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Obama's Lack of Faith

It's time to start trusting the American people

David Harsanyi
July 21, 2010

With midterm elections approaching, President Barack Obama has gone on the charm offensive, claiming Republicans are demonstrating a "lack of faith in the American people."

"Faith" often is defined as "having confidence or trust in a person or thing." In this case, though, faith means adding another $35 billion in unemployment benefits to the infinite intergenerational tab—sometimes referred to as the budget—and mailing out as many checks as possible before Election Day.

Yet the jab is revealing in other ways. To begin with, what mysterious brand of public policy has Obama employed that exemplifies this sacred trust between public officials and the common citizen?

Was it the administration's faith in the wisdom of the American parent that persuaded it to shut down the voucher program in Washington, D.C., and continue the left's decades-long campaign denying school choice for kids and parents? Or was that just faith in public-sector unions?

Was faith in American industry behind the Democrats' support of a stimulus bill that was predicated almost entirely on preserving swollen government spending at the expense of private-sector growth?

Is this hallowed faith in the citizenry also what compels the administration to dictate what kind of car we will be driving in the future, what kind of energy we will be filling these "cars" with, and what amounts of that energy will be acceptable?

Is faith in American know-how why Washington funnels billions of tax dollars each year to its hand-picked industry favorites rather than allow the best and brightest to—please pardon the pun—organically figure out what the most sensible energy policy is, as we have in every other sector?

It must be that deep confidence in conscientious Americans that persuades the left to fight against the rights of gun owners who want nothing more than to defend life and property.

The same faith in Americans surely precipitates the administration's defense of censorship (even book banning) to ensure that the citizenry is protected from the despicable reach of political ads funded by corporations. People, you see, are too gullible and too uninformed to withstand the force of Fox News—much less Wal-Mart.

Similarly, that faith has led to the 20-year explosion of paternalistic regulations (often with the help of Republicans) that propose to regulate everything from the size of candy to tanning salons to fast-food restaurants to the pressure in your shower head. A faith that the American citizen has the self-control of a deprived toddler.

It was faith in the American people that led to health care legislation that denies you the right to buy insurance outside of state lines or have any useful portability or even enjoy the same tax break that corporations are afforded. The left has so much faith in Americans that it has to force you to purchase a government-approved plan.

One only needs to propose the idea that citizens be allowed to allocate portions of their Social Security retirement funds—extracted from their paychecks and deposited in faith-based government accounts—to witness the level of faith many on the left have in your decision-making abilities.

Republicans may not have faith in the American people, but in this instance, Obama probably is confusing faith in people with faith in power. Because as hard as one tries, it is difficult to find any instances of choices expanding under this administration. That's the true test of confidence in the citizenry.

Then again, progressives regard government as a moral enterprise. And in church, you gotta have faith.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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