You may or may not know that we have hired four fabulous interns here at COTR to help us out with all sorts of things on the back end of our site. If you want to learn more about those interns, read this first.
One of the fab four, "Chiquita," is a Hollywood actress and all-around overachiever who, frankly, makes me feel like I was a total loser at her age in comparison. Because dang, y'all....she has accomplished a lot in her first few decades here on this earth.
While interviewing her for the gig, we were not only impressed by how incredibly warm and adorable she is ALONG with said accomplishments, but taken aback by her perception of the world through the prism of a young conservative's eyes. And keep in mind - this is a young woman who has also been immersed in the Hollywood machine.
She just spent a semester studying abroad in Argentina, and her life lessons learned from that were profound - enough for us to solicit a written account of it and share it with our COTR community.
So here it is, clever and competent readers. Our first intern guest-post ever.
First order of business…let me introduce myself. I grew up in a Christian, conservative, patriotic home, with parents who taught me “the way I should go” but then showed their absolute willingness to respect and honor my opinion, as long as it is supported by more truth than emotion. Taking from that, I feel a personal responsibility to not only voice what I believe to be truth but to make an impact on my generation and steer them away from emotionally-based positions and, more importantly, apathy. I cannot help but be frightened by what I see as the future of our country, and that fear is made less overwhelming by only my faith. However, I am discouraged by the frequency in which I see faith used as a cop out for inaction. My generation has a daunting task at hand, but I am often reminded that I should consider it an honor to fight for the cause. So, I will try to do just that. I am old enough and educated enough to recognize this country as the most desirable of all countries, and I believe that this desirability mostly stems from Christian principles and sacrifice. I may be young, but I have come to an understanding that we must eventually pick a side in life, as uncomfortable and unpopular as it may be. If we don’t willingly pick, I fully believe that our apathy and ignorance eventually picks for us, and we’re left on a side all the same. With that, I want to share my experience from living in Buenos Aires, Argentina during a study abroad program that I will never forget. I will borrow the title because I cannot possibly think of something more fitting.
Don’t Cry for Me,
I spent the last semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Part of the program involved living with an Argentine homestay family who mostly did not speak English. While this was completely out of my comfort zone, it was also the very reason I picked this particular program. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture, if even for a few short months. It was an unforgettable experience, and the Argentine people are lovely and loving. However, I do not wish to call Argentina my home. Even more, I do not wish that America would become like Argentina. Neither do you.
In the early 20th century, Argentina was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It competed with the US in ranking as the world’s strongest economy. It had abundant resources and was far more industrialized than most European nations. Today, it is poverty-stricken and struggles to pay its debts. The evidence is clear along every street. In less than 100 years, this nation has changed drastically…not as a result of some foreign enemy, but, according to the very people of Argentina, their status comes as a direct result of a domestic enemy: their own government.
In 1916, Hipolito Irigoyen was elected president. He appealed to the middle class and pushed the slogan “fundamental change.” The changes included mandatory pension insurance, mandatory health insurance, and support for low-income housing construction…all introduced to stimulate the economy. History shows that, regardless of the increasing flow of tax-payer dollars into these entitlement programs, they quickly became “under-funded” because of the government’s “over-generosity.” Sound familiar at all? Just wait, it gets better.
In 1946, Juan Peron was elected president, mostly based on his charisma. He targeted and manipulated the middle class, all while he and his charming wife, Eva, lived elegantly and arrogantly. During his three presidential terms, the size of government bureaucracies grew exponentially, mostly involving social spending programs (aka Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.). These programs made the people of Argentina increasingly dependent on government. Peron is documented as being very open about his “contempt for economic realities.” Apparently, many were seeing, feeling, and expressing concern over the reality, but he remained in denial regarding the affordability of his pride-filled programs. I find this eerie in light of our national debt and this report: "At one point several weeks ago," John Boehner says, in relation to the fiscal cliff discussion, "the president said to me, 'We don't have a spending problem.' " So I ask you, do we really need to know what the president said before or after that alleged delusional comment?
