There's an axiom I tell my kids about remaking songs: if a musician or group is going to remake a song, the original version should suck so that the remake is obviously better. An example of this is Rufus Wainwright's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallejuah." Fabulous rendition, and while Leonard was a good songwriter, he's a bit tough on the ear. Rufus made the song soar.
On the other hand, there is Jeffrey Gaines' cover of Peter Gabriel's classic, "In Your Eyes." Utterly flat. That's like trying to cover "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. If you can't do it better, or do it substantially different in a refreshing way, don't do it at all. The same advice that American Idol judges give contestants all the time. Don't over-promise by selecting a song where you can only pale in comparison to the original.
So when Barack Obama trotted out on his Greek stage to give his speech, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," and tried to invoke King's backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, it was a lesser cover. You just don't touch a classic.
One thing that Obama said during his speech:
In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you donít have boots. You're on your own."Isn't being on your own called adulthood?
Germany is a classic example of what happens when an interventionist government policy stretches beyond its means and over-promises. Germany's democratic socialism sounded great... voters went for it, politicians legislated it, and then the inevitable happened: it collapsed.
Socialism is a like a sprint. When those who receive are substantially fewer than those who give to support it, it can work. But because population ebbs and flows, and because generations vary in size, it is unavoidable that those who line up to receive promised benefits will have to be supported by the fewer who give to the sytem in support of it. The United States is entering that period now, with its 79 million baby boomers starting to retire. Gen X has less people in it. The sprint of the baby boomers' wealth creation can't be sustained because the numbers are simply too low. Gen X can't give enough to support that. The numbers aren't there.
Looking again at Germany, in the conclusion of a paper from the Max Planck Institute that looked at this topic:
The middle classes will after another decade of fiscal crisis have learned to live without government-organized social solidarity, just as they learned in the past to rely on it. Thus as politicians keep talking about health care reform, more and more people will understand that the only health care reform they may benefit from in their lifetime is to eat more vegetables and stop smoking. Concerning pensions, already today nobody expects the state to deliver anything other than an unending series of benefit cuts, however dressed up. Those who can afford it have begun to save for their old age, those who cannot must wait and see. Similarly, the number of private schools is growing, and well-to-do parents send their brighter offspring to American or British universities. In the spirit of true liberalism, more and more people are helping themselves, which will make them even less willing to let the state take the rest of their money to help those who cannot. Even if the fiscal means might again become available to reconstitute the interventionist welfare state, the structure of a changed society may no longer generate the necessary level of political demand for it.The Max Planck Institute is a think tank that "conducts advanced basic research on the governance of modern societies. It aims to develop an empirically based theory of the social and political foundations of modern economies by investigating the interrelation between economic, social and political action." The researchers warn that such a society which over-promises is abandoned by its citizens. The people realize that it is actually better to be on their own, because the government is not a parent, but a parasite. It doesn't create its own wealth, but rather pulls from the wealth of the people it portends to support.
The strongest society is one where it is expected that everyone is on their own. People used to say with pride that they pulled their own weight. No longer. When we have a popular presidential nominee who mocks such emphasis on independence, he's only begging us to go the road of Germany, to our own eventual collapse under the burden of too many recipients on too few contributors.
The ironic part about this is that the very people who most fervently support Obama are the ones who will strain under the weight of what he proposes. But they lack the education in history and math to see it.
Obama's rendition is not better than Germany's. Barack Obama is our time's Great Over-Promiser, who disdains a society of people equipped to make it on their own.