Last November, my brother-in-law left his steady job at the city’s Public Works Department to begin working for an energy production company whose work site is situated near George West, a small town in South Texas. Although the move would keep him about 100 miles away from the family four days out of the week, he said what mattered most at this point in time was that the job change would double his annual salary.
It wasn’t a decision that was made overnight, it had been a long time coming. It started with the “belt-tightening” on the basics –enjoying fewer dinners on weekends with friends and family and shopping for sales when buying clothes for the kids.
I’ve known my brother-in-law long enough to know he is not impulsive, and my sister –like many women in households across America who are the bill payers, the “penny pinchers” who manage the family economy with laser-like attentiveness– does not allow many indulgences. She also happens to be the mother of four vivacious young children that take up a lot of her time.
I asked her if she was certain whether they would be able to withstand the difficult circumstances sure to strain her family’s resolve. She explained that they were having trouble making ends meet and with the threat of new taxes reducing take home pay even more, they had to make the tough decision in order to provide for their kids. I remained quiet as she crossed her arms, tilted her head askance, stared at the ground in front of us contemplatively and said, “The kids miss their dad, but they are starting to adjust.”
I was thinking it’s bad when the new normal means our children are being forced to adjust to a life of separation, but it was hard to argue against the reasoning behind their decision, so I didn’t.
But if my sister’s situation seems a bit tragic, I know of far worse situations being borne by other American families struggling to stay above water in today’s grim economy. It’s been especially trying for those who have struggled for months on end to find gainful employment during these hard times.
Is it any wonder more and more Americans succumb to the siren song of the “The Life of Julia” (President Obama’s fictional female cartoon character who relies on the government to sustain her from cradle to grave) as opposed to undergoing the difficulty of real life hardships and make the gut wrenching decisions necessary to make ends meet, when the only answers coming from Washington politicians are to continue recklessly printing money in billion dollar stacks, racking up sinful amounts of debt and spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars in redistributive schemes? In fact, the United States has now recorded a deficit during 45 of the last 47 months.
President Barack Obama, said a couple of weeks ago that “We are not a deadbeat nation,” but that is exactly what we will soon become. We all agree that the United States must pay its debts, but nevertheless, the president racked up a $6.5 trillion debt in just one term. Now we must pay the piper and his way of paying it down is through bad economic policies that will haunt us for generations to come.
The president has shown himself to be so keen on spending he told the press he will simply refuse to negotiate with Republicans on the “debt ceiling”. Republicans have repeatedly said they fully intend to leverage the debate as an opportunity to agree on much needed spending cuts. The standoff has become a high stakes game that may end in a disastrous government shutdown.
President Obama has demonstrated he would rather shift the burden of Washington’s reckless spending on the backs of hard working Americans instead of demonstrating leadership by working with the other side to rein in wasteful spending, reform America’s unsustainable entitlement programs and usher in effective tax reform. It is irresponsible and unbecoming of a U.S. president to shirk away from his obligation to look out for the interest of all Americans, not just those who agree with him.
It seems that the $600 billion tax hike the president received at the start of the year will not quench his thirst for the spending he envisions. His position is that the size and scope of government must grow in order to sustain the spending binge that his administration has enjoyed during the past four years.
If “Julia” is the new substitute for the American Dream –once achieved through hard work and skill– there will be yet more calls for higher taxes in the near future in order to sustain increased redistribution schemes. Meaning, the rich must be deprived of still more of their earnings, and the middle class must be willing to endure much less take home pay than ever.
Similarly, President Obama’s call to run up the nation’s credit card without approving spending cuts must also be resisted if we are to rein in runaway spending and improve the take-home pay of every hard working American.
If we are to reverse the current state of the economy, improve the lives of everyday Americans and increase the prospects of future opportunities for our children, we should heed any calls for more tax hikes, on anyone. It seems to me that everyday Americans are the only ones having to make the hard choices these days while Washington politicians refuse to tighten their belts.
It is time for Washington to make the hard choices in these hard times so then, maybe soon, folks like my brother-in-law can afford to come home to be with their families.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former White House staffer from 2001-2006.