by Daniel Gardner
The races for president and other national offices are going to be about spending to help the poor, welfare, or entitlement spending depending on one's point of view. But, voters will make decisions based on which candidates they like best rather than what candidates stand for.
Those with liberal/progressive points of view will couch arguments in terms of "spending to help the poor." Who could be against that? Americans are the most charitable people on earth according to Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation which released its worldwide survey a week ago.
Americans have always been charitable. Consider Alexis de Tocqueville's comments in the 1830s that unlike Europeans, Americans don't wait for governments or noblemen to solve problems, but solve problems locally through community efforts.
Americans still meet many needs locally when fires consume neighbors' dwellings or someone is suffering catastrophic health problems and needs money to cover costs. But, somewhere along the way liberal/progressives (in both parties) decreed government should do that and raised our taxes to pay for programs engineered to help the "poor" with so-called safety nets.
Well, many of those safety nets have evolved into boardwalks and super highways, and those who have become dependent on them largely believe the government owes them money and benefits. In fact, educators following Howard Zinn teach our children government is supposed to meet all of our needs, and not just those spelled out in the Constitution.
Those with more conservative points of view argue in terms of welfare and entitlement spending. "Welfare" in particular is a toxic word. Polls conducted by the General Social Survey demonstrate the power of words in America. For example, since 1972 the polls indicate Americans by 2-to-1 believe too little is spent on the poor, on education, on health care, on drug treatment, etc.
But, when asked whether too much is spent on "welfare," Americans believe 49.3 percent to 21 percent that too much is spent on welfare, and nearly 75 percent of Americans believe "welfare" causes people to work less. Words matter.
The dismal economy we and our European neighbors have been suffering through for the past three or four years has reminded us debt is not our friend. We have a national debt above $15 Trillion and growing at a clip exceeding $1.3 Trillion each year under President Obama. Don't try this at home. Only professional politicians can do this safely…or not…with our money.
Those who count such things have been telling us for years our entitlement programs - particularly Medicare - are unsustainable, meaning programs' continued growth will completely bankrupt America, some say as soon as five to ten years.
Saying America is too big to fail, liberal/progressives deny America can go bankrupt like Greece, Italy, Spain, and a host of other democratic socialist nations in the Eurozone.
Come November, these issues really won't matter. People will vote for those who make the best campaign speeches, and will vote against candidates covered with the most mud. 2012 elections will be decided on words not issues.