"As we look at these challenges, we must never
give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture
is doomed to unravel. The American people know better than that. We
have proven the pessimists wrong before — and we will do it again."
— President George W. Bush in his recent State of the Union address
Yes! We have! We will!
Now make that little voice go away, the one that is wondering: "Didn't
some emperor give that same speech at a State of the Roman Empire
address a few centuries ago?"
Hope is a good thing, and it is the job of presidents to express and
spread it. Jimmy Carter talked about "malaise" instead of hope. So
Americans hoped for a new president and got Ronald Reagan, who said "I
find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall" just
before he told Mr. Gorbachev to tear the wall down, thus ending the Cold
Bill Clinton was fortunate enough to have come from "a little town
called Hope" and he milked it for all it was worth. And sure enough, the
hoped-for deficit reduction happened on his watch, just as it looked as
if our grandchildren would drown in the national debt.
So, in his latest address, President Bush talked about "a hopeful
"A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under
the law," said, after which he introduced the two newest Supreme Court
Can I feel hopeful that the eminent-domain decision will be reversed
before any more town officials give our homes to developers, while at
the same time remaining hopeful that the decision supporting the Oregon
voters' "right-to-die" will continue to be upheld? Libertarians like me
can find ourselves conflicted when it comes to Supreme Court justices,
though I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone our
Massachusetts senators don't like.
Speaking of the controversial "right to privacy," can we at least agree
we have a constitutional right to keep our identity? If any issue could
drive me to abandon hope, it's entering the world of computer blab.
I haven't had a baby at Brigham and Women's Hospital, so my medical
information, with my Social Security number on it, probably hasn't been
faxed around. But I did just get my letter from the Boston Globe
alerting me to the fact that my credit card number was used to wrap the
As I was alerting my credit card company, I decided to do something
about the credit card offers I get in the mail from Chase and other
annoying places. So I called to get on a list to stop them and entered
an automatic phone system which actually asked me for my Social Security
number! When I was silent, the automatic message then assured me it
wouldn't be made public. When I still didn't respond, the robot woman
admitted they could probably get along without it and processed my
request, as far as I know.
Yes, the United States government assured us all when we were first
given Social Security numbers that they would never ever be used for
anything but Social Security. But now we know that the Brigham and Globe
mistakes are only the tip of the "forget privacy forever" iceberg. But
not to worry, the captain of the Titanic was hopeful too, that his ship
was going to America ...
But getting back to the president's speech and his comment that "a
hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust."
Pausing, of course, to roll on the floor in hysterical mirth.
What's with this new House majority leader who has a constant tan from
golfing with lobbyists all over the world? OK, I appreciate that
Congressman John Boehner doesn't do "earmarking" in the federal budget.
But why is anyone doing "earmarking"? Once upon a time I had hope that
when Republicans controlled both the presidency and Congress, we might
get a balanced budget, tax simplification and the line-item veto.
Granted, it can't be easy when dealing with Democrats, led by Hillary
Clinton, who actually applaud when the president notes that Social
Security has not been saved. I hope, I hope, that my grandchildren won't
be drowning in the national debt, taxed up to their eyeballs, slaves of
the information society, with no hope of ever seeing a Social Security
check in return for their huge contributions.
On a more hopeful note: Amazing things are happening in science,
medicine, and biology; it's an exciting time to be alive. President Bush
and the majority of Congress are doing their best to make sure my
grandchildren won't be victims of terrorists, or ever have to live in an
Islamic society. When I was their age, the nation feared an atomic war
with the Soviet Union; we never gave in to that fear, and got past that
crisis as we have so many others.
If government just does its basic job of protecting us, we hopeful
citizens will remain free to address all the other issues. And if we can
get a grip on our educational systems, we'll continue to be smart enough
for the challenge.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.