Paul Jacob

Could Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards actually be right about something? Not where to go to get a haircut, mind you, I mean about there being two Americas.

There is the vibrant America . . . and the stagnant one.

There is the America of ever-increasing wealth, innovation, creativity, of a dynamic economy, new jobs, new products and services. Choices galore. Information overload. The abundant work product of freedom.

And there is the politician's America: The regulated America, the subsidized America, the earmarked America. The failing America.

In one America it is what you produce that gets you ahead. In the other it's who you know.

In one America, to earmark some money means setting aside funds (into savings) for a purchase — a car, house, college.

In the other America, to earmark is to grab from taxpayers to give to cronies. It is the highest rite of career politicians: buying their votes with other people's money. Oh, there have been reforms, sure. But a recent bill in the House contained 32,000 earmark requests.

In one America, we decide what we pay for. We choose constantly about little things and big. We call the shots. Or we walk down the street and associate with someone else. So we have some faith in those we work with.

In the other America we vote. But we rarely get what we vote for.

Democrats took over Congress from Republicans less than a year ago. No surprise, really, the Republican Congress had been held in utter disrepute. By Democrats, too. Now that leadership has changed sides, how's the honeymoon going? A recent Gallup poll already shows the new Democratic Congress with the worst approval rating — just 14 percent — in the history of the poll (since 1973).

In one America you get what you pay for; in the other America they take what they want from you. And people notice.

A Noticeable Difference
Compare Wal-Mart and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority. The Wal-Mart symbol is a happy face. Metro's might as well be a frown with tread marks over it.

Why the difference?

I'm not taxed to support Wal-Mart. I can go there or not. Many people, me included, have gone there and will go there. We spend money, but often save money compared to Wal-Mart's competition. We're not too self-righteous to admit we like money. And stuff.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.