Ever since the announcement Saturday that Paul Ryan was the choice for the Republican Party’s Vice Presidential nomination, the talk, from the media AND from the politicians (Including President Obama himself) is that the election is now clearly a choice between two competing visions. I think this is a great thing. One of my greatest worries, especially for my children, is that the America I grew up in and love, the America of opportunity and hope, is disappearing. It may not last for my children, and I surely worry about generations after that. Replacing self-reliance with government dependence; replacing community and common bonds with division and identity-group politics; replacing John Kennedy’s question about what I can do for my country with the countervailing question of what will my country do for (or give to) me.

Layered on top of that is a fear, a deep, abiding fear, that our country’s financial position is broken, possibly irreversibly. You try to live within your means; you try to teach your children to live within their means; but our government seems to have lost and is now completely bent on disregarding this simple rule of smart living. I know many of my friends, as well as many of the students I teach, are greatly concerned with the so-called “social issues.” I see it in their comments on Facebook and in our conversations and discussions. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic or uncaring, and I strongly believe this is true of most who are labeled “conservatives,” but I think this becomes a chicken-and-egg type problem. How can you afford to pay for all these compassionate, caring programs when you are bankrupt? If we pay with borrowed money, who will have to pay it back? If you destroy or cripple the mechanism used to generate the money necessary to do all of these nice things, where will the money come from when the well runs dry?

And so I believe that the financial and economic issues are the most important issues we face. I believe that without answering these questions, all of the other issues are in peril of being unachievable. I believe the deficits and debt of the government are the overriding issue of the 2012 election.

And so when the politicians and the pundits say this election is now a choice between competing visions of America, I am glad. Either we go one way and I believe it is not too late to restore our economy and return to greatness, or we go the other way, in which case I will lament what I believe will be the steady and inevitable decline of our once great country.