By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
mpires rise and fall, but no one thought that America would ever fall. This country represents the best that mankind has to offer. Never in human history has there been a country with the underpinnings of this great nation – freedom, capitalism, democracy – enshrined and exalted. The amount of chessed that this country performs is unprecedented, as are many aspects of the legal system, the business system, the educational system, the civil rights afforded to all and the ability for every person to be able to reach their ambitions unfettered.
We live in very dangerous times. In a mere few months, people have gone from having hope in this country’s ability to combat everything that is thrown in its path to a period of severe depression over our future. Many fear that the government has been taken over by radicals who are unable to correctly perceive the issues facing the country today, and equally clueless as to how to escape the mess.
Instead of offering serious, well-considered solutions, the leadership fights back with sound bite populist demagoguery, which does little more than gain a momentary elation and serve to further pour oil on the gathering fire which threatens to engulf the nation. Some have gone as far to propose that the United States has begun a precipitous decline.
The recent mark of 100 days of Obama served to help bring the spotlight on the change that has come to the White House and provided an opportunity to better examine what can be expected from this new president and his administration. And it is not all pretty.
During the campaign, there were indications that he would swing the country far leftward towards socialism. He vehemently fought against those charges and claimed that he would be post-partisan and will not govern as a liberal or a conservative.
His popularity remains high even as some are beginning to sour on his policies, yet some see strains of socialism in his actions and speeches and fear for the future. While engaging in sound-bite driven political rhetoric read off of his teleprompter, he drove America-firsters crazy with his apology tours offering up contrition for America’s past.
His plans for remaking the health care system strike fear into the hearts of people who study similar systems in countries where doctors and hospitals are government controlled. They fear that the new system, which is being hatched behind closed Democratic doors, will strike a death knell to the readily accessible medical care we have all become accustomed to in this country. It will create medicine by bureaucracy. The only definites about the plan are that it will not improve anything and will cost a lot of money.
That doesn’t seem to bother anyone in power, because the administration plans on raising taxes as much as necessary to pay for this plan and for its entire wish list. This bunch really believes they can pay for every liberal program by soaking the rich. They have been out of power so long that they are enthralled with the idea of finally being able to push through an entire gamut of leftist proposals which have been thwarted by political realities until now.
So far, the rich are in shock, having lost their ready access to power and not being able to counter the admini- stration’s agenda. They have been relegated to pariah status and vilified as the cause of the nation’s ills. But, taking money out of the pockets of people who are used to spending it is not a recipe for reviving a sagging marketplace. It would seem obvious that the more money allowed to remain in the private sector, the more capital there will be for a consumer-driven escape from recession. The more money there is, the more demand there is, the more products are sold, the more factories have to hum to produce them, and the more people are employed in production, distribution and sales.
If sales pick up and production picks up, employment will rise, taxes paid will increase and a healthy economy will take seed. That is the whole basis of capitalism and the premise upon which this nation has grown to be the most powerful and enduring economy in history.
When you rob people of incentive to be productive, and take their money from them to cover an ever expanding government; when you draw up legislation to stymie industries; when you demonize the rich and their businesses, you increase the chances that the economy will not prosper. In the history of humanity, there has never been a system that has rescued the masses from poverty as capitalism and free enterprise have. The idea of helping ordinary people by government dictate and largesse is flawed and proven wrong. The theory that everyone is equal and that all people should be doing the same thing and earning equal incomes, despite their talents and abilities, has much common appeal, but simply doesn’t work. Its implementation leads to stagnation and lack of desire to work and be productive.
Just last week, while announcing the forced bankruptcy of Chrysler, Obama illustrated what it is about him that makes people so nervous. He took a swipe at bankers and investors who had pumped money into the failing company and then had the nerve to demand an equitable distribution. “I don’t stand with those who held out when everyone else is making sacrifices,” he said. The “small band of speculators” he blasted are owed $6.9 billion by the smallest of the former big three automakers. The government offered them $2 billion in a restructuring, approximately thirty cents on the dollar. They turned it down.
