Betting on Big Government
By: Dick Morris
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 26, 2009
speech to match the most eloquent of State of the Union Addresses, with
strains of FDR and JFK and a touch of Winston Churchill thrown in,
President Obama has clearly staked his presidency on the outcome of the
Whether or not you agree with his
prescription for recovery (I don't), it's clear that he's not hedging
his bets. If it works, his place in history is assured. If it fails, so
is his early retirement.
The speech made it apparent that the Obama administration's response to
this crisis will either go down in history as a success that Americans
will admire for decades, or become a case study in economic failure
that students and scholars will study and pick apart for generations.
The speech began where it needed to begin, with a bold affirmation of
faith in the rebuilding and recovery of America. Then Obama listed some
of the more popular parts of his spending-stimulus program.
The specific items he recalled from the package were attractive. But
Americans know, by now, that much of the program (largely unmentioned
last night) is a mountain of pork - money spent for the sake of
spending it to spur recovery, not to achieve particularly important
Obama did not seek to justify the spending for the specific purposes to
which it is dedicated. Courageously, he said that he passed it because
it will work. For his sake, it better. But I doubt it.
Then he spoke unconvincingly about his bank-rescue plan. Promising to
punish and regulate bankers even as he stressed the need to restore
their confidence, he reminded me of the facetious sign posted in a
friend's workplace: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."
How he plans to restore the nerve and confidence of our bankers as he
castigates them is unclear. But, then, so is his program for financial
rescue. One suspects that he knows full well that he will nationalize
the banks. But even that step assumes that politicians can do what
bankers can't: Act quickly, ruthlessly and honestly - never a notable
attribute of elected officials.
Halfway through the speech, the president got to the minefields of
Social Security and health-care reform. He avoided any specifics, but
it's clear that he plans to salvage the former with increases in the
payroll tax and implement the latter by government rationing of health
care. If you like your HMO, you'll love Obama's health plan.
And then Obama affirmed that he'll support big tax increases on the
richest 2 percent of American families. Disregarding the fact that
these households already pay upward of half of all income taxes, while
earning only a quarter of the national income, he has singled out the
entrepreneurs, professionals, innovators and businesspeople of America
Oh, but he won't raise taxes until he's had a few years to stimulate
the economy. How many in that 2 percent feel like one of those huge
hogs in the Chicago stockyards, being fattened up to slaughter the next
Can all this work? Can Obama get banks to lend even as he terrorizes
them? Can he get the engines of our economy back to work even as he
announces that he'll be taking away more of their earnings? Can he
persuade the American people to accept bureaucrats deciding their
health-care choices? And can his economic stimulus survive a huge
increase in the payroll tax on the most productive citizens?
Probably not; Obama likely won't succeed. This speech will be viewed as
his high-water mark - the time before we came to realize how flawed is
his understanding of economics and how supreme is his commitment to
expanded spending. It will be seen as a sort of age of innocence before
we realized what he had in mind.
But it sure was a great speech...while it lasted.
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