01.15.2014 1

If America had leadership

obama-state-of-the-unionBy David Bozeman

It is not so much despair that is gripping America as it is resignation.  Though we as a people need not resign ourselves to diminished expectations, far too many of us, namely the unemployed and underemployed, find ourselves in the deep doldrums not just financially but spiritually.

America’s tradition of rugged individualism was once sustained by our dominant culture and political leadership.  Ronald Reagan, of course, personified American exceptionalism.  FDR comforted a war and Depression-weary nation, famously stating that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Even Bill Clinton once remarked that “there is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America.”

President Obama, by contrast, rallies support only for his own bland, ineffective policies and cliché-ridden screed of class warfare.  Notably, when he was re-elected governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge remarked that “The attempt to appeal to class prejudice has failed.  The men of Massachusetts are not labor men or policemen or union men or poor men or rich men or any other class of men first; they are Americans first.”  Such words today would be excoriated as the ravings of “teabaggers.”

Our national morale is floundering, our can-do spirit eroded by cynicism and sarcastic wonder that we have stood the weight of diminished buying power, lower-paying jobs and canceled health insurance policies.

The aforementioned underemployed, typically hailed as success stories because, off the unemployment rolls,  they are counted as proof of the administration’s rousing success, find themselves in a cold, barren economic jungle, where 401K’s and life-savings accounts pay the mortgage and utility bills, where the only prevailing wisdom is “every man for himself.”

While that has always been a hard fact of life, citizens could once find a glimmer of hope in America’s promise that hard work and initiative would eventually pay off, a notion seldom heard from this administration.

In 2013 Forbes magazine revealed a joint study from the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business stating that the longer one is unemployed, the more he or she is considered damaged, and, thus, unemployable, with the eigth month considered the start of a real downhill slope in job prospects.  Not exactly surprising, but the older and under/unemployed are not exactly a group that anyone in the White House talks much about, either.

The administrations’ only remedy — extending unemployment benefits — even if necessary, only delays the inevitable day of reckoning for millions.  If we had real leadership, our economic policies would focus not on demonizing the private sector but on unleashing our unparalleled potential for opportunity and prosperity.  With real leadership, even in times of economic uncertainty, our most vulnerable would be buoyed by a sense of hope that would, indeed, lift the entire world.

If America had leadership, the opposition party (i.e., the Republican Party) would fill the void left by the reigning administration.  The GOP’s unofficial leader, the Speaker of the House, would galvanize his party and the country behind common sense, free market solutions to our economic malaise.  At the very least, he would attempt to inspire and console a weary people.

Instead of waging legislative skirmishes he is almost sure to lose, the opposition leader would bypass the media and take a bold, concise message to the people, in much the way that Speaker Newt Gingrich did in the 1990’s.  While the Clinton years were not a high mark for American conservatism, President Clinton surely saw the writing on the wall when he told Congress — to thunderous applause — that “the era of big government is over.”

Today we have what?  Americans hunger for leadership, not out of slavish hero-worship but the hope that the powerful will affirm their highest ideals.  President Obama, with the media in his palm, could be that leader.  To his most ardent supporters, who demand proof for the claim that he doesn’t hold America in high esteem, you can judge an elected official not just by what he says, but by what he doesn’t say.  The dearth of a clarion call worthy of the American people is mournfully deafening.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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