Less than one month after Osama bin Laden's demise, President Obama's poll numbers dropped back below 50%. According to a Washington Post / ABC poll, the bin Laden bounce is gone, replaced by growing concern over the state of America's economy. This is not merely a political challenge, but a challenge for our nation.
President Obama and his big-government allies are creating a liberal welfare state where government dependency is a way of life. Between 1962 and 2009, government support for a dependent person grew from just over $7,000 to nearly $32,000. They’re policies, like Obamacare, will only accelerate the trend we’ve seen over the past forty years.
It is no wonder we are on the verge of a new era of American pessimism. Achieving the American Dream becomes increasingly difficult when that dream is dependent upon bureaucrats and lawmakers in Washington who may or may not have your best interests at heart.
But this does not have to be our destiny. The ideas to turn our country around and leave our children and grandchildren and exceptional nation are out there. There are plans in Congress (see Paul Ryan). There are plans by think tanks (see Heritage’s Saving the American Dream). There are plans on the campaign trail (see Tim Pawlenty).
These plans have all have one thing in common: They emphasize individualism and America’s traditional entrepreneurial spirit.
Much has been made of the House Republican Budget, which seeks to set our nation on a different, more sustainable and prosperous course. In a recent speech, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “we aim to restore the dynamism that has defined America over the generations, unleashing the genius of America's workers-investors-and entrepreneurs and strengthening the foundations of economic growth and job creation now and in the future.”
Exactly right. Government dependency undermines the foundation of our country’s national identity and the future of economic growth. In Chicago, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty summarized the conservative agenda well, saying, “once we unleash the creative energy” of Americans, we’ll see a “booming job market will reduce demand for government assistance.”
The Heritage Foundation, the intellectual beacon of the conservative movement, has put forth a transformational vision for America, which will unleash the creativity of the American entrepreneur by permanently balancing the budget within 10 years without raising taxes.
Pawlenty articulated an aspirational goal of 5% annual economic growth – likely unachievable over a sustained period but the type of optimism our nation needs after the spirit of malaise emanating from a White House that doesn't think "the unemployment rate will be coming down significantly anytime in the near future."
In fact, a new McKinsey Global Institute report suggests that only in the most rosy scenario will America reach “full employment” by 2020. Not surprisingly, the report states “uncertainty over the direction of regulation…has made some companies hesitant to invest.”
Of course, one of the beauties of the American system (for now) is that states can experiment with different policies. Prior to Obamacare, Utah was doing incredible stuff on health care. Wisconsin is home to the longest-running and largest school choice program in the nation. And Texas has embraced a host of pro-growth conservative policies from tort reform and low taxes to right-to-work laws.
It is within this context that Texas Governor Rick Perry is now entertaining a presidential run. Much like Pawlenty, Perry will use his gubernatorial experience to his advantage. One of the most mind-blowing stats Perry will throw out is that his state, Texas, has created 37% of the new jobs in the country since the end of the recession.
Americans, and their elected representatives, must be asking who (or what) is better suited to tackle our nation's most pressing problems. Will federal bureaucrats solve our health care crisis, or will doctors and patients? Will federal bureaucrats educate our children, or will parents and caring teachers? Will federal bureaucrats identify the next source of job creation, or will entrepreneurial individuals?
For the first time in a generation, our nation is at a crossroad and we're presented with two very different paths. One emphasizes bureaucrats, the other individuals. President Obama's policies place the American Dream in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. Conservatives want to empower individuals and enable them to achieve the American Dream.
It really comes down to this: Whom do you trust with your future?
Mike Needham is Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America.
First appeared in Townhall