On the One Hand…
These should not be foreboding years. The U.S. is in the midst of a veritable energy revolution. There is a godsend of new gas and oil discoveries that will help to curtail our fiscal and foreign policy vulnerabilities — an energy bonanza despite, not because of, the present administration.
In terms of farming, the United States is exporting more produce than ever before at record prices. Americans eat the safest and cheapest food on the planet.
As far as high-tech gadgetry, the global companies that have most changed the world in recent years — Amazon’s online buying, Google search engines, Apple iPhones, iPads, and Mac laptops — are mostly American. There is a reason why Mexican nationals are not crossing their border into Guatemala — and it is not because they prefer English speakers to Spanish speakers.
Militarily, the United States is light years ahead of its rivals. And so on…
The New Poverty Is the Old Middle Class
We have redefined poverty itself through government entitlements, modes of mass production and consumerism, and technological breakthroughs. The poor man is not hungry; more likely he suffers from obesity, now endemic among the less affluent. He is not deprived of a big-screen TV, a Kia, warm water, or an air conditioner. (My dad got our first color television during my first year in college in 1972, a small 19 inch portable; I bought my first new car at 39, and quit changing my own oil at 44.)
In classical terms, today’s poor man is poor not in relative global terms (e.g. compared to a Russian, Bolivian, or Yemeni), but in the sense that there are those in America who have more things and choices than does he: a BMW instead of a Hyundai, ribeye instead of ground beef, Pellegrino rather than regular Coke, Tuscany in the summer rather than Anaheim at Disneyland, and L.L. Bean tasteful footwear rather than Payless shoes. I was in Manhattan not long ago, and noticed that my cheap, discount-store sportcoat and Target tie did not raise eyebrows among the wealthy people I spoke to, suggesting that the veneer of aristocracy is now within all our reach. When I returned to Selma, I noted that those ahead of me at Super Wal-Mart were clothed no differently than was I. Their EBD cards bought about the same foods.
Put all the above developments together, and an alignment of the planets is favoring America as never before — as long as we do not do something stupid to nullify what fate, our ancestors, and our own ingenuity have given us. But unfortunately that is precisely what is now happening.
The New Hubris
These are the most foreboding times in my 59 years. The reelection of Barack Obama has released a surge of rare honesty among the Left about its intentions, coupled with a sense of triumphalism that the country is now on board for still greater redistributionist change.
There is no historical appreciation among the new progressive technocracy that central state planning, whether the toxic communist brand or supposedly benevolent socialism, has only left millions of corpses in its wake, or abject poverty and misery. Add up the Soviet Union and Mao’s China and the sum is 80 million murdered or starved to death. Add up North Korea, Cuba, and the former Eastern Europe, and the tally is egalitarian poverty and hopelessness. The EU sacrificed democratic institutions for coerced utopianism and still failed, leaving its Mediterranean shore bankrupt and despondent.
Nor is there much philosophical worry that giving people massive subsidies destroys individualism, the work ethic, and the personal sense of accomplishment. There is rarely worry expressed that a profligate nation that borrows from others abroad and those not born has no moral compass. There is scant political appreciation that the materialist Marxist argument — that justice is found only through making sure that everyone has the same slice of stuff from the zero-sum pie — was supposed to end up on the ash heap of history.