A junior creditor, the auto-workers union, was given fifty cents on the dollar and a controlling 55% ownership share of the company, while the lenders were excoriated for seeking “an unjustified taxpayer bailout.” The fact that the unions contributed tens of millions of dollars to the Democrat party was not mentioned by the president.
In a stark moment, unseen in modern times, the president of the United States forced a private company into bankruptcy so that the government, unions, and a foreign company can take over the company and seek to remake it in the politically correct image. The company would begin producing energy efficient cars that the marketplace has determined people don’t want and companies haven’t been able to make money on. Global warming will be cooled and prosperity will reign.
It remains to be seen how hard the administration will push Israel to enter into a failed peace process with neighbors bent on its destruction. As soon as their leftist agenda is implemented domestically they will turn their moral relativistic eyes towards Israel, forcing the Jewish state to capitulate to neighbors bent on their destruction. The administration which has apologized to Europe and Latin America, and reached out to despots, cannot be assumed to appreciate the fine points of history and facts relating to the Israel – Palestinian conflict.
We need not give up hope and become despondent. People who are quick to think that the world as we know it is coming to a sputtering halt should be reminded that as bad as today’s economic situation is, and as fearful as the political situation seems, the 1970s was much worse.
There was Richard Nixon, Watergate and Nixon’s ignoble resignation from office. People stood on long lines to buy gasoline for their cars when the Arab oil-producing states embargoed shipments of oil to this country in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. America lost the war in Vietnam and Communism was on the march. The Shah, America’s ally in Iran, was let go and forced into exile. The American embassy in Teheran was overrun and one hundred people were held hostage there for over a year.
The people punished Gerald Ford, no great genius, for pardoning Nixon by electing someone even less intelligent than Ford as president. Carter was a four-year disaster. The Republican Party was down to 12 governors, 38 senators and 144 Congress members.
That all changed with the rival of Ronald Reagan. So have no fear. Hashem, not man, runs the world. While we don’t always understand all of Hashem’s moves, we do have faith that in the end it will all be for the good.
We live through a period in which historic occasions take place so often that we have become jaded to the realities of what goes on around us. But history is written almost every day, whether we recognize it or not, and it behooves us to take notice from time to time.
We need to be more cognizant of what transpired in this country. The great dream of many of this country’s citizens has been realized. People whose ancestors were slaves never gave up the hope of overcoming their oppression and rising from the meager existence they were forced into. The slaves built the White House, and now one of their own has inherited the right to not only live in that house, but to rule the country from there.
We must be grateful to live in such a land, where the son of an African man, with skin of a different color, has earned the respect of much of the country and world. A man so different from those he grew up with generates an excitement in his leadership on a level never before felt in this country.
Our people were enslaved, tortured, pillaged, robbed and victimized by every form of hatred and pain that is humanly possible, yet with the help of Hashem we still stand. We merit living in a country that doesn’t look at our yarmulkes and doesn’t pay attention to our funny sounding names as it offers us every freedom to which human beings are entitled to.
We have no excuse for not rising to realize the potential with which Hashem blessed us. We can be anything we want without anyone being able to stop us. We are not locked into a ghetto and relegated to menial occupations. We must take full advantage of the opportunities available to be all we can be, to help all those who are around us, to offer leadership and support to those who struggle, and to do all we can to fortify and strengthen our communities.
On the power of his rising oratory, a young senator captured the imagination of a nation, traveling through its states preaching his gospel of inclusive government, by and for the people. He promised to right all the wrongs, fix the economy, win the war, and everything else that people think is wrong with the country.
Though there are gathering clouds and raging storms on the horizon, this descendent of Americans who have been in this country for over four centuries possesses the potential to restore the confidence to people confronting the country’s financial condition. We wish him well and we wish that he treat our people well in this country and in Eretz Yisroel.
We pray that he maintain the historic close relationship this country has with Israel and not engage in policies that would negatively impact those we care so much about.
We pray that he be the messenger who will unite all and return prosperity and peace to this great country, the strongest, most prosperous and free on earth.
We learn the lesson of the greatness inherent in every man and will work harder to realize ours and our historic destiny.