Last week, prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz made the shocking announcement that he has sold his company, and has essentially given up on the ability of Americans to rebuild their future. He worries that our citizens have become their own worst enemy – too dependent on an ever-increasing and expensive government that chips away liberty, one law and regulation at a time.
I’ve met Mr. Luntz, respect his work, and consider him a friend, so I was disheartened to hear him voice this opinion, which I’ve heard from too many others.
Nonetheless, I remain an optimist. I encourage all of us to find solace and hope in American history. Because our 237 years as a country features little despair, and even less defeat.
It’s true that an overspending, intrusive, and over-regulating federal government has become a serious problem. But, America has, time and again, dipped into its reservoir of strength, resiliency, and innovation to emerge stronger than ever.
Before World War I, Americans were weary of foreign wars. When events made it clear that we must answer the call, our people rallied and mobilized our industrial might to lead our allies to victory.
Decades later, as Hitler’s armies enveloped most of Europe and the Japanese navy sought to control the Pacific, it was the American people who served – at home and abroad – to ensure that democratic values persevered.
Through Korea and Vietnam and through domestic challenges like the energy crisis of the 1970s and the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans have always risen to the occasion with renewed purpose.
New and different kinds of threats continue to challenge us. We still have the resilience to withstand them – and the know-how to overcome them.
President Reagan, who was bullish on the spirit of individual Americans, reminded us that too much government is more of a problem than a solution. His roadmap — pursuing policies that reduced the size of the federal government, cut taxes on hardworking Americans, and empowered the individual – is one that deserves another chance.
For much of the last century, Washington has spent more than it has taken in. As Reagan said, “we’ve piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present.” This practice has become the soft soil of decay beneath the firm foundation of our free enterprise economy. The result: a baby born today is already $55,000 in debt, and for each person who got a job last month, five Americans left the workforce. That’s heartbreaking.
Every American is raised to be independent minded and free-thinking – hallmarks of our culture. This mindset gives us resolve, but it can also produce a stubborn pride that makes us believe we can solve our problems without remembering the lessons of the past. There’s nothing broken about America or Washington DC that can’t be fixed with reminders of our forbearers’ deeds, fused with strong responsible leadership and perseverance.
While the legislative process sometimes delays specific solutions, the basic philosophy is unchanged from that shared by Washington and Jefferson – when freed from the heavy hand of big government, Americans prosper. When dreams that become successful realities are nurtured – not punished – Americans prosper.
So, while I respect Frank Luntz and other notable pessimists, I cannot share this outlook. I’m not ready to give up on America. Our pioneer spirit is too strong to fail. Our history of innovation is too great to ignore. Nearly every modern convenience known to mankind was developed right here –from the invention of electricity and flight, space travel, the light bulb, the combustion engine and automobiles, computers, to amazing medical advances through technology.
Yes, there are impediments to success. But, there’s no way forward without pulling together. And, freedom’s light will dim throughout the world if America doesn’t fight to maintain it. Indeed, stepping away from the fight would be an insult to the hard work and sacrifices of past generations of proud Americans – it simply isn’t the way to go. There’s only one path forward – solve our problems and make the world a better place, as we have for generations.
We must not despair. Take heed from our history. Remember, it’s individuals that are free to pursue dreams and ambitions that innovate, prosper, and persevere.
Rep. Bill Johnson represents Ohio’s Sixth District in Congress.