Friday, October 30, 2009
Peggy Noonan, once a speechwriter for President Reagan and now a Wall Street Journal columnist, has been slipping for some time. I remember when she took a leave of absence from her job at WSJ in 2004, to campaign for the re-election of George W. Bush; she felt that having him at the helm was more important than her job. By 2008, though, she had become increasingly disillusioned with the President, and in her columns was sounding more and more like a liberal Democrat.
In particular, she's been a strong supporter of Barack Obama's candidacy and Presidency, largely from the perspective of the hope he brought with him... and some readers have been perplexed at her willingness to be caught up in the hype. (She keeps offering the President advice, for example, on the theory that he just doesn't understand.)
Today's column, however, marks a refreshing (for me) return to pragmatism. She doesn't name the President directly, but it's pretty clear what she means:
It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don't see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.(emphasis mine)
When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?
I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.
They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.
We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.
The title of her column: We're Governed by Callous Children -- speaks volumes.
Read the whole thing. She also has some interesting examples of "going Galt" -- people who refuse to put up with ever-higher taxes, and choose to simply opt out instead. I suspect we'll be seeing more and more of that.