I have certain tendencies, see, that even my two best men at my wedding pointed out — I’m the kind of guy to take on all sorts of big projects, thinking that I can keep a bunch of different balls in the air indefinitely and with precision, but in reality it takes everything I have not to drop one or two along the way or, worse, drop everything all at once.
So, when it comes to the first day of the new year, I present myself with a mental list of challenges I will either face or would like to face before the next twelve months are up, and vow to make as many happen as I can without allowing the rest of my life to fall to pieces. Last year, two of the bigger challenges were (a) to successfully move my family from Philadelphia to Charleston, and (b) to pass the South Carolina Bar Exam on the first try. One for two ain’t bad. (It’s a lovely 70 degrees as I write this on New Year’s Day from my deck outside of Charleston, South Carolina; my Bar results weren’t so lovely.)
This year, of course, there are a few of the regular challenges–I’d like to be the best possible husband and father, and have a better financial picture and slimmer waistline after twelve months than I do now, for example –but I find myself worriedly confronted with a number of challenges of a larger scope. In April, for example, we’ll be welcoming a brand new baby boy to the family, a new challenge that doesn’t quite fall in the “optional” category. I’d also like to pass the Bar Exam on the second try in February, finish the book I’m working on whenever I can find time, and ensure that America’s Right stays at least somewhat relevant in today’s political discourse.
I’d love to guarantee that all will be accomplished but, as evidenced (again) by the pants in my closet that just keep getting larger and larger, there are no guarantees.
Part of me wonders if our nation has the same luxury when it comes to letting a ball drop here or there. If I cannot finish the book or if it takes me a third attempt to pass the Bar Exam, for example, so be it. If all I have the time to do at America’s Right is post recipes for cookies and pastry, so be it. So long as I take the appropriate steps to take care of my family, I’m fine with everything else. The United States of America, however, seems to be reaching a teetering point in a couple of arenas, and I’m not so certain that inattention with regard to issues such as our growing debt and the looming crises in Medicare and Social Security can be tolerated.
The grandchildren of the baby boom generation will spend their adult lives paying in to the Social Security program, but will inevitably watch as it faces bankruptcy long before they stand to collect benefits. Bernie Madoff languishes in prison for employing the same sort of business model. As for Medicare, things are equally as daunting. From the New York Daily News today:
The oldest members of the Baby Boom generation turn 65 in 2011 and will begin to swamp the struggling Medicare program with millions of new applicants.
Boomers born in 1946 – the first year of the postwar era when birthrates soared – will be eligible for the government-administered health insurance program starting Saturday.
Medicare covered just 45.2 million people in 2008 and cost $500 billion. By 2030, that spending is expected to double, raising concerns that the health care program could go bankrupt – a devastating blow to Baby Boomers who have paid into the system their whole working lives.
Unfortunately, both Social Security and Medicare are political third rails, and the growing partisanship and hunger for power in Washington, D.C. means that neither are likely to be addressed in a serious way. Sad, because a large part of the solution for both lies in something that has sparked a political movement which grew exponentially in 2010: individual freedom. Medicare–and health care in America in general–would benefit from the creation and use of Health Savings Accounts. Social Security could similarly be saved by allowing for funds to be invested responsibly on the personal level — while funds growing at the 1.2 percent or so they enjoy now would take approximately sixty years to double, if my math is correct (admittedly, a long shot) a modest three percent could allow for said funds to double in just over twenty years.
The aforementioned partisanship and hunger on Capitol Hill, also, is a place in which America cannot afford to drop the ball. We come into 2011 prepared to swear in a Congress led by Republicans who claim to have learned from past transgressions, to have learned that the pursuit of power in perpetuity too easily overshadows the pursuit of what is right for the nation as a whole.
During the weeks and months before the November 2010 mid-term elections, we heard a resolution of sorts from GOP leadership that they will listen to the American people, that they will not compromise when it comes to conservative convictions. And yet, before this new Congress could even begin, key members of the Republican Party leadership did just that, caving to demands from Democrats wholly uninterested in fiscal discipline by irresponsibly extending unemployment benefits in exchange for bipartisan support on tax cuts which would have been unnecessary come January. As a result, they gave the same 111th Congress Democratic Party leadership which added more debt than the first 100 congresses combined a victory that served to vindicated their destructive agenda and foment a popular recovery for an otherwise beleaguered Democrat in the Oval Office.
(Want to better understand why the tax cut compromise was such a disappointment? Read Charles Krauthammer’s December 10, 2010 piece from the Washington Post.)
For me, the biggest challenge facing the nation has nothing to do with a specific issue. It’s ideological, and it has everything to do with a sort of personal willpower that has been missing from Washington, D.C. for … well, forever. 2010 was a remarkable year politically in that we saw an amazing transformation in grassroots America. I wonder less whether I’ll have lost weight by this time next year, or whether I’ll have finished my book or passed the Bar or anything else, and more about the Resurgent Right has retained its passion and commitment to principles, and grown its influence enough to hold our leadership accountable for doing so as well.