By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — I imagine John Adams in that stuffy room, amid the hot summer stink of Philadelphia, far away from his one true love — writing to her as he could find the time.
“Your Description of the Distresses of the worthy Inhabitants of Boston, and the other Sea Port Towns, is enough to melt a Heart of Stone,” Adams penned on July 7, 1775, as he served in a Second Continental Congress still not entirely sold on the idea of American independence from the empire.
His wife, more than 300 miles to the northeast, was, like many coastal New England inhabitants, bearing the brunt of the British campaign to quell the revolt of the crown’s incorrigible colonies.
“Our consolation must be this, my dear, that Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property,” he continued, adding a now-famous line that stands like a beacon for any and all liberty-loving people.
“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.
“When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they cannot regain it ..”
Adams, a revolutionary of the highest order, continental legislator, U.S. ambassador, vice president and president of his nascent nation, wrote these words a dozen years before the Constitution that would delineate the powers of the federal and state governments was written – some 14 years before that document would bind the nation.
Much has changed from those harrowing early days of revolution, when a generation of men and women shared a common principle, a bond, to bring forth a new nation created by its inhabitants, for its inhabitants.
I wonder what Adams and his fellow Founding Fathers would say lo these 236 years later.
I’ve got a feeling it might be something like this:
The signers of that bold declaration, who pledged to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, some giving every measure of that sacred vow of independence, must be appalled by the level of dependence their progeny have on their government.
From nearly $80 billion in foods stamps distributed each year to billions of dollars more handed out in corporate welfare to an estimated $1 trillion-plus marked for the U.S. Supreme Court-blessed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, the U.S. citizen has become more dependent on its government than any Tory ever was. The better comparison may be government as dealer, citizen as dope addict.
While caring for its weakest – its poor, destitute, sick and aged – is the mark of a good and gracious society, taxing citizens to pay for every ill borne by society is the stain of a foolish and failing government.
Hence, a federal debt rapidly approaching $16 trillion.
There is an arrogance that is often mistaken for generosity, I think, at the core of the government that attempts to be all things to all bodies, which, in return, raises generations of government dependents.
Case in point, the state of Wisconsin’s report this week on the state of the Wisconsin Retirement System.
In its recommendation to maintain the status quo of the $80 billion-plus pension system, the study’s authors cautioned the state not to allow beneficiaries to opt out of paying into the plan. The argument against letting pensioners keep more of their paychecks is that they run the risk of blowing it, or mismanaging it.
That’s a point not lost on a financially illiterate nation, which has seen trillions of dollars in in investments disappear like smoke over the Great Recession.
Still, the verbiage sounds patronizing. The report advises the state to resist the temptation of moving from a defined benefit pension-style plan to a defined contribution, or the 401(k) employee-driven investment system.
“Generally speaking, a significant portion of (defined contribution) plan distributions are not saved,” the report states. “Distributions that are not used for retirement savings are said to have ‘leaked’ from the nation’s savings … According to Professor Alicia Munnell at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, a high percentage of employees in DC plans cash out or spend all of their DC accounts when they change jobs, significantly reducing the amounts available to pay retirement benefits.”
Are Americans bad with money? Yep.
Should that ultimately be the concern of the government, i.e. the taxpayer?
There’s a simple saying that applies: You can’t legislate against stupidity. At least taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it.
But how does a nation borne on the principles and statutes of liberty save itself from government dependence?
If only John Adams and his gang of revolutionaries were here to answer that big question.