Just returned from a trip to South America. I’ll post a little more about journey in a few days. For now I’ll pass along two thoughts that a senior legislative official shared with me toward the end of my stay.

Most unexpectedly he tells me that “you Americans are the luckiest people in the world.” I’ve always said so. When a stranger says it though, especially when referring to our political system, it just sounds different. At that moment, it was as if he wishes he were an American. Be grateful you live in the freest nation on earth.

Fix your debt problem, he chimed in. It has been a chain around his country’s neck for decades. Just about every problem in his country can be traced to out of control spending. No argument there either. In fact, the endemic poverty that exists in many parts of the world, that at its core is caused by lack of fundamental freedoms, can be traced to profligate spending and waste by central governments.

And while it did not show in my responses to questions from folks there, speaking about our political system in a foreign land has always been sobering. Even after one month after the 2012 elections, I must admit that I am still somewhat disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that here in the United States, we can still do something about our debt problem before it goes from bad to catastrophic. It begins with curbing the size of the federal government as well as lowering federal taxes and tax rates.

For the long term, the tax code needs reforming as does our federal entitlement system. Republicans must focus on explaining to the nation that a federal government with a limited role in our lives is more important that winning a sound bite war. Good policy will always make for good politics, not the other way around.

We are the luckiest people in the world. Indeed. But we make our own luck. It has been that way since before 1789. If a foreigner can see it, so should we.

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