Children of the State

It’s not surprising how often Big Government treats its people like children, but it’s a bit depressing that the public has grown so accustomed to it. 

Dependency is essentially childish.  Independence and responsibility are fundamental components of both liberty and adulthood.  A nation of welfare and bailouts is a nation in which none of the children are permitted to fall down and hurt themselves.  You can’t have entrepreneurship without risk, and you can’t have risk without consequences.  Calculated risk is the business of adults.

The government treats us like children in matters large and small.  For a small example, consider the saga of the Lunch Police in North Carolina.  At least two parents have come forward with stories of federal agents inspecting the bag lunches of their small children, pronouncing them nutritionally unfit, and compelling the parents to pay for government-approved school lunches instead.  One of the kids got her hands on a signed memo from the school principal, discussing the USDA requirements for acceptable bag lunches, and clearly stating that “students who do not bring a healthy lunch will be offered the missing portions, which may result in a fee from the cafeteria.”

In essence, this boils down to treating the parents as if they were wayward children.  They’re not fit to decide what their children should eat, so the Mommy State will take over.

The child-citizens who congregate in the Catholic playpen will not be allowed to place their little religious daydreams ahead of the Mommy State’s wisdom in the matter of contraception.  When the Catholics began banging their high chairs, Grandpa Obama’s solution was to declare those contraceptives were a “free” gift from the insurance companies.  This was supposed to quiet the clamor, because they wouldn’t be “paying” for the “free” birth-control goodies.  It takes the mind of a small child to accept such reasoning.

When he was required to submit a budget for the coming fiscal year, and forecasts for America’s financial future, President Obama turned in a pile of trillion-dollar deficits, with a national debt that blows off the charts.  Only a nation of children would be willing to allow him to get away with such adolescent “tomorrow will never come” reasoning.  The business of a bankrupt government cruising on autopilot toward $20 trillion in debt is fundamentally infantile.  Only adults think about consequences, or paying their own way.

The President’s excuses are the sort of nonsense that only sounds reasonable in the ears of the very young.  All of his problems were caused by his long-departed predecessor.  Nothing is his fault, at all.  The last time he broke the debt ceiling, he promised he wouldn’t do it again… but now it looks like another debt ceiling increase will be needed before the 2012 election.

We accept massive, unsustainable peacetime deficits as the “new normal” because the acolytes of Big Government don’t want to openly discuss the kind of tax rates that would be necessary to fund their utopia.  The fantasy that some faceless group of rich people could pay for it all, if they were properly interested in “paying their fair share,” is a quintessentially childish fairy tale.  You can prove it’s impossible with simple math, but it doesn’t work any better than using simple math to explain to a hysterical child why you can’t afford to buy him a toy he really wants.  Tiny tots gathered around the Christmas tree do not ask Mom and Dad if it was wise to run up the family credit cards to buy all those presents.

Obama’s freedom-has-failed narrative is the kind of ghost story that proves useful for frightening children into obedience.  A confident nation has little patience for a President who decides which companies should “win” and “lose,” lectures the little people on what ambitions they should be allowed to hold, and presents us with a choice between hyper-regulatory central planning, or being hunted by wolves upon the frozen tundra of the free market. 

The Left prefers a fearful and immature electorate, more interested in State protection than the freedom to pursue opportunity.  The control mechanism of envy only works properly under such conditions.  Who respects the property rights of others less than an errant child?  Who could be more eager to hear talk of what he’s “entitled” to, rather than what he has earned?

It’s no coincidence that popular culture has come to venerate perpetual adolescence.  Thirty-year-old students and forty-year-olds living in Mom’s attic have become more common.  Relatively little outrage greeted ObamaCare’s declaration that 26-year-olds are officially “children.”  Marriage and parenthood are under attack in countless ways.  The great project to mainstream behavior earlier generations would have regarded as shameful is nearly complete.  For that matter, shame itself has been largely abolished.  We are endlessly told that feeling good is the highest virtue, while only uptight, repressed people would waste time feeling ashamed of themselves, for anything.  We used to have a different word for such people: adults.

One of the defining characteristics of adults is their willingness to take responsibility for their children.  We are the stewards of the future, which our children will inherit.  But today’s kids are born with nearly fifty thousand dollars in debt strapped to their backs.  We’ve run up debts they will never be able to repay.  We’re on course to saddle them with a debt so huge that one hundred percent of their public money will be tied up merely financing the interest payments.  That is not the behavior of an adult nation.

One thing can be said with certainty about childhood: it ends.  The realities we have been persuaded to ignore are catching up with us.  Confronted with a chart that showed our national debt skyrocketing to ludicrous heights by 2075, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner snorted that it might as well have included projections for the year 3000.  House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan replied that there was no point in taking things any further, because “the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.”  That’s what it sounds like when an adult sternly reprimands a snot-nosed child.  We will not survive another four years of “leadership” by snot-nosed children, suited only for the government of infants.