The economy we enjoyed between 1983, when the Ronald Reagan tax cuts kicked in, and 2007, when the housing market collapsed, provided many more jobs in which people could gain such satisfaction. You could make a living as a master carpenter, as an actor or as a sewer of quilts because steady economic growth and low inflation meant expanded markets for custom goods. You could do work you really wanted to do. You didn't have to settle for a data-entry or bolt-attaching job.
The economy we have now doesn't do that. The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government's share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We've already lost 8 million private-sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We'll probably create more public-sector jobs
Yes, many public-sector jobs provide a real service to society and a sense of earned success. But too many don't. Civil service rules, brittle organizational structures and public employee union contracts tend to stifle innovation and deter creativity.
For the ultimate example, see Steven Brill's New Yorker article on the "rubber room" -- where incompetent New York City teachers spend the day in an office, doing nothing but collecting $80,000 a year during a multiyear litigation process. People in the rubber room are making money, but they're not earning success. They're not doing anything that helps anyone else.
Democrats argue that their policies transfer money down the income scale and provide a safety net for individuals. But a nation with an ever-larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future. Change, maybe, but not much hope.