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Mr. Micawber travels to Greece

May 12th, 2010 - 7:08 am

Stocks, Oil Drop on Bailout Skepticism.” Are you surprised? Last Sunday the cry went round cyberspace: “A trillion dollars!  We need it now, today, before the markets open Monday. Otherwise, Armageddon is at hand.”

Now where have you heard that song before?

Oh, right: from the One We’ve Been Waiting For last July: “I need $800 billion and I need it now, today.” That, in essence, was what President O. said last summer. It was the same with the so-called health care reform bill — Don’t read it, for God’s sake, just sign on the dotted line, now, today: you have to pass it, as N. Pelosi said, so you can find out what’s in it. Yes, really, she did say that.

All part of the strategy Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels called Obama’s “shock and awe statism.” And you have to hand it to these guys, there’s been plenty of shock — possibly somewhat less awe — to go around.

So now the Europeans are taking a page from the Obama playbook. Greece teeters on the abyss, the bond markets swoon, and it’s panic time all around.

Who are these people we’ve elected to “lead” us?

Keep that question in the back of your mind as you accompany Mr. Micawber on his trip to Greece. Like Mr. Micawber, Angela Merkel and Prime Minister George Papandreou are hoping that “something will turn up.”  Like him, they expect it hourly. But, unlike Mr. Micawber, they have thus far failed to take on board that central bit of economic wisdom he imparted to young David Copperfield:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the God of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

“For ever floored” — not a good thing. The Europeans scramble and put together $1 trillion dollars in loan guarantees (including $50 billion or so from Uncle Sam, i.e., from you, Dear Reader) and the markets gyrated wildly upward. For a day. Monday, Monday: can’t trust that day, as the Mamas and Papas observed. For Tuesday came and, guess what, $1 trillion wasn’t enough!

What would be enough?  As my friend Bill Voegeli puts it in his new book about America’s welfare state, the answer is nothing. The maw is always open. The appetite limitless. When it comes to government subsidy, the answer is Never Enough.

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