From this desk, the nation hears many great promises…
About programs to be launched… governmental agencies to be set up… legislation to be introduced… and laws to be signed.
It is therefore easy to believe that the person behind this desk directs all that flows from it. That all governmental decisions rest with his wisdom… or lack thereof.
It is easy to think that from this desk the giant enterprise of the government - all $3.5 trillion worth of it - rolls forward, like a massive tide that sweeps away all those that stand before it.
And in this time of year, with an election looming, that's how both candidates want it.
They want you to believe that they alone can take the government in the direction the voters want it to go.
You won't hear a presidential candidate say: "well, everything depends on which party controls congress… or which senior legislator gets the committee chairmanship to write the tax laws… or which way the supreme court rules on some arcane element of the law."
They tell you that they alone can deliver. They alone can tilt the might U.S. government in one direction or another.
That without their victory, the nation's course will be altered… for the worse.
What a bunch of nonsense.
Does anyone think that one man, in one office, can ruin America or save it? Have we forgotten the sad and long human experience with caesars, monarchs and dictators?
That whatever the ambitions or dreams or even intelligence of a single man, that the rule of one can never compete with the wisdom of a free people?
That is, after all, what set America afire in 1776 - the idea that a rabble of free men, organized into 13 different states, led by a weak and largely ineffective central government, could be better and stronger and more durable than the King of Britain, the leader of the mightiest empire the world had seen since the fall of Rome.
And here's the thing: the americans were right.
E pluburus unum - out of many, one.
Not… ex una, unus - out of one, one.
It takes many to make america what it is. Not one man in the Oval Office. Not 9 justices. Not 100 senators. Not 435 members of the House of Representatives.
We have to remember this, especially this time of year. When presidential candidates tell you they have a plan to fix this, or change that, or improve this… just remember: they can't do it alone. They can't do it because they were never supposed to do it.
The idea that the president is supposed to be this all-knowing chieftain is hogwash.
Presidents are ordinary men. One day, we will see an ordinary woman do the job.
They're not kings. They're not princes. And they're not priests.
Which brings me to an issue which has occupied the presidential campaign the last few days: How dependent we are on the president.
Dependency on government is at its highest levels in us history. It's been on a steady march, but now, most of the us government budget exists to support citizens through transfers of wealth from some people to other people.
Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Food stamps. Housing assistance. It's all part of the same broad category.
Practically speaking, all americans, at some point in their lives, become government dependents. Social security and medicare - two programs nearly all americans draw from - are part of the big giant government dependency system.
I'm not here to debate whether this is good or bad. Whether this is what the founders envisioned or not.
I'm not here to focus on what this means for elections, and why this puts non-dependent americans at peril from an electoral perspective.
I'd like to talk about the moral implications.
What does it mean when every citizen becomes dependent on the government? What does that do to the individual?
It's easy to generalize about government programs, that they help the poor. Help the poor. We all want to help the poor. So if government is helping the poor, that's a good thing, right?
But we know that the poor often aren't helped by government programs. Often, they're hurt by them. The vast expansion of the welfare state has destroyed marriage, fatherhood, the impulse of parents to work to feed their children, the sense of personal responsibility among those who are at the bottom of the ladder.
Are poor people lazy and immoral? No. Poor people don't want to be poor. But government programs for the poor need poor people! Otherwise they go out of business. And as we know, government is very good at staying in business.
Show me a government program to help the poor, and i'll show you a government program that needs the poor to stay that way, otherwise the government program goes away!
Do poor people want to be poor? Absolutely not. But with vast programs, government make poverty an easier choice - and that's what turns poverty into dependency.
Most of us struggled at some point in our lives. Most of us drove a car when it was rusted out… wore clothes that were falling apart… ate rice and beans a few nights a week to save money… pushed the credit cards to their max. Most of us have been there. Some of us are there now.
There's no shame in struggling. And no shame in needing help.
But the question is: what happens when the government steps in and saves us from these problems? Do they go away? Do individuals learn resiliency? Do they force themselves to learn a new and more marketable skill? Do they discover what decisions led them to a place of need, and change the way they live as a result?
But dependency is not merely an economic state of being. There's economic dependency, and then there's moral dependency.
I'm deeply troubled by economic dependency. But what really worries me is moral dependency.
Moral dependency is what happens when citizens become complacent in their moral choices… in their sense of their own self-worth.
Moral complacency is what happens when citizens, egged on by a permissive media, look at the man sitting in this chair as a father figure, as the great protector.
When people are dependent on the government, the head of the government is invested with far more power than he is entitled… and steadily, we begin to accept the premise that the world spins on its axis right from this place.
When you believe that the nation's leader can actually affect your life, far beyond your ability to act or think, you reach the stage of moral emptiness. You reach the stage of moral slavery.
It's no wonder that when dictators rise up, they always do two things: first, they offer unbounded promises of economic prosperity - free health care, free food, free shelter, regulations to protect you against any kind of wrongdoing and unsafe products you never knew existed.
And then, they go after those who stand on the moral heights of any free society. They go after the priests and the ministers, the religious organizations who honor no god but their own.
They call them bigots…hypocrites… chauvinists… those who stand for something besides the government, we are told, are not to be trusted. "we're all in it together," they say. "we can't have priests telling us how to run things."
This is how dependency works. First through the stomach… then through the heart.
They understand that to seize power and retain it, they must have no competitor for the stomachs and hearts of the citizenry.
They feed and they clothe and they bring the citizens into a soft embrace. "those free markets are unfair… and dangerous. You need protections. You need help. You need us."
"You're not on your own anymore," they say. "Come in from the cold… and you'll be warm."
Thus they dull the instincts for individual initiative … not by banning it, but by making it harder. Dependency is therefore offered not as a form of slavery, but as a vacation from the "hard work" of a demanding job… a break from the "drudgery" of a work week… a change from the ordinary difficulties of an ordinary life.
Dependency makes it possible for an ordinary person to believe that the man who sits in this chair can reach through the television or computer screen, and touch you personally. Make you more prosperous. Make you morally righteous. Make you feel that you're part of a great society. And the best part is, you don't have to do anything. Just sit back. And watch the president work his magic.
It's a wonderful show.
But at the end, there's a price to be paid. I'll save that for another day. I don't want to spoil the fun.
Thanks for watching, and may god bless you and may god bless the republic.