The Character Of A Nation

Democrats have their panties in a twist and Republicans are patting themselves on the back, both in response to the likelihood that the Bush-era rates of taxation will not be repealed.  But the idea that Democrats should be upset with this deal is surprising–as surprising as any Republican calling himself a fiscal hawk should be happy.  Republicans got sucker-punched again, for the exact same reason they always do: they mistook gross fiscal and moral irresponsibility for “compassion.” Let me explain.

Here’s what Republicans got:  nothing.  By nothing I mean that, if the deal in its current form is passed, all that happens is the current rates of taxation stay the same.  Perhaps is some intellectual circles changing nothing equals something.  Certainly Democrats think so.  They’re quite adamant about characterizing a maintenance of the current status quo as a “tax cut,” which is as unsurprising as it is inaccurate.  Calculated misrepresentation is one of their primary calling cards.  And they’re more than willing to embellish that misrepresentation with a dollop of class warfare by adding the words “for the rich” to the words “tax cut.” 

No doubt the fact that 48% of Americans pay no income tax at all is the essence of “fairness” for the “social justice” sputterers, thoroughly convinced that someone–make that anyone–besides themselves owes them a living as compensation for the “heartless” inequities of capitalism.  Even if that were so (which it’s not), biting the hand that feeds you, as in vilifying successful Americans for their success, even as you put your hand deeper in their pockets, is hardly a recipe for winning hearts and minds. 

One suspects that if the last election proved anything, it is a substantial number of Americans have had their sympathy meters pushed to the limit.  A government confiscating 25% of the Gross National Product, even as it castigates Americans for not contributing more to its wretched excess, tends to clarify many addled minds.

Unfortunately, guilt is still a “definite buy” on the stock market of human emotions, and it is precisely why Democrats should be rejoicing for what they got:  in exchange for nothing, Democrats got thirteen more months of unemployment insurance for unemployed Americans.  This means some Americans can remain on the dole for a mind-boggling 155 weeks.  For those of you who attended unionized, government-run, public schools let me save you the trouble:  that’s one month shy of three years.  To put it in further perspective, if your 99 weeks of unemployment insurance runs out this month, you’re covered–until January 2012.

If that doesn’t put the “happy” in Happy New Year (or is that two Happy New Years?) for some Americans, it is hard to imagine what does.

Certainly not a job.  Not unless you believe the progressive understanding of human nature.  That would be the understanding which assumes the overwhelming majority of those who can kick back for the next year-plus, on top of the last two, will be beating the bushes tomorrow and every day thereafter looking for whatever job they can find.  No doubt there are some people like that.  But in the current era, the one in which self-entitlement has reached unprecedented heights, they might pitiably referred to as either saints–or suckers. 

One thing you can bet the farm on:  they’re not the majority of the “155-ers.”

One more thing you can bet the farm on:  someone getting paid for doing nothing for almost three years won’t be the same person at the back end of the experience they were at the front end.  In that period of time one doesn’t merely maintain one’s life.  One develops a lifestyle.   One gets used to getting a check, sleeping in a little later, having a certain amount of pressure relieved, and knowing that when push comes to shove, there’s still plenty of time before one has to “get serious” about finding a job.  And that’s assuming that, in January 2012, in the midst of a presidential election campaign, that people losing their benefits won’t get yet another extension, when Democrats accuse a Republican House majority of “unconscionable heartlessness” for refusing to do so.

You know what a person who has spent three years on the dole is? A progressive movement’s dream come true, that’s what.  A progressive movement which knows that the extension of the status quo with regard to tax rates isn’t the same as a tax cut.  This is a crucial distinction.  The three major tax cuts enacted in the last fifty years–by JFK, Reagan and Bush 43–resulted in more revenue flowing into the U.S. Treasury the following year.  The maintenance of the status quo may yield higher revenues, but just as likely, they may not.  If they don’t, progressives who are calling this deal a tax cut will then embellish on that original lie by saying that lack of additional revenue is “proof” that tax “cuts” don’t stimulate anything. 

And apparently it hasn’t occurred to Republicans that trying to prove a negative–as in it would have been worse without them–is next to impossible, especially if there is no substantial improvement in the economy between now and then.  See the slogan “three million jobs created or saved” for reference, Republicans.

Democrats on the other hand, may have just added a substantial number of new constituents to their electoral base.  Constituents grown quite used to almost three years of taking it easy.  Constituents for whom working is an ever-receding memory, whose skills are rusty, and whose appetite for “getting back in the game” is somewhat, if not substantially, dulled.  People ever more attuned to the siren song of Us against Them, and far more acquiescent to the “everyone else is getting away with it, why not me” that is far closer to the genuine essence of human nature which revolves around one constant:

Taking the path of least resistance.

This is what Republicans have “won” and Democrats have “lost.”  As for America itself, we are heading into uncharted waters.  Some of us are old enough to remember when taking something for nothing was the last resort, an ego-deflating and somewhat shameful experience one endured only when every other option had been exhausted. Such strength of character–and it is strength of character–has become an anachronism in a country where shame is deader than the proverbial doornail. 

Some of the comments following this article will invariably rail against the “rigged game,” the “evil corporations,” and the “rapacious bankers and Wall Street titans,” etc., etc.  None of it is totally inaccurate, but all of it misses the point: a lack of character isn’t confined to one economic class, nor does it matter in which economic class it is cultivated and nurtured.  The housing meltdown is a perfect example:  when bankers realized that government would force them to make sub-prime loans of questionable soundness, they were more than willing to expand that irresponsibility to all the other loans they were making.  That is where the aforementioned path of least resistance invariably leads.

They are calling this deal a “compromise” in Washington, D.C. and they are absolutely correct:  the character of an entire nation is being thoroughly compromised.