If one million people amassed in the nation’s capital to protest Washington’s spending habits and nobody covered it, would it still be a protest?
That scenario seems to have played out over the weekend, as protesters flocked to the nation’s capital to vent their boiling frustrations over runaway government spending. In doing so, they attempted to send a clear, unmistakable message to a political class that refuses to heed their justifiable grievances.
Although the final head count is in dispute with the D.C. fire department reporting a turnout of 60,000 or 70,000, unofficial estimates put the numbers somewhere north of a million people.
The goals of the Sept. 12th March on Washington is an outgrowth of the same movement that gave birth to the tea parties earlier this year. The movement has a straightforward word to the wise in Washington: you are digging the country into a deep and unsustainable hole with deficit spending and ever-expanding government. Squarely in the movement’s crosshairs is the Obama administration’s increasingly embattled health care initiative, which has been ensnared by a double helix of stiffening public resistance and budgetary red ink.
Democrats, including President Obama, have sought to cast the growing resistance to a government-run plan as the product of conservative fever swamps. Protesters have been branded as extremists, cynics and the perennial favorite – racists. The inconvenient truth for the Democrats is that opponents of their agenda are average citizens who do not deserve to be demonized or demeaned. They have legitimate grievances that include a reluctance to create a new entitlement program during a time of soaring deficits and a moribund economy.
Over the last two weeks, several events have conspired to undermine the case for a publicly-funded health-care plan. A recent survey showed Switzerland overtaking the United States as the world’s most competitive economy, the Obama administration went hat-in-hand to the Senate in a bid to hike the debt ceiling above its current $12.1 trillion level, and major global powers expressed growing alarm about our rapidly depreciating currency, which is sinking under the weight of incalculable deficits and threatens the dollar’s status as a reserve currency.
These developments can neither be viewed in isolation from one another, nor can they be divorced from the raging health care debate. This dynamic has created a death spiral in which a less competitive U.S. economy almost surely leads to burgeoning deficits, which require ample international capital to finance them. And no country or institution in its right mind will do so if the government continues to print money with reckless abandon. Simply put, virtually nobody believes the government can restructure a sixth of the vast U.S. economy without prohibitive cost and unforeseen consequences.
Fictitious charges of racism and exhortations to social justice are only going to carry the reform effort so far. As this summer’s town hall meetings and the weekend’s Washington protests have illustrated, concern over unchecked spending is widespread and non-partisan. The president and his party ignore these signs at their own political peril – and the country’s financial health.