set limits. We do not have endless resources. He believes that individuals can make better decisions for themselves than can an out of control government. The out of control government looks good for a while. So did Bernie. We’d prefer to invest with Mr. Ryan but you can count on the Bernie investors to discard Mr. Ryan; discount his responsible format and promote the illusory and unsustainable aspects of the Obama program.

If you believe in the long run, you probably embrace the entire American social compact. You don’t just pick and choose and live for today. You would not have been a Bernie Madoff investor.

If you believe we can care for all with no regard for limits or priorities. If you believe in endless high returns; no outside independent accountability or reporting; and leave the problems to the next generation, Mr. Madoff, er, sorry, Mr. Obama is your man.

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