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The deficit Americans should think about most: personal character

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Among the traits that define strong character are honesty, humility, responsibility, self-discipline, courage, self-reliance, and long-term thinking. A free society is not possible without these traits in widespread practice.

How we subtract from our character

When a person spurns his conscience and fails to do what he knows is right, he subtracts from his character. When he evades his responsibilities, foists his problems and burdens on others, or fails to exert self-discipline; when he allows or encourages wrongdoing on any scale; when he attempts to reform the world without reforming himself first; when he obligates the yet-unborn to pay his current bills for him; when he expects politicians to solve problems that are properly his own business alone; he subtracts from his character – and drags the rest of us down, too.

Mountainous debts, unconscionable deficits, irresponsible bailouts, and reckless spending: These are all problems because they sprang first from problems.

Reform starts with recognition. Not the easy kind that points out flaws in others, but the hard kind that reflects on, then roots out, errors in ourselves.

Is it wrong to take a dollar from the responsible and give it to the irresponsible? Of course it is, which is why so many of us decry the billion-dollar bailouts given to reckless but politically well-connected government agencies and private firms. Yet how many of accepted taxpayer-funded aid when we fell behind on mortgage payments for homes we never should have bought?

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