National Republicans are nearly weeping with excitement at the flubbed response of Maryland's Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley to the question Sunday on Face the Nation: “Are people better off than they were four years ago?” It has become the new mantra of Mitt Romney's campaign; a question uttered by Ronald Reagan more than three decades ago, and it has forced Democrats to go on the defensive. It could very well be a question that remains constant for the remainder of the election, as most Americans likely don’t feel better off than when Barack Obama was elected four years ago. I’ve seen it asked by many conservative Facebook friends recently, and it is certainly a fair question to ask. It’s just that it’s the wrong question to ask.
Primarily, the implication is that if you’re not better off, well it’s the government’s fault (see President Obama) and by default, if you want to be better off, it’s the government’s job to make sure you are. And, if you aren’t better off four years from now? Well, whose fault is it then?
Except conservative principles that Republicans theoretically believe and want to apply don’t guarantee anyone that they’ll be better off in the future. Not by a long shot. Conservative principles guarantee only that we’ll have more freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness, but along the way, you might just lose a few times, and that's okay.
For example, let’s say that a new President and a new Congress are elected, government regulations are repealed to get out of the way and you decide to act on that amazing business idea that you’ve come up with. Once free of government bureaucracy, you leave your safe and secure current job and venture into the world of small business self-employment.
And you flop.
The possibility exists that you will not be better off than you are now, in a purely material and fiscal sense. Will that be the President’s fault? Government's? An unfair marketplace? Amazon.com's?
Or, perhaps, your idea is just a bad one. It’s called risk, and the free market (the real free market) and conservative principles allow you to take that risk, and fail. Miserably.
Better off? Nope.
More free? Absolutely!
And that, my friends, is what this election should be about. It’s the question all of us should be asking.
Even Democrat Governor Martin O'Malley admits we are not better off than we were fours years ago. We're not as free, either.