Victor Davis Hanson

Current interest rates are not historically high. So cutting them might well convince our foreign borrowers to take their capital elsewhere for higher returns. And we can't pay for the federal programs we now provide, let alone expand them to offer universal health care or heavily subsidized college tuition.

What then can we do?

First, at this late date, Republicans shouldn't vote for any candidate who promises another tax cut without first offering a matching slash in expenditures. And Democrats should reject any candidate who promises another multi-billion dollar entitlement without detailing how the additional revenue is to be raised.

Second, instead of demanding new billion-dollar programs for health care and education, we should take more responsibility for our own welfare.

Americans need to readjust their budget priorities. One might be able to believe that a $200 dollar a month private catastrophic health plan is out of the reach of most Americans — if we were also to hear that sales of video games, cell phones and plasma televisions have crashed.

Third, we need to ignore the alarmist hysteria, calm down and appreciate that life is better than at any time in the last 5,000 years of civilization. People are living longer; we're healthier; and millions of Americans have the opportunities to travel, communicate and avoid physical drudgery that were once reserved only for a tiny aristocracy. There is plenty of excess in modern American life that can be shed without real hardship.

Finally, we must view our present economic challenges in a larger philosophical and ethical framework — and redefine success as being able to pay off what we owe, and spend only what we earn.

Who knows? Knowledge that we live in a nation that has a strong currency, no annual deficit and no aggregate debt to be passed on to our children might bring Americans as much pride and joy as the next iPhone or trip to Vegas.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.