GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- A year ago, this column questioned whether the 112th Congress -- with its new speaker of the House, John Boehner -- could "overcome the inane policies of its predecessors" and "mend Washington's free-spending ways." We all know how that turned out.
This week, as we prepare to ring out 2011 and welcome 2012, President Barack Obama asked for Congress to authorize yet another increase in our national debt -- the third such rise in less than 15 months. Housing prices continue to slide; more than 13 million Americans are unemployed; government spending continues unabated; and America's credit rating is at risk of another downgrade. In January, barring action by Congress and the White House, U.S. defense spending cuts totaling $1.1 trillion over the next four years will begin to take effect. Such an outcome in the midst of these perilous times ought to be unthinkable.
Instead of putting tens of thousands of Americans to work building new ships, submarines, aircraft and a missile shield to protect the American people from nuclear attack, the Obama administration wants the federal government to create temporary jobs repaving highways, painting bridges and re-roofing public schools. Rather than have unemployed construction workers build a petroleum pipeline from Canada (and improve U.S. energy security), the Obama White House wastes billions on phony "green jobs." The administration has to hope we all will forget the word "Solyndra."
In a burst of year-end euphoria, progressive politicians, pundits and government economists are predicting that the worst of the "Bush-era recession" is behind us and that good times are just ahead. They pin their economic hopes for 2012 less on American entrepreneurs than they do on German taxpayers.
The experts are praying Berlin will continue to bail out European PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) and prevent an Old World financial collapse that would drag down the sale of U.S. goods and services on the Continent. Expect to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel feted at a White House state dinner early in the new year. A million or so American jobs could well depend on whether she likes the soup.
Jobs -- the word used most often by politicians running for office in 2012. Regardless of party, whether challenger or incumbent, every office seeker tells us he or she has a way of "creating," "protecting," "saving" or "improving" jobs for American workers. What few of our elected officials ever mention is how vulnerable these "well-paying" and "secure" jobs are to factors far more threatening than the European debt crisis. Here are the top three issues that should concern those who purport to care about our economic well-being in the year ahead:
1) An Iranian nuke. Just before Christmas, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told us Iran could have a workable nuclear weapon in 2012. He also knows -- but didn't say -- that the theocrats in Tehran already have the means of delivering it. Tel Aviv, Israel, is target No. 1. American civilians are No. 2 on the ayatollahs' hit parade. To Israelis, the expression "Never Again" isn't a political slogan. It's a way of life. They are not going to wait to be incinerated.
The Obama administration could stop the Iranians from building atomic weapons and perhaps even bring about regime change by forbidding any company doing any business in Iran from doing any business in the U.S. But unless the O-Team takes such a step, the Israelis will have to act pre-emptively to prevent annihilation. If you think the "2008-11 global recession" hurt, you don't want to contemplate what the world economy would be like after an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons sites.
2) The jihad. The "Arab Spring" -- once so proudly proclaimed to have been instigated by Obama's soaring rhetoric -- has become a nightmare for democratic aspirations in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gadhafi and Anwar al-Awlaki are dead, but the jihad being waged by radical Islamists is stronger than ever. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Sudan are headed for Shariah rather than secular governance in 2012. Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Nigeria and even Saudi Arabia could follow suit soon. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom forecasts that Christianity could be eradicated in these countries. The economic impact of such an upheaval is potentially catastrophic.
3) The collapse of Russian democracy. Vladimir Putin is presiding over a dying country -- and he knows it. Though Russian energy exports to Europe and China currently fill the coffers of Moscow's kleptocracy and help rebuild Soviet-era nuclear weapons, the future for the land of the czars is bleak. Russia's population -- now 141.7 million -- drops by nearly 1 million per year. With an average male life span of just 59 years, look for 2012 to be the year Putin and his cronies do all they can to line their pockets -- at our expense.
Note to all running for office in 2012: The word "entitlement" does not appear in the Constitution. The words "provide for the common defence" do. Happy new year.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.