A friend pointed me to this column by Peggy Noonan in last week's WSJ, "We're Governed by Callous Children." I think she is right in her main point about a disheartened leadership class in business and a mindless leadership class in government.
But she makes the same mistake that other Republican commentators make when they criticize our current leadership. Specifically, she does not come out forthrightly to identify the one characteristic that separates adults from children: children don't have to balance their budgets, but adults do. As much as she may admire Reagan, it was his administration that began our 30-year fascination with outsized deficits. (The deficit mentality nearly went away with Clinton but came back with a vengeance with his successor.)
We will not get out of our current predicament until we face up to the reality that we cannot continue to spend more than we earn (or in the government's case, tax), and that the limits on spending ought to come naturally precisely because we observe not just the benefits but the costs in real time.
I think that what has people disheartened is that there is almost no one in Washington -- not even an identifiable faction of one of the two main parties -- who is willing to act on this fact. So people expect the so-called solutions to make the underlying problems worse. To suggest that callousness or mindlessness (her words) are features of only the current administration and Congressional leadership is ridiculous.
Hey, this is America. If you don't like the current leaders, we can always get some new ones. Is it too early to start the "Bruce Bartlett in 2012" campaign?