There has been controversy lately over the “lie of the year” designation. PolitiFact, true to its partisan-but-nobody-will admit-it soul, picked a Mitt Romney campaign accusation as its “lie of the year,” even though it wasn’t nearly the worst lie of the campaign, or even Romany’s worst. In fact, it was literally true. Romney had issued an ad saying that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China—that was supposedly the lie—and in fact all Jeeps will now be made in China. Oh, well, election over, Romney lost, what’s done is done, mission accomplished, right, Politifact?
Thus it is mighty kind of President Obama to wrap up the lie of the year competition early and decisively in a national forum where one least belongs, his Inaugural Address. I’m sure PolitiFact won’t see it that way, but I’m engraving his name on the Ethics Alarms trophy right now.
“The commitments we make to each other–-through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security–these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Does anyone believe this? Does anyone believe that the national debt, which is relentlessly inflated daily by the runaway costs of those “commitments,” not to mention the waste and fraud that they encourage and permit, does not increasingly prevent us from taking risks as a nation and a world power? People are dying in Syria because the United States can’t afford to risk becoming embroiled there, so we have played the typical pusillanimous U.N. game of empty threats and ineffective sanctions. America no longer has the best transportation infrastructure in the world, or even the infrastructure it needs to have a healthy economic recovery, because so much of the budget is devoted to those constantly expanding “commitments” that spending the trillions required is a greater risk than letting the roads and bridges and sewers rot beneath us. Building the interstate highway system in the Eisenhower administration was a bold risk that made our country great—don’t tell us that we are more free to take such risks because so-called entitlements now are the single largest budget-eater. The nation has no spending flexibility at all, with a fiscal crisis looming, and those commitments are a large component of the reason. The President thinks that entitlements should be reformed, cut, or made more efficient? Fine. I can respect that opinion. He believes that spending money on social welfare is more important than anything else the nation does, that it is, in the end, a welfare state, and should aspire to be more of one? Great. Those are his priorities. But don’t insult the intelligence of the informed citizens while making the uninformed citizens even dumber by asserting that massive spending on entitlements increases our ability to be bold and attempt new initiatives, because that is utter nonsense.
Obama was just talking about individual risk, you say? That’s not what “we” means in an inaugural address, but let’s ignore that: even then it’s a lie. Risk means that one actually risks something to build or accomplish something else. If the government promises to minimize your risk, then that is license to be irresponsible, not to take true risks. The government continues to pay out millions to homeowners who knowingly and repeatedly build homes in flood zones, hurricane zones, and where wildfires rage annually. Does that foolish policy strengthen us?
Finally, we are a nation of takers, and addressing that deadly cultural problem requires honesty, not denial. When nearly 50% of citizens pay no Federal Income Tax, when nearly the same percentage depend on regular checks from the government, when the executives of irresponsible, corrupt and reckless companies like AIG demand huge Federal bail-outs and still hand over six and seven-figure bonuses to themselves, when public unions threaten violence when their tax-payer funded pensions are reduced, when our leaders sell their loyalties for millions in political contributions, when wealthy seniors revolt at the suggestion that their Social Security benefits might be deferred, reduced or taxed so that there will be a healthy system for their grandchildren, when yuppies recoil in horror at the suggestion that “Sesame Street” and “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” should be funded the same way any other TV or radio show is on commercial television, we’re not only a nation of takers, we are becoming more greedy, arrogant, irresponsible and reckless about it, too.
That’s why we need truth, not comforting, uplifting lies…like the Lie of the Year.
Spark: Kathleen Parker
Graphic: The owner of the forked tongue in the photo originally I used asked that it be taken down, and I complied. The current photo is from my files, and I have no record of where it hails from.