WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Owing to the promotion tour for my new book, "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery," I have been meeting with what the intelligentsia once called "the masses." They read books. They pay taxes. They attend lectures. Oh, and by the way, they are now a lot more prosperous and even more civilized than the intelligentsia, today's version of which are actually anti-intellectual and occasionally only semi-literate.
The reason that "the masses" are a lot more prosperous and even civilized is that they have been participating in our free-market economy for years. It has made their lives easier, and they recognize it.
As Arthur Brooks, the urbane president of the American Enterprise Institute, demonstrates in his new book, "The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future," 70 percent of Americans favor free enterprise, with only a glum 30 percent turning their tremulous palms up to the nanny state.
At any rate, after talking with thousands of ordinary Americans on talk radio and at book receptions, I have come to the conclusion that America has arrived at a historic turning point. It is not just that tea partiers are revolting against big government. It is something more.
Usually a revolt against big government has meant that restive Americans wanted their taxes lowered -- but as for cutting government back, they were vague. They favored economies but certainly no cutbacks in their entitlements -- a loaded word, that, entitled to whom from what? -- or government subsidies. What makes this a historic moment is that growing numbers of Americans now accept that they, too, are going to have to forego at least some of their so-called entitlements. They recognize that the budget crisis is that grave.
For well over a decade, simple demographics suggested that a budget crisis loomed for such programs as Social Security. Yet our politicians -- as the phrase had it -- merely kicked the can down the road. We have now arrived at the end of the road.