Even after Peron was driven out of office, the high taxes and economic devastation continued. The economy imploded in 1989. Inflation reportedly hit 3000%, and the government started printing money to pay its debts. Argentina entered a new phase of economic experimentation by “redistributing income based on increased wages.” Redistribution? That sounds slightly familiar! The country descended into chaos, complete with food riots and looting. The social spending programs collapsed and payroll taxes increased from 5% to 26%. Still not enough, the government implemented a personal tax on wealth and more, leading to an extinction of the private sector. By 2001, pensions were raided by the government and replaced by useless government bonds. In the following year, Argentina had slipped into its own Great Depression. Today, they continue to live with the repercussions of failed government policies and programs that began 100 years ago. This failure directly relates to an out-of-control government spending more money than it had by means of corruption, waste, and entitlement programs…leading the citizens to over-dependence on government for a solution.
That’s the story that history tells me, a story clearly displayed in the hearts of the Argentine people, as supported by the information above. However, it is not necessary to know the information to know how the details played out or will play out for those who allow it. Nothing is more powerful than being an eyewitness to the aftermath. I heard the stories of the citizens with my own ears. My homestay mom wiped away many tears as she told me her feelings of economic oppression. She never knew I would be submitting it for public display. She cried for her children who would be economically handcuffed at no choice of their own. She insisted upon the exponential increase in the president’s personal assets while those of her own family have increasingly diminished. When I tried to point out that this particular presidential term was almost over, the look in her eyes crossed all language barriers: there would likely be an attempt at changing law, allowing for a third term…or more. Would someone really do that with so much doubt relating to the ill intent of their leader, I wondered? And then I ask myself, would US Rep Jose Serrano, D-NY, and a supporter of President Obama, really introduced and fight for House Joint Resolution 15 to repeal the 22nd Amendment and thus abolish presidential term limits? Why yes, it appears someone would do that…crazy as it seems.
I heard professors, citizens in coffee shops, and commuters on the subway. These folks represented the working man, the middle class. I tell you, there is not a lot of entrepreneurial spirit among the people. Never did I hear anything but criticism for a corrupt, oppressive government. The reality of their situation had brought them to a general consensus: the government had grown too big and out of control…beyond reproach in a sense…and had squashed its ordinary citizens. There was no ongoing debate among the ordinary citizens where selfish interest groups placed more value on their own agenda than the desire for economic prosperity. On some level, their unhappiness had united them. They were more economically “equal” than it seemed they wanted to be. One could clearly see that ignorance and apathy had perhaps once made them vulnerable to the rhetoric from their government officials. One could deduce that they should have seen the warning signs and risen up and taken action at some point before now. One can rest assured that there is more than enough evidence in Argentina that the government will never take care of its people like the people will take care of themselves. They are economically downtrodden, and one can see the toil of a government gone bad. There is no trust for their government, and they feel somewhat helpless…disempowered in a sense. In fact, walking to my homestay a couple of times, I was taken off-guard by a strange noise both near and in the distance. I came to learn that it had become a custom for those in the city to step out on their balconies and loudly bang their pots and pans during a televised presidential speech. This represented their own unwillingness to listen and their desire to prevent anyone else from hearing what she had to say. The Argentine people would love a chance to do it all over, knowing what they know now. One can clearly see that and feel that. Maybe they’ll have that chance someday, but it will likely require an even greater hardship before that day comes. I think they know that too. What an awful place to be as a national citizenship.
Is it really necessary to point out every parallel between them and us? Are we beyond the point of putting historical information and facts above partisanship? What could possibly enable us to think we are above economic reality as experienced by the Argentines? Could it be that they too had once been so proud and divided and felt so entitled…leading them to this self-admitted deprivation and broken spirit? Could it be that our own similar fate awaits us? If so, let it never be said that I had no idea or did nothing about it. At some point, I believe each of us will receive our own wake-up call…hopefully sooner rather than later. As for me, mine came in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it rang loud and clear.