June 2012 - Volume 17, Number 2
Yearning for Normalcy
by John Hendrickson
William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of National Review, famously stated that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling stop,” in regard to the advancement of modern liberalism and progressivism in both domestic and foreign policies, which was symbolized by the dominance of New Deal liberalism in post-war society. Today, the need to “stand athwart history, yelling stop,” may be even more vital in regard to the current policy problems confronting the nation. The United States is at a critical crossroads and it is crucial that the nation return back to traditional constitutional principles in facing the challenges ahead. As Patrick J. Buchanan wrote in Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?
From the economy to the cultural war a significant philosophical divide exists between conservatives and liberals over the direction and future of the nation. The economy represents one of many urgent issues facing the nation. The weak recovery from the “Great Recession” continues, while unemployment remains high and record numbers of Americans are relying on some form of government assistance. In addition, the policy uncertainty continues to cast a dark shadow over the economy. The official unemployment rate, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, currently stands at 8.1 percent, but as a recent editorial by Investor’s Business Daily reports, the actual unemployment rate is much higher at 11 percent. As The Washington Times argued:
In addition to the unemployment problem the nation faces a significant fiscal crisis which centers on our national debt, which is $16 trillion and growing. Federal spending continues to grow with the government spending $3.8 trillion this year plus running trillion-dollar deficits over the past few years. The government is spending about 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and as Patrick Buchanan noted, “the national debt is surging to 100 percent of GDP, portending an eventual run on the dollar, a default, or Weimar-like inflation.”
As Political Scientist John J. DiIulio, Jr., recently wrote in National Affairs:
The fiscal situation is especially made worse by the increasing cost of the entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These entitlement programs already consume a large portion of mandatory spending in the federal budget. As The Heritage Foundation explains:
Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, noted that “Social Security faces unfunded liabilities of more than $15.8 trillion,” while Medicare faces a “budget shortfall of between $50 and $100 trillion, depending on which accounting measure is used.” Entitlement spending along with the massive increase in federal spending is at the heart of this fiscal crisis.
The issue of high unemployment is directly tied to the national debt crisis. In addition, the increase in federal regulatory power and the future direction of health-care policy as related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is also placing an albatross on the economy. To make the issue worse, the nation is rapidly approaching the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling limit and “the nation faces an unprecedented tidal wave of tax hikes on January 1, 2013.” Unless prevented by Congress, the nation will see an estimated $500 billion across-the-board tax increase, which would cripple the economy and lead to economic disaster.
These economic problems will not be easy to solve, and both President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans have very different solutions. Nevertheless, policymakers must address these issues now or else face a significant crisis that is already leading Europe to the brink of collapse. Cutting government spending will not be an easy process. As John J. DiIulio, Jr. wrote:
The New Deal influence is still heavy in the United States, just as the continual demand for the social welfare state in Europe has led to a rise of socialism in response to the untried policies of austerity. The current fiscal crisis demands that not only spending cuts, but entitlement programs be reformed.
A number of solid policy reforms are currently being offered from policymakers such as Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose “Path to Prosperity” plan is probably the most famous Congressional budget proposal, while Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Mike Lee (R-UT), whose proposal modeled The Heritage Foundation’s plan “Saving the American Dream,” all offer solid fiscal solutions to solve the fiscal crisis and create economic growth.
Americans are yearning, to borrow a phrase from President Warren G. Harding, for a return to normalcy. Returning to normalcy will take a policy approach which centers on the restoration of constitutional limited government. Republicans in Congress, along with bipartisan commissions such as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, have offered significant policy ideas that will return the nation back to fiscal stability. “An American economic collapse is not only predictable but also inevitable if we continue on our current course,” wrote Representative Steve King (R-IA).
 William F. Buckley, Jr., “Our mission statement,” National Review Online, November 19, 1955, <http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/223549/our-mission-statement/william-f-buckley-jr#> accessed on May 11, 2012.
John Hendrickson is a Research
Analyst with Public Interest Institute.
LIMITS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in March, June, September, and December. It consists of short articles and essays on protection of human rights by limiting the powers of government.
LIMITS is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute, whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.
Contributions are tax-deductible under sections 501(c)(3) and 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used: "Reprinted by permission from LIMITS, a quarterly newsletter of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute.
If you have an article you believe is worth sharing, please send it to us. All or a portion of your article may be used. The articles in this
publication are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry, because IDEAS DO MATTER.
All of our publications are available for sponsorship. Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government. For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at 319-385-3462 or e-mail us at Public.Interest.Institute@LimitedGovernment.org