This month, an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found that while sixty one per cent of us say we want a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, most of us change our minds once we're told of the personal sacrifices that it would entail. It drops to just twenty seven per cent who still wish to pay the piper.
Ever since Lyndon Johnson's "guns and butter " politics, our leaders have competed to shield us from reality. Nixon cancelled the draft so now only professional soldiers are sent to war--over and over again--while the rest of us are at liberty to pretend the nation is at peace. Congress has repeatedly voted to lower taxes and raise the debt ceiling rather than reconcile our revenues with our expenditures. And leaders who should know better countenance Sophistry in assessing the toll we are exacting upon our environment.
This week President Obama addressed the American budget deficit. I can not fault him for his partisan approach--he was fighting fire with fire. But he needs to mount the bully pulpit and educate the public. I hope that a detailed proposal along with a series of dutch uncle speeches will follow. Obama's tendency to entrust Congressional horse trading will simply not suffice.
"Bully Pulpit", by the way, is a term coined by Theodore Roosevelt. It is well to remember that Roosevelt, a Republican when he was president, was firmly committed to free enterprise. However, he was a trust-buster and the author of the "Square Deal", (precursor of FDR's "New Deal"), which sought to protect workers and to regulate capitalism's excesses.
Official Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent; 1903. This painting hangs in the White House. The story goes that Sargent and Roosevelt, as they traipsed from room to room looking for the right place and pose, became impatient with each other. While climbing the stairs, the subject gripped the newel post and turned on the painter to express his pique, and Sargent had his pose. Click on the picture for a closer look.