Must read: "Americans feel increasingly disheartened, and our leaders don’t even notice."

Ken’s Take: I’ve said many times before that I love reading Peggy Noonan — even though I don’t always agree with her .  (For my more  liberal friends, keep in mind that she was onboard the Obama train in ’08.)

What she’s always able to do is dive down beneath the superficial and get to the core — the philosophical and emotive stuff that most other analysts miss.  She invariably provokes my thinking … and, she’s a wonderful writer to boot.

* * * * *

Excerpted from WSJ: We’re Governed by Callous Children, Oct. 29, 2009 

The new economic statistics put growth at a healthy 3.5% for the third quarter. We should be dancing in the streets. No one is, because no one has any faith in these numbers.

Waves of money are sloshing through the system, creating a false rising tide that lifts all boats for the moment. The tide will recede. The boats aren’t rising, they’re bobbing, and will settle.

No one believes the bad time is over. No one thinks we’re entering a new age of abundance. No one thinks it will ever be the same as before 2008.

Economists, statisticians, forecasters and market specialists will argue about what the new numbers mean, but no one believes them, either. Among the things swept away in 2008 was public confidence in the experts.

* * * * *

The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes.

The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.

It is a story in two parts. The first: “They do not think they can make it better.”

The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can’t see a way out.

This is historic. This is something new in modern political history … Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.

Part of the reason is that the problems—debt, spending, war—seem too big.

But a larger part is that our federal government, from the White House through Congress, and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better.

They are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more in an attempt to make us more healthy locally and nationally. And in the long term everyone—well, not those in government, but most everyone else—seems to know that won’t work.

* * * * *

And so the disheartenedness … of even those who have something.

This week the New York Post carried a report that 1.5 million people had left high-tax New York state between 2000 and 2008, more than a million of them from even higher-tax New York City. They took their tax dollars with them—in 2006 alone more than $4 billion.

You know what New York, both state and city, will do to make up for the lost money. They’ll raise taxes.

I talked with an executive this week.   He was thoughtful, reflective about the big picture. He talked about all the new proposed regulations on industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress “are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area.”

The executive said of Washington: “They don’t understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who’ve said to me ‘I’m done.’ ” He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, “They don’t understand that if they start to tax me so that I’m paying 60%, 55%, I’ll stop.”

Government doesn’t understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings.

Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue.

But of course they’re human, and they can become disheartened. They can pack it in, go elsewhere, quit what used to be called the rat race and might as well be called that again since the government seems to think they’re all rats.

***
And here is the second part of the story.

While Americans feel increasingly disheartened, their leaders evince a mindless callousness.

It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don’t see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

They don’t feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—”strongest nation in the world,” “indispensable nation,” “unipolar power,” “highest standard of living”—and they are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America’s luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they’re not optimists—they’re unimaginative.

They don’t have faith, they’ve just never been foreclosed on.

They are stupid and they are callous, and they don’t mind it when people become disheartened. They don’t even notice.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703363704574503631430926354.html?mod=djemEditorialPage

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