January 20, 2010
The huge turnout yesterday in Massachusetts expressed citizen alarm that Congress is spending us deeper and deeper into debt, and there's no end in sight.
Our government faces future liabilities of at least $53 trillion. This includes entitlements, government pensions, Medicare, and other promises we have made—currently $175,000 for every man, woman, and child in America—and likely to go higher.
I've concluded, as have millions of Americans enraged over government leaders playing politics and disregarding the public trust, that the only way to avert disaster is to take the matter out of the hands of the politicians. If they no longer have the will to address the problem, somebody else has got to.
One great idea has been put forward by my friend, Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia. He has proposed a bi-partisan blue-ribbon commission called SAFE: Securing America's Future Economy. It's modeled after the base-closing commission of a few years ago—you remember—when lawmakers were afraid to close bases in their own district, even if they needed to be closed. Well, that worked. And SAFE will work as well.
Members of the SAFE Commission would meet with Americans all over the country to listen, find out what the needs are, what we can afford and what we can't. And then examine entitlements in a way that no politician can.
The Commission would then present its proposals to Congress for an up-or-down vote. The only changes permitted would be those that leave the long-term budget impact unchanged.
And if we don't do something like this? The reckless spending will continue, there may well be a populist revolt, which throws everybody out of office, could become dangerously anti-government, and we will probably face bankruptcy.
New York Times columnist David Brooks yesterday put his finger on what ails America in his column, titled "The Pragmatic Leviathan." He notes that Thomas Hobbes' classic book, "Leviathan," shows Great Britain as a man, with the people making up muscles and flesh, and the king at the top, representing the mind.
It's an image the Pilgrims left behind when they came to America, Brooks notes; Americans prefer "a government that is helpful but not imperious, strong but subordinate." We react strongly against any party that seeks "an enlarged and corrosive government" that threatens "to dismantle the government's supportive role."
As heirs to the Christian work ethic, we Americans value liberty and self-reliance. Hard work. Paying our bills. Delaying our gratification. This is what built America. We also inherited the Reformation idea of sphere sovereignty—the belief that the institutions of government, family, church, business, all have vital and proper roles to play in society, balancing each other.
This is why we have an instinctive distrust of government when it attempts to take over other spheres of life. The Senate race in liberal Massachusetts has citizens saying, "Enough! We're tired of the government trying to cram its radical—and expensive—plans down our throats."
But this is no longer a political issue. It's a moral issue. Living within our means, caring about our children and grandchildren, saving our society. Free economic systems, remember, work only when there is moral restraint. We need to act. Call your congressman and senators. Urge them to support Frank Wolf's SAFE commission bill. And visit www.breakpoint.org for more information on contacts.
But act now. It's a paramount moral issue.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.