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The Burgers of Schilda By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 27, 2009


Those of us who consider ourselves moderates…are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. 
                David Brooks, New York Times, March 2, 2009.

There is an old German folktale about the burgers of Schilda who decide to build themselves a new Town Hall. It is to be an impressive structure, imposingly large, richly marmoreal and beautifully furnished. And so it turns out. But after they complete the project and gather to celebrate their handiwork, they discover that they have forgotten to include windows. In the midst of their festivities, they can scarcely see one another, stumbling about in the dark interior, colliding with their fellow celebrants and barking their shins against chairs and tables.

They appear to have no conception of renovation or the use of candles. Nonetheless, the Burgermeister of Schilda comes up with an admirable solution. He assembles the townsmen and announces his plan: they will bail out the darkness with buckets. The burgers are amazed at their leader’s resourcefulness and immediately form a bucket brigade, working indefatigably for days on end until they eventually collapse from exhaustion. But, mirabile dictu, the building remains as dark as ever.

The folktale is an especially apt parable of the new American administration, an aphotic White House, its bustling but fiasco-prone presidential Burgermeister and his devoted entourage and popular following. Obama and his bucketeers are attempting to bail out a series of grave national predicaments which will, I’m afraid, prove resistant to their efforts. You cannot defray the imminent with buckets.

In his proclaimed intention to restore American stability and prominence, Barack Obama is driving his country into the ground, proposing to elevate the national debt to nearly 65 per cent of GDP in order to finance his recovery schemes. Public debt will rise to $9.5 trillion in a projected 2010 GDP of $14.7 trillion. A tax tsunami coupled with currency debasement is inevitable. American Treasury bills will go at a discount or cease being bought altogether and interest rates will begin to spiral upward.

We will not have to wait until the end of Obama’s first administration before all the evidence is in. Obama’s domestic policy of massive state intervention in the economy has already been assessed by the stock market and financial Exchange, whose verdict is index down. On January 1, 2009, well into the current collapse, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,304; barely eight weeks after Obama took office, it had dropped nearly 2000 points. It will oscillate up and down, as is to be expected, but will almost certainly drift south in the long run.

Clearly, his much-ballyhooed “stimulus package” is counter-productive, leading to the perpetuation of archaic and unprofitable business models rather than releasing new and genuinely creative entrepreneurial energies. His green technology program, for which he has been extravagantly praised, is costly, inefficient and in the long run fiscally unsustainable. Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer loans have vanished down an endless sinkhole.

Out of his theoretical musings Obama is imposing a failed ideological strategy upon an anxious and reeling nation. It should by this time be obvious that, for all his undeniable charm and apparent rhetorical facility, he is an unqualified rookie, a “leader” with no experience in governing, immature in his enthusiasms and prey to faddish socio-economic theories with a distinct leftist stamp that have never worked wherever they have been tried.

With regard to the latter, his advocates will point to Europe and particularly Scandinavia as illustrations of the success of the uber-regulatory, welfarist option. But European socialism has long been underwritten by American money and power, from the Marshall Plan almost to this very day. Indeed, European socialism is to a large extent the profligate offspring of American capitalism.

Nor does Scandinavia provide a convincing example. Norway is brimming with oil revenues and, at least until the recent downturn in the market, could easily afford to nanny its citizens. We can forget Finland—it’s been a bucket case for some time now. Sweden and Denmark enjoy, or have enjoyed, thriving capitalist industries, but times are changing and cars and Camembert will not rescue these countries from a darkening future. No more than budget magic, pet projects and economic redistribution will ransom America from the encroaching shadows or pay down the national mortgage.

But the damage does not stop there. In pursuing a foreign policy which involves unconditioned dialogue with America’s foes and a sympathetic understanding of their point of view, Obama is reducing American authority and rendering it vulnerable to the belligerence of its enemies, in Russia and China as well as the Islamic world. Further, in demonstrating a heightened respect for the venal and decadent UN and a multilateral approach to world affairs, the Obama adminstration, in the words of John Bolton, “will diminish the sovereign power of the American people over their government and their own lives” (Commentary, March 2009).

There are no two ways about this. Such foreign policy initiatives, predicated on liberal/left, soft focus assumptions about the world, will have serious pejorative consequences for American ascendancy, prestige and security. Autocratic powers, rogue states and terrorist militias are given more room to operate against American interests. At the same time, the U.S. will be increasingly exposed to the intrusiveness of juridical international institutions. The runic ceremonies of “conflict resolution,” “shared sovereignty,” and accommodationist overtures favoured by this administration can only result in civic, political and military blowback.

Which leaves us with an insistent question. How account for the popularity of someone so manifestly unfit for for the great responsibility of his office? In The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, historian J.L. Talmon notes that modern history “looks like a systematic preparation for the headlong collision between empirical and liberal democracy on the one hand, and totalitarian Messianic democracy on the other.” There is little doubt which of these two systems is winning the battle, not only in the world beyond our borders but right here in “liberal” America. A defeatism of the mind has taken hold in which brave and innovative solutions to difficult problems are replaced by the mesmerizing oratory of a charismatic emissary from above.

Master of the teleprompter trope with little to back it up, Barack Obama has been given a free pass by a majority of troubled, credulous and star-struck Americans whose need for a messiah has induced them to embrace a false redeemer. The man with the “chiselled pectorals” (Eli Saslow, Washington Post), the candidate who sends “thrills” up people’s legs (Chris Matthews, MSNBC), a political magnet puffed for his “soaring eloquence” (various commentators), has acquired the aura of significant presence which, it seems, a distressed and agitated public demands. He fills the messianic bill.

The conclusion is inescapable. In Barack Obama, we have a young, confident and seductive Chief Officer enamored of hyphenated beasts like cap-and-trade, tax-and-spend and soak-the-rich, whose effect will entail the flight of capital as the private sector shrinks and the public sector bloats. If this were not bad enough, he is accompanied by a mixed bag of inept conciliar retreads and yearling ideologues whose baleful influence will see to American embarrassment on the international scene.

Yet he is feted by the media and an adoring public, basking in an approval rating that hovers in the same percentage vicinity as the growing debt-to-GDP ratio even as he continues to dip and dabble. A messiah can do no wrong. His legions of supporters seem unperturbed by the fact that, without thought of befitting reconstruction or even humble candle light, Obama is scooping out the dark with buckets.

But notwithstanding all the bucketwork, it will be a long night indeed for the burgers of Schilda and a dream turned nightmare for their Burgermeister.


David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.


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