In the spirit of optimism, let’s review some good, some bad, and some downright ugly things about this present age. I’ll give three examples of each. For today, here’s the “bad.” Later this week, I’ll post the “ugly,” and then on the weekend the “good.”
First, THE BAD (remember picking three examples is by needs arbitrary).
1) The end of fiscal sobriety. One of the strangest developments has been the embrace, reluctant or not, by conservatives of large government and deficits. Anytime we hear a conservative or a Republican talk of the deficit in terms of percentages of GDP rather than x-amount of real dollars in red ink, we infer that he has no plans to balance the budget. But do we appreciate the psychological, ethical implication of a voter waking up each morning, satisfied that his government is running a surplus? Even with good incomes and some cash in the bank, do we feel better that we have $5,000 on our Visa cards or $O?
For all the talk of smaller government, it grew enormously during the Bush administration, and, to a lesser extent, during both the Reagan and Bush I terms. The problem with growing government to fund idealistic programs like No Child Left Behind or Prescription Drug augments to Medicare is not just the unfunded cost, not just the misguided trust in yet more government bureaucracies that spawn ever larger constituencies of dependants, but the discrediting of the conservative critique of an ongoing DMV-ing of America. Who will now police the fiscal police?
Despite his stalwart efforts to keep us safe for seven years after 9/11 (and we will in time come to appreciate the magnitude of his Trumanesque achievement), had Bush left something akin to a balanced budget, it would have been far easier now to have convinced the public of the pernicious legacies of the far larger Obama deficits (remember the new Orwellian subtext, “We must borrow and spend in order to save and cut”). What are conservatives to say of Obama’s $1.7 trillion annual deficit? “My God in Heaven, that rascal trumped our $500 billion shortfall three-times over!”
The odd thing is that despite 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, and the tax cuts, had Bush just kept discretionary domestic spending at the rate of inflation, we would have been near budget surpluses by 2005. By January 2007 when Bush had lost the Congress and wished to repent and reform, the game was lost and there was no chance of financial sobriety. Now, our best and brightest suggest that taxing and spending, and printing and borrowing money will lead to financial stability, as if it has in the past in prewar Germany, present -day Zimbabwe or 20th-century Argentina—or 1979 America.
2) Wall Street and the Democrats. By all accounts, liberals and Democrats receive far more Wall Street money than do conservatives—and it has left us baffled about the old role of big money and big government. So here we are: liberals are favoring crony capitalism—crony capitalism is favoring liberals advocating equality of result.
We are reduced to a Chris Dodd on the barricades railing against financial greed, or populist Charles Rangel limoing over to AIG to jawbone funding for his “Rangel Center,” or Bill Gates figuring once more how to connive a Microsoft monopoly, in order to, Carneige-like, fund his noble causes, or George Soros, in between trying to wreck the Bank of England, funneling his hard-won cash to liberal attack-dog centers.