The BIG Picture: a sense of entitlement

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director
We're so accustomed to deficit spending, the mounting numbers have essentially lost most of their shock value.

Still, I was a bit taken aback when I recently saw that the U.S. government is now spending $2 for every $1 it takes in. By any measure, that's a dangerous practice.

To be sure, there are extenuating circumstances. We're in the midst of the worst recession anyone can remember. We're fighting wars in two countries. The jobless rate is around 10%. The global economy remains rickety. And that's just for starters.

But it's not like we're only spending to relieve short-term problems. We're spending because, well, that's what we do. As a nation, we save negligible amounts. And heaven help us when the real bills come due for the staggering future costs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the national debt.

As if in denial, we continue expecting our politicians to bring home the bacon, whether it's in the form of tax breaks, new projects, jobs or other favors. And when things get tough, we point an accusing finger at them. Maybe we need to take a look in the mirror first.

Our “Where's mine?” attitude can be seen almost everywhere. From reckless drivers who see yellow lights as an invitation to speed up to parents who chastise coaches over inadequate playing time, this country is being overrun by selfish whiners.

Shared sacrifice? Finding middle ground? Forget about it.

So it is with the ongoing healthcare debate. As this went to press, President Obama had officially given up on striking any kind of compromise with Republicans. Why? Because they were in no mood to work with Democrats. And truth be told, Democrats would be no more willing to work with Republicans on major legislation if roles were reversed.

“I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform,” Obama said from the East Room. And that's what happened.

So it appears healthcare reform is here to stay. Obama has signed the measure into law.

Republicans have promised a counterattack, but the law's on the books.

But not to worry, it will cost only about a trillion dollars over the next decade. Not that the fear of such a staggering amount is likely to derail the measure.

In fact, the only thing that might stop it now is if a well-positioned lawmaker is denied something he feels entitled to.