Not the America I Know

Carol Platt Liebau
|
Posted: Aug 17, 2008 10:08 PM
There's one more point about Barack's performance in last night's forum that bears mentioning.  According to the transcript, during a discussion of moral failures -- first his own, and then America's -- Barack had this to say:

I THINK AMERICA'S GREATEST MORAL FAILURE IN MY LIFETIME HAS BEEN THAT WE STILL DON'T ABIDE BY THAT BASIC [P]RECEPT IN MATTHEW THAT WHATEVER YOU DO FOR THE LEAST OF MY  BROTHERS, YOU DO FOR ME.  AND NOTION OF -- THAT BASIC PRINCIPLE APPLIES TO  POVERTY.  IT APPLIES TO RACISM AND SEXISM.  IT APPLIES TO, YOU KNOW, NOT HAVING -- NOT THINKING ABOUT PROVIDING LADDERS OF OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO GET INTO THE MIDDLE CLASS.  I MEAN, THERE IS A PURVASIVE [sic] SENSE I THINK THAT THIS COUNTRY IS WEALTHY AND POWERFUL AS WE STILL DON'T SPEND ENOUGH TIME THINKING ABOUT THE LEAST OF THESE --

I don't know what country Barack Obama is living in, but it has no relation to the America that I know.  Could we do better?  Of course -- always, in fact, until America is Heaven on Earth.  But where is the "pervasive sense" that we are "not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class"?

What does he think that the very generous government funding of higher education -- along with an extensive system of student loans -- is about?  Why, pray tell, do more people want to come here than to any other country in the world, and why is America known as the "land of opportunity"?

As for his assertion that "we still don't spend enough time thinking about the least of these" -- well, clearly, Barack is a lefty who defines "thinking about" in terms of tax money spent.  But even on that level, in America, as economist Walter Williams has noted:

In 2005, total federal, state and local government expenditures on 85 welfare programs were $620 billion. That's larger than national defense ($495 billion) or public education ($472 billion). The 2005 official poverty count was 37 million persons. That means welfare expenditures per poor person were $16,750, or $67,000 for a poor family of four.

Those figures understate poverty expenditures because poor people are recipients of non-welfare programs such as Social Security, Medicare, private charity and uncompensated medical care.

And although the system isn't optimal, keep in mind that even illegal aliens can break our laws, yet enjoy free medical care and education for their children.  See how many other countries offer that deal.

Finally, consider the tradition of American voluntarism.  More than a quarter of Americans volunteered their time in 2007, for more hours than those of which a typical workweek is comprised.  For a society that "doesn't spend enough time thinking about the least of these," that's impressive.

In fact, it's impressive, period.  Many languages don't even have a word for "volunteer" because the concept of donating one's time for the good of others, without government coercion, is a foreign concept.    (The Russian language is one of them).

No one is saying that America is perfect.  We have a sad legacy of racial discrimination -- but again, one that virtually all Americans regret and have been willing to spend our treasure and our time to rectify.

If Barack Obama wants to condemn the USA for its failure to provide opportunity or its selfishness, he can only do it if he's envisioning socialist governments -- where the government "gives" everyone everything by dint of exorbitant and coercive tax rates -- as the exemplars of compassion.