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2010 election: Us against them

Along the road of spending, the government either takes over, which is socialism, or dictates institutional and economic life, which is fascism.

– Herbert Hoover

Off-year elections are usually yawners. Not this one. Our economic problems have awakened voters and ignited political passions.

In the last two years, the country has taken a hard left turn and is traveling at the speed of light away from the free market, which isn’t perfect but has given us the highest standard of living in the world.

The new destination is socialism, a system that has brought much of western Europe to the brink of economic collapse and thrown Greece and France into chaos.

This election is not about political parties. It is about ideology.

It is between those who believe that government is the solution to every problem and those who see government as the problem.

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It is between those who feel that the way out of our current economic woes and staggering national debt is higher taxes and those who feel the answer is to cut government spending.

It is between those who want government to control most everything and those who want the government to simply get out of the way.

The battle lines have been drawn. On one side are government workers at all levels – whose wages and benefits are way out of line with the private sector – and the rest of us who are paying their salaries.

Sure, we appreciate our teachers, police officers, firefighters and postal workers. They work hard but so do the auto mechanics, waitresses, factory workers, truck drivers and those in countless other professions in the private sector who are paying their inflated salaries and benefits. How much is too much? We are now to the point where many are saying, “Enough!”

We’ve scoffed at the French for protesting their government for considering a proposal to raise the retirement age to 62. But consider states like Ohio that allow many of its employees to retire at age 48 with 88 percent of their salaries. California isn’t too far behind. It has allowed its police offers and others to call it quits at age 50 with 90 percent of their salaries. Many of our states are going broke simply because of sweetheart deals cut by politicians with the state’s employees’ unions in return for campaign cash and endorsements.

Daniel DiSalvio, a political scientist at the City College of New York, estimates that the size of these unfunded pension obligations totals some $2 trillion. Furthermore, some 16.6 million state and local government workers across the country earn on average $14 more per hour in wages and benefits than their private-sector counterparts.

Meanwhile, the size of the federal workforce has grown to 2.65 million. These federal employees earn 30 percent to 40 percent more money than those in the private sector. Then add the 7.6 million contract workers and another 2.9 million on the receiving end of government grants.

If you take those numbers and add them to the current federal workforce and include postal workers and military personnel, that conservatively brings the number of people now working for the federal government to around 15 million. That makes the number of workers at all levels of government around 32 million, which is roughly 23 percent of the total U.S. workforce of 140 million. That means almost one out of every four workers depend on the government for their paychecks.

Add to that the number of people now on the public dole. If you exclude those retirees on Social Security, there are some 18 million receiving either SSI or Social Security who are under retirement age. There are 50 million on Medicaid, 40 million on food stamps and 10 million who receive unemployment benefits. There are not that many people left to pull this wagon.

As the government grows, the private sector shrinks. You can’t have it both ways. Margaret Thatcher correctly stated the problem with socialist governments: “They always run out of other people’s money.”

This year, millions will make a choice between a future paycheck or a government handout, between leaving our kids an inheritance or in debt to the Chinese.

These are the issues that define the 2010 election.