and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
February #2

Wishing we could all share in the president's optimism
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, February 9, 2006

"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 War.

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 society."

"A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under the law," said, after which he introduced the two newest Supreme Court justices.

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 Sunday newspapers.

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.