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A life lesson from our elders

Cal Thomas's picture

ARCHBOLD, Ohio — Here in Middle America, where farmland extends to the horizon, I pass an inspirational yard sign: “Self-Control: Having a Life Purpose Bigger Than Self.”

It’s a message our representatives in Washington would do well to learn, especially after months of raucous partisan bickering that nearly culminated in another “government shutdown.”

Here in Archbold farmers still labor to produce crops from the soil. In Washington, liberal politicians and lobbyists labor to produce careers for themselves and pry more “entitlements” from overburdened taxpayers to give to people who in some cases have not earned them. People have been taught envy and entitlement in ways that would have shocked and angered our relatives who survived the Great Depression on far less.

A simple web search finds numerous Depression-era survival stories, which puts into perspective for those living now the concept of living through “hard times.”

In a 2009 story in the Saginaw News, writer Sarah Nothelfer quoted 79-year-old Jean R. Beach, who compared the 1930s with today: “To me, as a country, we’ve been on a binge. Now comes the time to put things in order.”

Carrie Iles, 87, said: “I have good memories of those days. We didn’t have it good, but we always had enough.” Imagine, good memories of the Depression and thankfulness for having enough.

In 2011, too many Americans complain, not because they don’t have what they truly need, but because they don’t have what they want, and worse, what they feel “entitled to.” Too many suffer from an addiction to government checks.

As Stephen Moore wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal, “there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.” And “Every state in America today except for two — Indiana and Wisconsin — has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods.”

As the party of government, Democrats have a special interest in increasing individual reliance on the state because it keeps them in power. Among the many problems with that position is that at some point, consumers of other people’s wealth become a majority. In order to sustain what those non-producers expect, government must borrow increasing amounts of money until we arrive at where we are today — unable to pay our bills and dependent on foreign governments, chiefly China, because no one wants to say “no” to what anyone wants.

What to do? Instead of demanding ever more from government, we must reclaim those basic virtues from The Greatest Generation and begin to do more for ourselves. That means younger people must take charge of their own retirement. It also means more people must stop worrying about health care and begin to focus on staying well. The healthier we are, the less we will need doctors, hospitals and medicine.

We can’t go on as we have been. The kabuki theater that passes for reasoned debate in Washington is nothing more than rhetoric that has been tested before focus groups for political gain. Too many politicians are telling their constituents, not necessarily what they believe, but what they think they want to hear. And this is why little gets done in Washington and why we are losing our liberty.

Back to that 2009 Saginaw, Mich., story about Depression survivors and what they think of today’s complainers: “What happened,” said the Rev. Edward R. Pankow, 80, pastor-emeritus at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hemlock, “is people just got too much too easily. The more you wanted, the more you got.”

Democrats hauled out their familiar playbook about starving grannies and women who would supposedly be denied treatment for breast cancer if the government had shut down. This time it didn’t work.

It was clear Republicans won round one of the budget battle when Obama adviser David Plouffe said on “Meet the Press” last Sunday that the president would seek new cuts, even in Medicare and Medicaid. Can they keep up the momentum?

[Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 600 national newspapers. He is the author of more than 10 books and is a FOX News political contributor since 1997. Email Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.] ©2011 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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