Few people in the public eye have said anything useful about the recent unpleasantness with the national debt and the national credit rating. The president hasn’t. The vice president hasn’t. Surprisingly few of the declared Republican candidates have. The MSM haven’t. They’re busy trying to make the expression “Tea Party downgrade” go viral.
Indeed, at this hour of reckoning, with the Dow plunging and markets in turmoil around the world, the MSM have achieved another playground-taunt triumph with the silly Newsweek cover featuring an unflattering photo of Michelle Bachmann. These people seem to have no sense of proportion, no judgment, no recognition that things have become serious and the time for sophomoric media jabs is past.
Who cares how they can make Bachmann look on a magazine cover? The tabloids demonstrate several times a year that they can make the world’s most beautiful women look like something from the back of the refrigerator, if they photograph them in bad light with a telephoto lens. The Bachmann cover is the equivalent of a slam-book entry, about as intelligent as holding your nose and chanting “You smell!” at a classmate. Ridicule is the cheapest thing there is – and in politics, it’s usually deployed to shift the focus from a needed debate to specious topics and emotion. I’d call it a reversion to high school, but it would be an insult even to middle-schoolers to pin it on their age group.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have had good, inspiring, on-target things to say about the US fiscal crisis. Michelle Bachmann has had good things to say. John Bolton had an important piece making the case that national security is inextricably linked with fiscal security, a much-needed point in the context of the recent debate.
But Sarah Palin came through today with a Facebook post that strikes the right tone and is at once simple, direct, and comprehensive. It doesn’t rail at past mistakes, nor does it come across as a raised-voice, you’ve-got-to-get-this-people communication. Palin takes it for granted – with refreshing common sense – that we are in a crisis, its features are obvious, and the task now is to deal with it, not continue to argue whether it’s really a crisis or how big it is or whose name we can pin on it.
She makes no bones about the significance of the problem we face. I am particularly impressed with her point that if we don’t square ourselves away, the specter hangs over us of IMF staffers showing up on our doorstep with China and France and Germany arrayed behind them, ready to throw folders on a desk and start telling us how much we can spend on cable TV and incidentals each month. Whether things would really play out for the US as they are playing out for Greece and Ireland is a valid question, but Palin is quite correct that the pitched confrontation is on the horizon now, as it was not six weeks ago – and she has the courage to face that possibility head-on. It’s not pleasant to mention it, but it’s the right thing to do.
The last third of Palin’s post is devoted to laying out what we need to do. Grow the economy by releasing the regulatory clamps on it, starting with the energy sector. Cut spending and reform entitlements. She doesn’t pretend the latter would be easy, but she faces head-on the fact that it is inescapably necessary. I urge you to read her post for the discussion of particulars. It is material and convincing without being in the weeds.
The piece is positive and encouraging for its forthrightness. There is nothing “clever” to be done in this situation; it’s all straightforward. The US federal government has to cut spending and let the economy grow, even if that means breaking the stranglehold of unions on the public trough and overruling advocacy groups and government bureaucrats who don’t want the economy to grow. Pretending that the federal budget is too complex to be governed by the ordinary rules of accounting – or that the US is too special to be limited by the ordinary definition of fiscal solvency – is a dodge, not a sign of insight or expertise.
Palin focuses like any good executive on the big picture. We have to cut spending and get government out of the economy’s way so it can start pumping out revenues again. These things are increasingly obvious to everyone, and moreover, they constitute a plan. Talking ourselves into corners about other, tangential things isn’t even interesting any more. It feels so wrong that it’s hard to watch anyone’s news program at the moment: no one seems to be talking about what matters.
What is interesting is how few in our national political life have put the case together, as Palin has, without temporizing or bloviating. I haven’t heard anyone else do what she does with this post. She acknowledges the actual, enormous scope of the problem, envisions a solution, and outlines what to do to achieve it, with encouragement that it can be done. It is sad and a little frightening that so many Americans have become unable to see this for what it is: leadership. Almost everyone else is focused more narrowly, on one aspect of the problem or another, and a good few commentators don’t seem to even have the vocabulary or the mental infrastructure to address the problem itself; they can only express opinions about the impossibility of the politics surrounding it.
It is the opposite of stupid to recognize the problem’s stark and simple outlines when all around you are swinging blindfolded at piñatas. We spend too much, and we suppress economic growth and revenues with regulation. Palin articulates that clearly. Her ability to reach out directly through social media, and put her case in her terms, is a net positive for our current political climate. She remains one of the best reasons to not let the MSM dictate our ideas and preferences to us.