A man was asked what one thing he would take if his house were on fire. “I would take the fire,” he replied. How pragmatic. How American. We like what works: the individual, among other things creating the light bulb, computer chip, and high-definition television.
By contrast, recall Ronald Reagan mocking English’s most toxic sentence: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” President Obama’s $1.3 trillion deficit hasn’t helped the economy. A $14 trillion debt won’t help our children. Our 2009-10 stimulus quadrupled Britain, France, and Germany’s, a river of red running through it.
Gallup says 6 in 10 feel Washington has “too much power.” Much of the rest — roughly, young, poor, liberal, and the public sector — calls it “the solution.” The majority wants America to be America. The minority wants us to be Greece: wed to dependency, divided, not united, and lacking a stable and self-reliant middle class.
Such bourgeois traits help an individual do his job. Government’s antithesis is jobbing us: as example, Katrina and The Spill. In 2005, Feds bungled while New Orleans drowned: George W. Bush, aloft in Air Force One; relief aid, beached like a whale. In 2010, Obama almost bottomed him as oil stained the Gulf: golfing, fund-raising, shunning the private sector.
Franklin Roosevelt often said, “The country demands bold persistent experimentation.” FDR would try anything. If it didn’t fly, he tried something else. One hundred days ago, on August 5, 33 miners in remote Chile were trapped half-a-mile underground. Its President, Sebastian Pinera, didn’t whine, demonize business, or blame it for “driving the economy in a ditch.” Instead, he sought “experimentation” — anything that would work.
Unlike Obama or W., Chile’s government exuded can-do — and did. Straightaway Pinera assembled engineers, drillers, and scientists: petitioning, not panicking. German business lent high-strength cable; Japan’s, crucial high-fiber optic communications cable; South Korea’s, a cell phone with projector. All helped save men originally left for dead.
On August 21, topographer Marcanera Valdes guided probe drills through rock into chambers where miners had taken refuge. The Center Rock drill bit came from a 74-employee Berlin, Pennsylvania, firm whose president had called Pinera. The drill ring arrived from a Philadelphia suburban firm, Schramm Inc., U.S. workers helping Chile’s soldier on.
Churchill said of Lend-Lease: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” Given tools, Chile brilliantly and heroically did: medics, miners, engineers, technicians, Pinera, and his aides showing, as Alexis de Tocqueville said of America, that “what impresses me most is that all of the citizens are brethren.”
Pinera “hoped” to save the 33 men by Christmas. He beat the schedule, the last miner leaving the rescue capsule on October 13 — Day 69. The businessman President made the sign of the cross as a miner’s relative praised “a miracle from God” and another miner said “I met God. I met the Devil. God won. ” Seldom has secularism seemed so small.
At “Camp Hope,” the rescue site, Pinera hailed not Obama but “the people of the United States”: like Chileans, knowing how the human spirit can outlast bayonets, barbed wire, and the blackest of black holes.
In Katrina and The Spill, government forgot its people. In Chile’s Miracle, government was worthy of the people. As last week’s U.S. election shows, most know that the latter is the only thing that works.
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