On a cold January day in 1961 a bright young President stepped up to the podium and spoke of a new generation of Americans who he called upon to "Ask What You Can Do For Your Country, Not What Your Country Can Do For You". President John F. Kennedy challenged this new generation to join the Peace Corp; teach sanitation practices in Africa, volunteer as a health aid in South America, or begin your teaching career in a backwoods Mississippi school.
Inspired by these words, America set off on a new path and volunteerism and the pride of American citizenship was at an all time high. America was taking pride in giving back to a country that had given them so much. Just three years later our youthful President was gunned down in the streets of Dallas and a crafty old time politician assumed the presidency. The contrast between Kennedy's warm and inspiring personality and Lyndon Johnson's crass and brutish personality was stark.
Johnson, a man of huge ego, desperately wanted to be loved and to be remembered in history, set about implementing legislation called "The Great Society" that would result in trillions of dollars added to the national deficit over the subsequent years. Medicare, free government housing, food stamps, social welfare and a host of other social programs required deficit spending and huge city, state and federal bureacracies just to administer these programs. And, as with any government program, bureaucrats have little interest in controlling costs since it was "only taxpayer monies, not theirs". This is always the problem with bureaucratic management, no matter how well-meaning a program seems to be.
Far more serious than the immediate program costs has been the creation of a "victim society", a "give-me" society. Since these government programs began we have encouraged three generations of Americans to expect something for nothing.
Is it any wonder then that we have government employees at all levels making three times what the worker makes in the private sector? Is it any wonder that, with half of all Americans paying no income taxes, that those who "take" have no interest in how the bill is paid?
Is it any wonder that the majority of our unionized teachers, protected by tenure, have no interest or incentive to educate our children? Are we really surprised that 40 percent of our high school kids will never finish high school, and even those that do are functionally illiterate, having been passed on from grade to grade despite failing minimum standards?
Alas, here we are, in a new century, our country on the brink of bankruptcy with I.O.U.s for Social Security and Medicare totalling $73 Trillion dollars? Or a current national deficit of $15 trillion dollars? And yet, we see teachers taking to the streets to fight for even bigger salaries and benefits despite doing such a lousy job in educating our children.
Our social programs are being financed by money borrowed from China because we no longer have the money to pay for them. Our dwindling middle class that always paid the bills is almost gone, their jobs lost to other countries. The incentive to work and be productive in America is at an all time low. Too many have had a free ride for too long and it may very well be too late to turn this country around.
Today, John Kennedy would be laughed off the podium by some to even suggest that our citizens "Ask For What You Can Do For Your Country". Sad.