Obama Right About “Defining Issue” of His Time

The choice is between the president’s welfare state and traditional, small-government Republicanism.

President Barack Obama talked about what he saw as the “defining” political issue in the United States in Kansas on Tuesday. “This is a make or break moment for the middle class,” he said, “because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”

That’s what Democrats are fighting for — the preservation of the welfare state in which all Americans, including the poorest among them, are able to own a home, afford college education for their children, health insurance for their families and to retire in dignity.

It’s a vision of a country where income is redistributed to the advantage of the “less fortunate” (because wealth distribution in a free society, in progressives’ view, is arbitrary, not just) and where government has a heavy hand in production and trade to “protect” workers from greedy and callous businessmen whom the president urged to “bring jobs back to the United States not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.”

For a president running for reelection, Obama’s “we’re all in this together” rhetoric will appeal to the very people who stand to lose if the American welfare state is dismantled.

According to Obama, it’s Republicans who “want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess.”

In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

People left to “fend for themselves,” the horror!

There are a lot of Republicans who will argue that they’re not as selfish and libertarian as the president makes them out to be; that in fact they do want to help people who are in need but believe it’s best for individual citizens to organize charity than have the government force it upon them. Which is fine but the dividing line is indeed one of government’s role in society — either President Obama’s welfare state where Washington tries to make sure that all Americans have a “fair chance” or the small-government conservative model of traditional Republicanism where citizens are responsible for their own wellbeing. That’s the choice Americans face in the 2012 election.