I don’t know about you, but that was a close one! All these weeks and months we have heard about “The Cliff”, but to get that close to it — on New Year’s Eve no less — only to find out that, heck, we can put off this whole “going over The Cliff” stuff for another 2 months. Wow, what a way to ruin a New Year.
And that’s the point. As 2012 wound its way into history, 315 million Americans found themselves standing on the precipice of a new year realizing that in many ways the so-called fiscal cliff was the least of our nation’s problems.
Think about the big triumphs and tragedies of 2012. The London Summer Olympic Games were a great boost to America’s pride and morale. Who could forget American swimmer (Marylander) Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time?
Contrast that with a terrible low, the murder of the innocents in Newton, Connecticut and the ensuing “debate” about gun laws, the Constitution and the NRA. And yet, while, 2012 recorded the lowest murder rate in modern history (something promising and positive), by year’s end, the death toll by gun violence hit new highs in the city of Chicago striking a new low and another discordant chord in our nation’s psyche.
Another painful and equally troubling moment came with the death of our U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Despite the continuing questions about the Obama administration’s “knowledge” of the security lapses and the failure to bring any of the killers to justice, the families of the victims along with the American people would be treated to more political carping, finger waging at U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and ultimately silence.
There was, of course, the 2012 presidential campaign. But that wasn’t just about Barack Obama winning re-election or Mitt Romney losing. It wasn’t just about what the defeated GOP candidate “should have” done to change the result. And it wasn’t just about Republicans losing votes among white blue collar voters or Hispanic Americans.
The election highlighted the clash between two views of America. One view champions the philosophy of limited constitutional government and fiscal responsibility that fuels a thriving private enterprise system which fosters job creation. The other promotesa philosophy of greater expansion of government programs and the agencies necessary to run them, higher taxes and spending policies that grow government and debt while overregulating the private sector.
Another important aspect of this clash is cultural, underscored by emerging and still changing views on same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, right to work, collective bargaining and a host of issues that will ultimately transform the very character of the nation.
Americans are also witnessing an historical nationalization of their healthcare system. Last summera 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court majority to the surprise of many (especially conservatives) ruled that President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) law was constitutional, and the president’s re-election sealed any chance the law would be repealed.
Nonetheless, transitioning from a system based on the doctor-patient relationship, patient choices, pricing freedom and private sector competition to an expensive, government-controlled structure — many components of which have yet to be implemented or even created — will shake the foundation of the republic. Trust me.
Government control of doctors, hospitals and medical care providers will tighten, while the operations of private insurance companies will be restricted. Healthcare rationing, especially for seniors, will occur while the bipartisan work required to save and protect the solvency of Medicare and Social Security for future generations will largely remain undone.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll says just 40 percent of Americans describe themselves as hopeful about the course of events in 2013, while 56 percent describe themselves as fearful. Because our leaders so far refuse to address what truly ails our nation, we could fall off a real cliff. There ought to be very real fear over the collapse of effective long-term public policymaking in Washington and in our State capitols, due to the ongoing clash between the “Red and Blue States”, the Right and the Left; Progressives and Conservatives.
In the midst of our journey to the Cliff, we’ve forgotten how to be Americans.
My hope for 2013 is that our leaders realize that and through their leadership, set our feet on firmer ground.