Evil or stupid, he stuffs the beast.

Friday, March 06, 2009

It seems I'm not the only one asking asking whether Barack Obama is evil or stupid. Myrhaf comments on Roger Kimball's raising the same question.

... Obama could not do better at harming our economy if he was trying. Since his election, Americans have watched their life savings disappear on the stock market. Kimball lists some of Obama's destructive policies. [bold added]
The executive summary is that Obama has pretended to lower taxes for most Americans, raised taxes directly and by closing loopholes, and proposed a national fossil fuel rationing scheme. (And I agree with Myrhaf that Obama is essentially a villain.)

Two articles I encountered this morning at RealClear Politics convey both the destructiveness of Obama's agenda and what might be his underlying strategy.

First, Stuart Taylor of National Journal crunches some numbers. The below is just one of the more compelling paragraphs, and it doesn't really touch the deception behind Obama's budget projections:
The numbers don't add up -- and still won't if and when, as seems almost certain, Obama ratchets up his so-far-fairly-modest new taxes on the top 2 percent. "A tax policy that confiscated 100 percent of the taxable income of everyone in America earning over $500,000 in 2006 would only have given Congress an extra $1.3 trillion in revenue," according to a February 27 editorial in The Wall Street Journal. "That's less than half the 2006 federal budget of $2.7 trillion and looks tiny compared to the more than $4 trillion Congress will spend in fiscal 2010. Even taking every taxable 'dime' of everyone earning more than $75,000 in 2006 would have barely yielded enough to cover that $4 trillion." [bold added]
One British outlet puts the consequence of his $4 trillion budget very succinctly: "If he's wrong he could bankrupt the whole country." He is wrong, but what might he hope to achieve?

For that, we can turn to Ross Douthat, as quoted by Mickey Kaus, who names the strategy, "stuffing the beast":
Obama's spending proposals would ... create new spending commitments and run up large deficits, in the hopes that the dollars poured into health care and education will create a new baseline for government's obligations, which in turn will create the political space for tax increases on the middle class. Like the starve-the-beast approach, the Obama strategy puts off the hard part till tomorrow: Give them tax cuts today, conservatives said, and they'll swallow spending cuts tomorrow; give them universal health care, universal pre-K, subsidies for green industry and all the rest of it today, liberals seem to be thinking, and they'll be willing to pay for it tomorrow. ...

[I]f you can change the baseline of social spending that Americans expect from their government before that day of hard choices arrive - and once created, government programs are awfully hard to get rid of, whether they're actually effective or not - then you've tilted the landscape of negotiation in liberalism's favor, and ensured that a post-Obama entitlement compromise will look a lot more like social democracy than a pre-Obama compromise would have. [bold added]
Consider, for example, how many Americans are already (wrongly) indignant about paying for medical care as it is. Widespread hardship would cause many to want whatever relief they could get from the government, compounding the political difficulty of repealing any growth in the size of the welfare state.

This reminds me of an interview I saw about twenty years ago in which someone from Britain described how radically Margaret Thatcher had altered the debate over the role of government. He likened what she did to changing the catch on a ratchet wrench so that any movement resulted in more freedom.

Obama's goal is simple. He wants to ratchet America into socialism, and he sees this crisis as his big chance.

-- CAV

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