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Fewer Bailouts and A Lot More Personal Responsibility

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When you exercise your first amendment rights to demonstrate and get a bit carried away throwing bricks through a local shop window, shouldn’t you beheld accountable?

When you take six years to graduate from college in a major with no career opportunities, should government be expected to forgive your student debt?

When you go to China to represent your university and embarrass your family, school, and country by shoplifting, shouldn’t you expect to lose more than just being suspended from playing basketball until you earn your way back on the team?

Life is difficult. Mistakes are made, and some are costly. Promises and contracts matter. Debts should be paid. When you do the crime, do some time. Government should have no right to take from one American to pay for another’s negligence and poor choices. Charity to provide temporary relief—yes! Government entitlements for a consequence-free life at others’ expense—no!

Is it important for a culture to care enough to hold citizens accountable for their mistakes and their choices? Charity for the most disadvantaged? Yes. 

Bailouts for citizens who are not poor? Not at the expense of other Americans who earned, saved, and took out insurance to protect their own future.

We are losing our appreciation for time-tested, old-fashioned values. Did you hear any of these statements repeated in your family?

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

“What doesn’t break you makes you stronger.”

“You can do everything you put your mind to.”

“Hard work never did anyone any harm.”

“Life is what you make it.”

I was told to pay for what I broke. I was told to pay off my debts no matter how long it took. I was told not to steal and to expect to be held accountable if I did. I never expected life to be easy. Overcoming obstacles was what builds character and true optimism. Outside of devastating natural or medical disasters, you can handle what life throws you without running to the government to pay for unplanned setbacks.

Coach Lou Holtz claimed that athletics has the potential of revealing the same truths: “Athletics teaches you that you've got to overcome adversity. Nobody goes unbeaten every year, nobody makes every shot, no one sinks every putt. Everybody's going to have problems. I've been on top; I've been on the bottom. I've learned that success is never final; defeat is not fatal. Whether it's in business, on the field, or in your personal life, the person who copes with problems and uses them as motivation is going to be successful.”

Tom Denner had disabilities but found that even his adversities did not truly limit his life’s perspective: "When I grew up, I had physical problems, but my mind worked well. My mother would never let me feel sorry for myself. She just wouldn't allow that. You've got to realize that a situation is only a situation, and you can't lose perspective. You can't let outside circumstances control you. I had an advantage, because I grew up with a handicap. So, I think I knew that outside circumstances are just circumstances. I realized that I always had to continue with what I still had left--which was life."

Of course, the support of others is important. Family, friends, and communities help provide temporary support when needed. Charities work to support individuals facing more lasting disabilities. But the expectation that it is government’s job to take away our problems, ensure a living wage, or establish an acceptable standard of living, takes away from the need to develop personal responsibility and coping skills so necessary in maintaining the “can do” culture that helped create America.

If being cared for is a “right,” then why should it be limited to America? Should the UN take from the successful and give to the poor all around the world? If they did, even the poorest in America would be taxed heavily to balance the scales of life. Our Founding fathers knew enough to ensure the pursuit of happiness not equal results in that pursuit. Instead of complaining to teachers to raise the grades of your children, parents oughtto be turning to their children to work harder to earn the grades they need. It may be time for a few of those old-time lectures that helped shape our country. True caring involves caring enough to hold people accountable so that they learn to take more responsibility for their own actions and their own futures.

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