The Worst of All Worlds

February 12, 2009

At the risk of beating a very live horse, the worst of all the horrible things about President Barack Obama’s “stimulus” bill is that even if it worked to stimulate the economy beyond the president’s wildest expectations, it would cause a further explosion of the national debt, which would become a worse “catastrophe” than the one this bill promises to alleviate.

Yet the president is so eager to start spending the people’s money he can barely be trifled to acknowledge the growing debt as a concern. When backed into a corner, all he can do is attack the credibility of his critics on the issue, as if pointing fingers at the other kid in the schoolyard either exculpates him or addresses the problem.

Twice during his tightly controlled prime-time marketing infomercial, billed as his first presidential news conference, he aimed partisan fire at Republicans for daring to raise the issue.

He said: “When it comes to how we approach the issue of fiscal responsibility … it’s a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they’ve presided over a doubling of the national debt. I’m not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.”

He used the same specious argument to deflect another objection to the bill: that it’s long on pork and short on stimulus. He said, “First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt … I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit … and the economic crisis that we have right now.”

The Bush administration is certainly vulnerable to the charge that it spent way too much. Unfortunately for the always-campaigning President Obama, however, this is not a valid response to the question of whether he should spend more now.

The relevant question is not which party is guiltier but what is the right thing to do. Even if the Republicans were the worst hypocrites in the history of the universe, would that make it any more prudent for President Obama to embark on a mission to trump them? Indeed, that he is citing GOP fiscal profligacy as an excuse and license for more just confirms that debt is not on his mind; government debt is never on a liberal’s mind except as a tactic to win arguments or elections.

Another argument Obama often invokes to divert attention from the debt elephant in the room is that he has a mandate to proceed.

But did 53 percent of the electorate sign on to the expenditure of trillions of more dollars we truly don’t have and probably can’t get in our lifetimes just so he and his fellow social planners could finally get a crack at cranking out their mad-scientist experiments to perfect society through confiscation and redistribution of the people’s private property and income? Looking at recent polls and market trends, it would appear not.

Folks, the proponents of this boondoggle can’t even point to an obscure theory to suggest this bill might pay for itself, even if it miraculously catapulted the economy into robust growth mode. We couldn’t have afforded the readily visible costs of this bill, not to mention the hidden ones experts have identified, even before the separate trillion-dollar bailout fiascos. How much less can we tolerate them now?!

And that’s without factoring in the looming entitlement quagmire that one party, for purely political reasons, has refused to address. It’s also without considering the other horrors in Obama’s grab bag that could reduce America to Third World financial straits all by themselves, such as global warming mandates, socialized medicine, open-borders-driven entitlements, doubling our foreign aid commitments, and reversing welfare reform.

Adding insult to injury, contrary to the falsely claimed economic consensus, this legislation, with its emphasis on non-stimulative spending and non-stimulative demand-side tax cuts, has not been optimally crafted to stimulate the economy. Even if Obama’s neo-Keynesians were correct that government spending is the answer, this bill wouldn’t come close to fitting the bill and, in the long run, probably would have a counter-stimulative effect.

So this plan is the worst of all worlds — unless you are a once-closet socialist trained in the grand academic tradition of Chicago street organizing who finally sees an opportunity to “come out” and work your wonders on the poster nation for greedy and decadent capitalism, the United States of America. It involves incomprehensible spending in aggravation of an already dangerous national debt load; a possible net retardant effect on economic recovery; greater government control over the economy, with a consequent diminution of our liberties; and a necessary reduction of essential government services.

Frankly, I think it’s just about time to panic here — and the market apparently shares that sentiment.