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Commentary: Next generation won't have a Bill Gates

  • Story Highlights
  • Gary Shapiro: Government has been rushing around bailing out failing companies
  • He says U.S. has thrived because of its creative entrepreneurial tradition
  • Massive government spending will deprive entrepreneurs of financing for new ideas
  • Shapiro: Next generation won't have a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs
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By Gary Shapiro
Special to CNN
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Editor's Note: Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents 2,200 U.S. high-tech companies and produces the International CES trade show for consumer electronics.

Gary Shapiro says government spending is out of control and threatens the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Gary Shapiro says government spending is out of control and threatens the next generation of entrepreneurs.

(CNN) -- The United States is the most creative, innovative, entrepreneurial and generous country on Earth. We have succeeded because of our unique history and culture.

We are the land of opportunity that has long attracted immigrants looking for a better life. We have excelled because we championed a system of free markets that allowed our entrepreneurs to compete and rise to the top. We value entrepreneurs who think differently. Our commercial society allows even those from the humblest beginnings the same chance to succeed with everyone else.

It is what we share as a nation that makes us unique. We are bound by the same thread, the same belief that we all have the same opportunity for success, that individual spirit combined with hard work will lead to a life of liberty and prosperity free from want and fear. This invigorating sense of possibility infuses our national epic -- the American dream.

On Wednesday, thousands of people joined a national tea party protest by dumping tea bags in bodies of water -- and even Lafayette Square in front of the White House -- to protest government spending and tax policies. The tea parties are a powerful reminder that Americans are increasingly concerned that the growing national debt will require higher taxes and choke future opportunities.

Yet, as our economy continues in a downward spiral and the government rushes about to determine an escape strategy, our lawmakers appear to have lost sight of our shared national ideal. With each dollar they spend, they jeopardize the future of the American dream.

In his inaugural address, President Obama warned that we as a country would have to make tough choices. "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age," he said.

We, the common citizenry, are making tough choices by postponing the things we've wanted out of life, perhaps a house, a family, a new job or starting a business. For some, that means putting the American dream on pause. Our federal government, on the other hand, is still trying to be all things to everyone, including the people who got us into this financial mess.

Congress and our president have yet to make the hard choices, in fact, the only real choice they have made so far is to shift a tremendous financial burden to our children and grandchildren, mortgaging their futures and compromising their ability to attain the American dream.

To be clear, there is a difference between an occasional stimulus to jolt consumer confidence and a strategy that continues to pump billions of taxpayer dollars into tired, worn-out companies that have shown they are incapable of innovating in modern times.

The banks are in trouble? Bail them out. The car companies are in trouble? Bail them out. Homeowners are defaulting on their mortgages? Bail them out. Last year, Congress rushed through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion financial bailout that gave the American taxpayers a huge stake in U.S. financial institutions, and before the year is over, we expect Congress will pass at least two new versions of the package to give the failing institutions added boost.

The kings of Detroit and the crown princes of Wall Street enjoy a reign of convenience artificially funded by the American taxpayer. Continuing to prop up these tired, old giants who for years have failed to keep pace with the latest technology and methods pushes out the entrepreneurial companies who are capable of growing our economy.

By refusing to allow bad companies to fail, the government has shown that it is unwilling to make tough choices to prepare us for the new age. The Obama administration, enabled by Congress, has substituted second-chance politics for the time-tested free-market system.

In a few fleeting months, with shockingly little discussion and public scrutiny, we spent almost $2 trillion on a so-called stimulus package and bailed out companies with long histories of irresponsible decision-making.

Our budget deficit this year is projected to reach $1.75 trillion, or 12.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and it only gets worse from here. By 2017, economists say our national debt will eclipse the size of the economy itself. This debt will threaten our way of life and could forever compromise the American dream.

If we cannot borrow money, then our children won't be able get the mortgage to buy a house and our neighbor won't have access to a small business loan to finance a new venture. The next generation won't have a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg because the budding American entrepreneur won't be able to secure the financing to create the next dynamic technology company that would have energized the economy.

What will the future look like? If the government keeps on its current course by refusing to make tough choices, it will saddle our future generations with unprecedented debt and make it nearly impossible for entrepreneurial companies to compete in a marketplace crowded with companies that Congress refused to let die.

We can do better as a nation. But we have to begin by making some difficult choices. In the end, our children and grandchildren will be grateful that we avoided a shipwreck to provide for our future posterity. They will be grateful that we protected the one commonality that we all share -- an American dream.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gary Shapiro.

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