(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)
WASHINGTON – Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation and former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, urged Americans to embrace what he says is the true source of national strength, the "little platoons" of families, churches, and entrepreneurs who solve the problems that government seems unable to answer.
"America was unique in all the world because we were built from the ground up by innovative and courageous individuals and the 'little platoons' that Edmund Burke talks about — the families, the church groups, the small businesses, the charities — that's what makes America strong," DeMint told The Christian Post in an interview at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday. DeMint's new book Falling in Love with America Again, wants to reconnect Americans with their roots and away from what he describes as destructive government programs.
DeMint attacked "big government and bigonomics," which promise to help the poor and middle class but end up doing the opposite. "Not all big is bad, but when government props up businesses and unions, and creates a monopoly of power, it tends to concentrate power and smother the activities of the little platoons," the Heritage president explained.
"When big government, like the president is saying, promises to build the middle class and help the little guy, it's completely the opposite," DeMint declared. He argued that large businesses and interests that can afford lobbyists in D.C. end up collaborating with government to make the rules for their industries, while the small businesses which compete against them are cut out of the system. "When the doors close and the bills are written, the big guys are in there," the author said. "The little guys aren't."
Church and State
A misunderstanding of the proper relationship between church and state has led government to oppose faith-based programs that help rescue people from poverty, DeMint claimed. "The federal government may have a program for job training, but it tends not to participate in the real action where a pastor in a black church organizes a neighborhood to help get people jobs," he said.
"This idea of separation of church and state has been completely convoluted and perverted and I think it has caused a lot of churches and pastors to feel like their work is just inside a church one day a week," DeMint lamented. The separation "was supposed to keep government out of religion — it was not supposed to keep faith and morality out of government action."
The Heritage president nonetheless praised many faith-based groups which excel at charity work. He mentioned Step 13 in Denver and the late Chuck Colson's prison ministry. "They can help alcoholics, drug-addicted folks to get clean, get some training, get a job, then get a better job," DeMint explained. "It's not necessarily pushing their religion, it's just a genuine desire to honor God by serving others."
DeMint praised states like Florida and Texas that are competing for the freest economic atmosphere and the best education system.
"Texas has limited their income tax, they've streamlined a lot of regulations, they've had tort reform, lawsuit reform," the author explained, each good for business. "Almost a third of the jobs created in America over the last ten years have been in Texas because of good policy," he reported.
Florida leads Texas on education in the manner of school choice, however. "So you see [Texas Governor] Rick Perry competing with Florida to try to catch up with what they're doing in education, and you see Rick Scott in Florida competing with Texas on economic policy," the author explained.
DeMint also mentioned North Dakota as an innovative state in terms of energy, and allowing "all the opportunities for families to get ahead, to make a good living." In response to Democratic calls for an increase in the minimum wage, he mentioned the salary of a fast-food worker in North Dakota. "When the economy's good, you can start at McDonald's at fifteen dollars an hour," he explained.
"What we need is fifty states competing for the best schools, the best healthcare system, the best energy development system," DeMint declared.
Falling Out of Love
Despite the American ingenuity of "little platoons" like churches and even states to create opportunity, Americans have grown disillusioned with their country because the federal government forces different citizens into one mold, he added. "People are beginning to see their government as a winner-take-all system where if you get 51 percent then you get to stuff your ideas down someone else's throat," DeMint explained.
The author mentioned religious liberty cases like the HHS mandate, "where businesses who may be driven by faith in what they are doing are being forced to participate in things that they consider immoral." By enforcing a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution to the disagreements some Americans have with one another, the federal government ends up alienating them from their country.
"If you force everyone into a school that's teaching things that you don't like, that you think are wrong, you become resentful," DeMint explained. "You don't like the people who carry those views and you don't like the government that does it for you."
The Heritage president attacked the Common Core State Standards Initative and the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," as examples of this forced uniformity and praised right-to-work legislation adopted in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan as an example of a freeing solution.
Falling In Love Again
DeMint did not focus on doom-and-gloom, however. He told CP he believes his book will give people hope that they can love their country again. "It's not about a partisan idea — it's about American ideas," he explained. "It's real stories of what works, not political theory."
"If we want to fall in love with America, empower people with liberty. Push decision-making back to the people, where it all started in America," DeMint declared. Families, churches, entrepreneurs, and even states will grow and find solutions on their own, so long as the people are free to find their own answers.
Looking to the 2014 and 2016 elections, DeMint called for a political platform which will give more options to all Americans. "Let them have choices of schools, let them have choices of healthcare plans, let them believe different things about what they consider is moral and immoral," he suggested.
DeMint concluded with a call for government cut-backs on the national level: "Keep the federal government out of this one-size-fits-all solution, and I think you'll see Americans fall in love with each other again and fall in love with their country."