For more than two centuries we have called ourselves the Land of the Free. America the free is something new. It’s not about freedom. Instead, this is about being free of the things others sacrifice and even die for. America the free is a slur on the memory of those we honor on Memorial Day.
Memorial Day collides with Trump Budget
This year Memorial Day is on a collision course with the release of the Trump budget. Democrats are outraged, but that’s what they are all about these days so no surprise. Members of the president’s party are also turning their backs on his spending proposals, which makes sense when you remember that America the free has a lot to do with Congress the reelected. Just because you bear the Republican seal of approval doesn’t mean you don’t give things away.
Regardless of the GOP’s bad attitude and the Democratic Party’s greed, it’s the public reaction that tells you where America the free is headed. This isn’t about freedom or individual sacrifice. It’s about using others to sacrifice for you, which is an enormous irony as we get ready to observe a day to honor Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice because they believe we have a future worth saving.
In America the free, sacrifice is unacceptable
When President Obama talked about shared sacrifice he wasn’t talking about sharing responsibility. People elect public officials because they want something from them. Our last president was a master at getting the message out to the people that when they vote, they should expect handouts in return. It stuck and it’s not going away.
The list of what we don’t want to sacrifice for keeps growing. A college degree should not have a cost. Someone else should pay your medical bills. Getting in the immigration line is an inconvenience. Welfare is a gift with no strings attached. Doing your time or being deported for a crime is racism. Working should be rewarded with a good income even if you bring nothing to your employer’s table. Retirement is something the government is responsible for. These are all popular beliefs that create America the free in the hearts and minds of the people.
There is nothing free about this country. If there is a cost, someone sacrifices to pay the bill.
Sacrifice is for suckers
How did we come to believe that we shouldn’t sacrifice for what we want? Should we tell the spouses of police officers or servicemembers killed in the line of duty that sacrifice is a foolish thing that only suckers believe in?
America the free means that people want more than they are willing to sacrifice for and feel justified holding their hands out. It wasn’t always like this, but the government keeps coming up with ways to meet the outrageous demands lawmakers plant in the heads of the people. This is an enormous problem that corrupts the notion that there is something of value in sacrifice and initiative. It won’t help the disadvantaged get ahead. The length of some Capitol Hill careers proves who it works for.
Budget of Broken Promises is about sacrifice
There is growing uproar over the list of safety net programs allegedly axed or cut back by the Trump budget. There is nothing free or honorable about a country transitioning from people owning their government to a nation where the government owns millions willing to settle for what they are handed. Funding lives for political gain is not something we should be proud of.
Congressman Brendan Boyle argued that “public values hang in the balance” with this budget proposal.1 The argument that the Federal Budget is about morality is an old one. Morality is a political ploy, not an accounting technique. It makes us broke.
The Congressional Black Caucus told us what a budget should be about:
A budget reflects priorities and our budget prioritizes improving the lives of Americans and their families by ensuring that they can go to the doctor when they’re sick, get a college degree if they want one, find a good job that pays a living wage, and pay a lower rate in taxes than President Trump.2
Congressman Jerrold Nadler told us what it shouldn’t be:
Quite simply, this budget is a cruel attempt to return our country to the era of robber barons and workhouses, an era when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, an era we have been working for decades to leave behind.3
If the only thing that separates Americans from the poorhouse is government spending to support us, then we aren’t worth saving.
Everyday sacrifice and the ultimate sacrifice
Obama used to say that he had our backs. We know what he meant. Americans don’t need to strive or sacrifice as long as we elect officials who will make sure we won’t have to. That doesn’t sound like an America worth dying for.
Few of us will be called to make the ultimate sacrifice. Instead, our goal should be to put more into life than we take out of it. That’s not asking a lot, but if the America the free trend continues it’s more than many of us will be capable of.
1. “Testimony of Congressman Brendan F. Boyle before the Committee on Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation.” Brendan Boyle. February 27, 2017. https://boyle.house.gov/sites/boyle.house.gov/files/BFB%20City%20Council%20Testimony%20-%202.27.17.pdf, retrieved May 23, 2017.
2. “CBC Releases Alternative FY 2018 Budget.” Congressional Black Caucus. March 15, 2017. http://cbc.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=429, retrieved May 23, 2017.
3. “Congressman Nadler Statement on President Trump’s FY18 Budget Proposal.” Congressman Jerrold Nadler. May 23, 2017. http://nadler.house.gov/press-release/congressman-nadler-statement-president-trump%E2%80%99s-fy18-budget-proposal, retrieved May 24, 2017.