Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist and well-known columnist George Will concluded at Tuesday’s forum assembly that American people will overcome the current issues they face by addressing core problems of those issues.
Will addressed BYU campus with remarks about the current political argument. His ideas were received with a standing ovation from the audience. Will’s address was cushioned with analogies of politics to classic baseball stories based on his experience writing about the sport. He shared the dangers of the American way of thinking in contrast with the way Americans actually live.
Will gave students and faculty insight into the depth of the national debt and how it affects each student personally. He said the country is on course to slowly and suddenly go bankrupt.
“In 1916 before the First World War when federal spending exploded, the richest man in America, John D. Rockefeller, could have written a personal check for his entire net worth and retired the national debt,” Will said. “Today the richest man in America, Bill Gates, could write a personal check for his net worth and not pay two months’ interest on the national debt.”
Using his expertise, Will addressed the concern about the current events in Washington, D.C. He especially addressed the American people’s belief that welfare should be a large and omnipresent state that they should not have to pay for. This means that the costs of that program would be passed on to the younger generation. Will said this ideal is completely incompatible with reality.
“They want a large service to state and low taxes,” Will said. “The American people are often ideologically conservative but operationally liberal. The problem is we can’t go on doing this for so long.”
He said that today we practice a decadent democracy. In a democracy that used to borrow money for the future to fund infrastructure, war and other needs, thinking has shifted, according to Will.
“Today we borrow from the future to finance our own current consumption,” Will said. “This is a fundamental immorality, if you will, burdening the unconsenting and unpresent future generations with the costs of our appetites.”
Will said Americans are weaving a network of dependency and are doing things less and less competently in the country.
“We are setting ourselves up for a death spiral of the welfare state,” Will said.
He offered a suggestion that this crisis is the most predictable in American history. His argument is based on the fact that we now subsidize protracted retirement and competent medicine — two things we did not have previously. With this Will tackled the issue of Social Security, attributing much of it to an increase in life span.
“By the year 2050 in the lives of our children and grandchildren, the very old will be more numerous than the combined populations of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles,” Will said.
He suggested that fixing Social Security is easy. His idea is that if government had faced the fact that retirement length is 18 years longer than it was in 1935 and indexed it that way, we would have no Social Security issues.
Will continued to address other issues related to personal values that affect our economy. He said the issue with education is that schools value federal funding over a well-rounded educational curriculum. Schools are willing to dumb down their course material and testing to ensure federal funding.
Another value Will addressed is that one in three children in the United States is born out of wedlock. He said this upbringing has negative influence on a child’s values and thus contribution to the community.
Will suggested all is not lost for America despite personal values in peril and government leaders who think highly of themselves. He said it is up to the American people to cultivate the world around us.
“We can get better by choosing to be better,” Will said.