Terry Paulson

Taking a lead from Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol," the “Ghost of America’s Future” could point to a frightening future for America—a perfect storm of forces racing toward its natural conclusion, the Entitlement Crash of 2010! The Democrats gaining political dominance, the growing economic crisis and looming entitlement shortfalls, the cultural expectations of American citizens and the tax fatigue successful Americans will face are coming together to overwhelm the entitlement nirvana that many Americans have wanted to create.

Politically, Obama has the power, the media support and the precedence to make radical changes in America. Obama feels his election victory has given him a change mandate to produce benefits for the “victimized” middle class. The media continues to idolize Obama’s Messiah-like intellect and “transformational” vision. He’ll have a nearly filibuster-proof Democrat Senate and Congress ready to exercise its new-found power to pass more entitlement programs for citizens craving relief. He’s also been given the gift of a “Republican” President who’ll have justified Obama’s reliance on government spending as the answer to our economic malaise.

Economically, the crisis shows signs of growing. With more companies on the verge of bankruptcy, more citizens losing their jobs, homes and healthcare coverage, and state and local governments facing growing budget deficits, the frantic numbers pleading for help from Washington will only increase. Instead of corporations and citizens facing the challenge of adding value in a changing marketplace, they’ll be getting in line to “awfulize”—competing on how bad things are and why they need the next Washington bailout. Since most Democrats and some Republicans lack the political will to say “No,” the unfunded entitlements and the federal deficit will rapidly expand.

If Congress had to face the same scrutiny that they impose on corporate CEO’s, they’d all be going to jail. As a result of their past fiscal malfeasance, more economic challenges loom on the near horizon. Because there’s no Social Security Trust Fund set aside to pay for benefits, the exploding demands of retiring baby boomers leaving the workforce will add to our economic nightmare. Large states, heavily dependent on income and corporate tax revenue and strapped with entitlements and government employee pension commitments, are facing what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a “financial Armageddon!”

As layoffs result in more people losing healthcare coverage, the pressure to provide a government alternative will increase. Corporations, needing to cut costs and unwilling to pay the increased healthcare coverage costs, will cancel their private plans, forcing workers to participate in the cheaper, under-funded federal alternative. With Medicare already a budget-buster, the mushrooming cost of Obama’s federal healthcare plan will just add to the deficit.

Culturally, Americans are facing a crisis in confidence. Citizens feel powerless to impact the steady stream of foreclosures, layoffs and stock market retreats they watch daily. Suffering from the depression of our age, “learned helplessness,” many feel there’s nothing they can do themselves to impact their world. So instead of investing in constructive action, they look for saviors. Their optimism isn’t based on a renewed commitment to self-reliance and hard work but on an activist Democratic makeover of America. They look for answers from a gifted president-elect who has more moxie than experience. Narcissistic but impotent Americans are hoping beyond hope that Obama will save America and fund the lifestyles they’ve come to expect.

Finally, tax fatigue by tax-paying Americans and corporations will hit the breaking point. Someone has to pay the bill. You can only get foreigners to fund so many T-bills before it will come to rest on the only acceptable targets—those “greedy, rich Americans” and successful corporations. As their taxes and regulatory controls increase, their motivation to achieve and invest will decrease. When you punish success and reward failure, the result is predictable.

Winston Churchill once said, "Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is—the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.” What if the horse stopped pulling the cart? Like a house of cards, enterprises shut their doors, investments move offshore, jobs disappear, and the Entitlement Crash of 2010 is a possibility.

But like Scrooge’s experience, Americans can change the future. Politicians can create a more responsible and limited government that serves where it counts most. Even if the entitlements crash, citizens will be forced to rely on what initially made America great--the empowering American spirit built on self reliance, liberty and true community. Challenging times let us regain our confidence by using our God-given-talents to earn our own way out of the problems we face.

Because Americans have always been generous and resourceful, we won’t be alone. Once again, our families, friends, faith communities, neighbors, local charity groups and local governments can come together to make a difference. Thankfully, taking responsibility for our own lives instead of depending on an intrusive and distant government may be just what America needs to become great once again!


Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

 
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