The book, about which Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman felt so passionately, was written in 1977. At the time, we were told gas prices would never come down, the American dream was on the decline, unemployment in America would perpetually be at high levels, and big government was the only answer. The parallels to our current time are striking. The book was William E. Simon's A Time for Truth. In the course of a presidential campaign, getting the message right is one challenge. It's easier than following through with policies that match the rhetoric. But give former Governor Tim Pawlenty credit for having picked a campaign theme that rises to the level of our nation’s challenges: A Time for Truth. Simon detailed how “irrational edicts” from the federal government "paralyzed and partially destroyed our energy industries, leading to shortages, [and] danger to the welfare of the citizens." Three decades later, these words still hold true. The election of President Barack Obama saw a rapid increase in regulations and irrational edicts. His overhauls of the financial, energy and health care industries shifted the balance of power toward government and away from the entrepreneurial spirit that Simon advocated and our nation’s founders envisioned. If any Republican nominee is to succeed, he or she must adopt Simon’s vision. America needs a staunch defender of what our nation’s founders proposed who will continuously speak out against President Obama’s takeover of our country. The need for clarity and conviction cannot be understated either, because there is one profound and frightening difference between Simon’s era and now. As Simon notes, despite the politics of his era, there was "a substantial awareness in our political leadership that our fiscal and economic policies have gone awry and that the multiple promises of cradle-to-grave security for our citizens can no longer be responsibly expanded." Now, of course, the Washington Establishment is intent on creating new entitlements (see Obamacare) and centralizing power. The Establishment leads the charge in vilifying any serious attempt to reform the very programs that threaten to bankrupt our country. With government-dependency in America at record levels, the country is at a crossroads. Simon, reflecting upon his interaction with Soviet officials, explained there was a "deep, unnamable difference between…men who have never known freedom and men who were born free." It was then that Simon "understood down to my very roots how important my liberty was to me." If the government successfully lays the "groundwork for an economic dictatorship," our children and grandchildren will never know the freedoms previous generations took for granted. Simon concludes “the overriding principle to be revived in American political life is that which sets individual liberty as the highest political value – that value to which all other values are subordinate and that which, at all times, is to be given the highest 'priority' in policy discussions.” From Simon's book to Pawlenty's campaign, it is indeed a time for truth. And kudos to Tim Pawlenty for taking on some of presidential politics most sacred cows. He deserves credit for his recent speeches in Iowa, Florida, and at the Cato Institute. In Iowa, Pawlenty discussed the need to end ethanol subsidies. Considering the biofuel industry accounts for nearly one-tenth of Iowa’s economy, this was the opposite of political pandering. Pawlenty spoke in Florida about the need to reform entitlements. In a state with the largest population of senior citizens in the country, and one that plays a significant role in both the Republican primary and general elections, Pawlenty's proclamation defies conventional political wisdom, but rises to the challenges we face.
Last week, at the libertarian Cato Institute, Pawlenty was asked about our nation's defense budget. "I’m not one who is going to stand before you and tell you we should cut the defense budget," Pawlenty said. Good for him. As our military's responsibilities are increasing, it is simultaneously being hollowed out. This is the truth we need to hear.
Pawlenty is coming out of the woodwork as a mild-mannered conservative with clear solutions. He will have to fully develop those solutions and demonstrate his conviction, but at a time where demagoguery and political grandstanding are rampant, a candidate who speaks the blunt-honest truth about the crisis we're in and the tough decisions ahead might be what the country needs. He has plenty of blemishes on his record that will need to be explained, but that is what the next year will be about.
For now, after years of Washington giving easy answers and passing on difficult decisions, it is indeed a time for truth. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign is off to a great start.