(Centennial Fellow) Say this for President Barack Obama: he doesn't lack for vision.
As a candidate, Obama spoke of "chang(ing) the trajectory of America" in a way that no president has since Ronald Reagan. Obama's vision is, of course, antithetical to Reagan's.
Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Obama believes that government spending can stimulate the economy and that government regulation will fix health care.
Reagan's strategy for growing the economy and paying for government was to let Americans keep more of the money they earn, spend it on their own priorities, and pay more in taxes because they earned more.
Obama's economic strategy is to increase tax rates, especially so on the most productive taxpayers, while financing runaway federal spending by borrowing 40 cents of every dollar spent from either the Chinese or from our children and grandchildren.
It's not necessary to agree with Obama's vision to admire his focus - and to be absolutely terrified by it.
When political prudence - evidenced by Republican Scott Brown's improbable election as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts - dictated pause or retreat from the government takeover of health care, Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid twisted arms and forged ahead, willingly risking vulnerable seats in Congress to realize their vision.
Likewise, the 2010 election produced the largest Republican tidal wave in more than 60 years and might have suggested that it's time for Obama to moderate, a la Bill Clinton after 1994.
Remarkably, the President shows no sign of moderation. In fact, quite the opposite.
Despite Americans' increasing alarm at runaway spending, a towering national debt, and the ever-encroaching tentacles of government, Obama is setting the stage for a truly titanic election in 2012. He's betting that we prize our goodies from government more than we desire to pass on the American dream to our children and grandchildren.
By 73%-22%, Americans say the federal government spends too much rather than taxes too little. Two-thirds of all Americans - and 70% of independents - believe that the cost of Medicare and Social Security has created a fiscal crisis or will do so within the next 10 years.
But asked where to cut spending, the public is squeamish about reductions in Medicare, Social Security or virtually any other big ticket item.
The governments we elected promised more than we can afford. Yet we're reluctant to break our dependency in order to avoid calamity in the long run - or even the not-so-long run.
That's why Obama is cynically confident.
Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, has proposed a responsible plan to reform entitlements, keep tax rates low, and reduce government spending by more than $4 trillion without impacting anyone who is already 55 or older.
Democrats demagogue the Ryan plan to try to frighten seniors, and Obama charges it would lead to "a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history."
The President is, of course, fundamentally wrong. An America based on dependency would be fundamentally different.
Obama's original budget called for $12 trillion in new debt from 2012 to 2021; his debt reduction plan claims a mere $9 trillion in new debt by 2023.
Though he's running full-speed ahead into the torpedoes of public opinion, he's no fool.
Are these really the rules of engagement Obama hopes will determine the outcome in 2012? Yes, because he truly believes in transforming America from a culture of personal freedom, responsibility and ingenuity to a society that depends on government for jobs, health care, retirement and other basic necessities.
He's rolling the dice, but if Obama wins, he can preserve his government takeover of health care and place America irretrievably on the path of European welfare state socialism.
That this transformation will deprive future generations of their chance to realize the American dream is simply the price Obama is willing to pay.
That this transformation will be irreversible is Obama's legacy.