Who will voice what many Americans are thinking today? Is fear of an oppressive central government reaching a tipping point?
These questions were at least partially answered for me during a recent visit to my barbershop. All I was expecting was my usual high-and-tight trim. As I waited my turn in the chair, though, the place was abuzz with the hot topics of the day. Replacing the usual discussions of sports, hunting, fishing and golf, more serious issues had advanced to the front burner. Newspapers were waved while newscasts and national leaders were quoted. Voices rose.
Everyone was concerned and incensed by the refusal to secure our borders, stop illegal drug smuggling, enforce immigration law and by our central government's policy of inviting millions of illegal aliens to help themselves to unlimited taxpayer-funded benefits across a range of government programs.
Many in the shop were the children and grandchildren of immigrants who had worked hard, followed the law, learned the language, gained citizenship and adapted to American culture.
They bristle at a government that flaunts the rules and simply opens the door and rewards those who come here illegally.
They fear a government that stands in the way of job growth and economic recovery while confiscating their money through record-high taxes and is increasingly keeping an eye on them. They see crumbling infrastructure all around them while the central government borrows money to provide increased foreign aid and rebuild other countries. While many central government officials and their families live a royal lifestyle at taxpayer expense, their own children and grandchildren often struggle to find jobs still living with parents who provide much of their support.
They cannot understand a central government that refuses to become energy independent and rejects the Keystone pipeline while fighting wars to protect oil supplies in the Middle East. Or central government policy that mandates ethanol and alternative energy schemes that consume more energy than they produce and drive up the cost of electricity, fuel and food - all of which are at record high levels. They are stunned by government's illegal war on hydrocarbons that is killing coal and coal jobs and know that petroleum and natural gas are next on the target list.
Their primary health problems now revolve around illness and fatigue.
They are sick and tired of being lied to and ignored by an out-of-touch central government that has turned on them.
These are working Americans who are disparaged, disrespected and patronized by many in Washington and the media for clinging to their guns and religion, yet they see clearly what is going on in our country.
They feel abandoned and helpless in the face of a growing range of problems driven by an out-of-control and increasingly oppressive and intrusive government: Despite record tax collections, we still have an unattended and growing national debt approaching $20 trillion with another $130 trillion in unfunded government liabilities that no one wants to talk about; welfare, food stamps and disability costs are being driven upward at unprecedented rates; despite record funding, the VA is a bigger mess than ever while paying $400 million in executive bonuses; persistently high unemployment is understated as the work force shrinks; out-of-control judges who legislate from the bench and are out of touch with the country; the IRS targeting citizens and conspiring to hide the evidence while prominent politicians and many in government owe huge unpaid tax bills; Obamacare raising costs, reducing affordable access and upsetting the entire health care system; a dangerous and stubborn refusal to acknowledge and face the threat of radical Islam; and a general disregard of the Constitution within the central government.
They also see that no one is going to jail or suffering any real consequences for any of these or other government excesses or transgressions.
They see that corrupt and mismanaging ruling elites in the government not only hold them in contempt, but are perfectly willing to toss them aside and replace them and other American citizens with millions of foreigners who will be cheap labor and a voting bloc for a rapacious central government.
They see a central government that characteristically opposes the traditional values of average working Americans and continues to confiscate even more of their hard-earned money, earmarking it for redistribution to others. They see that the central government has become more arrogantly self-important than the people it is intended to serve.
In contrast to those in Washington, the guys in the barbershop have spent their lives working hard, supporting themselves, paying their bills and patriotically serving and sacrificing for their country.
Unlike the Washington elites, though, they clearly see and feel a palpable and growing imbalance in America between those who get and those who pay and know it is unsustainable. In this and thousands of other barbershops across the nation, they have reached a critical tipping point.
For the first time in their lives, they not only doubt the veracity and motives of our nation's leaders; they are convinced that America's central government is no longer on their side.
Maybe some of the Washington elites are overdue for a haircut.
(Wallace is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and a health care contributor at the CATO Institute.)