Are We Grown Up Enough to Meet the Challenges of our Time?

The next two years will define America for generations to come.

© St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tad Armstrong

It has now been one month since the hard work of everyday Americans paid off in the mid-term elections and turned this nation back from the precipice of the type of collapse we are witnessing all across Europe. Over the past year, I have seen firsthand how much work and resolve it takes for citizens to run their own country. These folks decided they could make a difference, but it took a commitment from them they were not used to making. They passed the first test with flying colors. We are now facing challenges as a nation that will test our mettle to the maximum.

Of course, we are at war and the military sacrifices continue. Ironically, the additional sacrifices we will have to make if we are to rise above the mess we are in and regain our “exceptional” status in the world are minimal in comparison to the sacrifice of life and limb on the battlefield; yet, victory will be much more difficult to achieve than any military campaign of the past, present or future because we are in a battle over fundamental principles.

Educating a nation is no simple task. Furthermore, the battle of the mind must be won by at least four generations of current voters as opposed to one generation of physically fit (and young) warriors.

So, where do we stand one month into one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced? How will our leaders respond? How will we respond?

On a positive note:

• I actually believe that Speaker-Designate John Boehner “gets it.” Of course, the dollars are relatively minimal, but the decision to forego the immediate past practice of “flying high” on military planes is a welcome symbolic step.

• Compared to the last several years of runaway spending, President Obama’s recent proposal to freeze pay for federal workers over the next two years is a welcome breath of fresh air.

• President Obama supports a two-year moratorium on earmarks. It needs to be permanent, but this nation is so starved for responsible government that we will take anything we can get. The problem is far greater than the dollars spent. The president calls it “influence peddling.” I call it legalized corruption at the highest levels. Ultimately, the cure will likely require a constitutional amendment calling for single-subject legislation because bribing someone for a vote on good policy by adding a bad policy of an entirely different subject matter to a bill fares no better than trading votes for dollars.

On a negative note:

• President Obama calls his plan to freeze pay for federal workers a “very tough decision” because it affects “people’s lives.” After all, he says, small businesses and families are tightening their belts – so should civilian government employees. Mr. President, this is not a “very tough decision.” This is what I mean by the challenge of our times. A two-year pay freeze for overpaid government employees is no sacrifice at all, especially given the state of the union. I will save my tears for the sacrifices being made in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, one other thing, small businesses and families have little room left on their belts because the federal government has been “doing the tightening” to them for far too long. All of you small business owners out there, just exactly when was the last time you received a pay raise?

• When asked what the most important post-election “to do” item was on his list, Senator Mitch McConnell (R) said it was to make President Obama a one-term president. Senator McConnell does not “get it.” That attitude places party and self-interest above national interest. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) had the best answer to the question of whether President Obama will be re-elected when he said, “It’s up to him.” That is as it should be.

So, aside from checking the news each morning to see whether WWIII has begun in Korea, I know we are in a better position today than we were a month ago and I feel better than I have in a long time that Washington just might accomplish something positive in the next two years. In the end, whether we meet the challenges of our time will depend upon whether we are grown up enough to accept such great sacrifices as a two-year pay freeze for government workers (while at least 10% of the private work force remains unemployed) in order to improve the odds that our grandchildren will have a chance at the American dream we have come so perilously close to losing.


  1. Roy Miller says:

    One month in and all the new Congress has to say for itself is to remove a Health Care that covers more Americans that the do-nothing policy of the last 40 years did. How did this Great Country ever become GREAT when each new Congress or Senate came in and the only thing on their agenda was to undo everything the previous Congress and Senate did. Don’t stop and repealing Health Care, let’s get rid of the TAX CUTS for the rich and remove or plug the loop holes major corporation use to not pay their taxes. I’m hoping and praying that this new young guns of Congress can do more that undo hope of people in this Great Country. Let’s get the jobs back in this so we don’t have to go through what Egypt is going through now.

    ROY MILLER, Retired USAF MSgt