Vice President Joe Biden broke form and did everyone a favor during his June 14 Meet the Press interview when he told the country that “no one realized how bad the economy was” in the run-up to February’s passage of the so-called “economic stimulus” package that nobody read.
The former presidential candidate and proven serial plagiarizer (far beyond the infamous Neil Kinnock incident) is still the best reason for hoping that President Barack Obama, for all his very considerable faults, has an ever-vigilant Secret Service detail.
As long as Obama’s protection is in place, Biden can continue to be the gaffe-prone politician who has almost surely piled up more flubs and follies since his August 2008 selection as VP than the thirty Dan Quayle allegedly accumulated in four years. At least Quayle could count to four (Biden has shown that he can’t) and knows the difference between a plus sign and a minus sign (Biden doesn’t, at least when talking about Louisiana). As long as the president is safe, we can relax knowing that Biden’s ego-aggrandizing rewrites of history will be of no significance beyond their entertainment value.
Economically speaking, as long as he is kept away from serious future duties, Joe Biden will be best remembered as the alleged “friend of the little guy” who, as senator from MBNA — er, I mean Delaware — supported 2005’s one-sided, creditor-financed, consumer-hostile effort known as bankruptcy “reform” that did virtually nothing to rein in abusive lender practices. At the time, columnist David Broder accurately noted that “the Senate … shot down virtually every attempt to separate the sheep from the goats and carve out protections for the average family trapped by circumstances.”
But let’s get back to the vice president’s Meet the Press comment. There’s a reason the White House didn’t appreciate how bad the economy was early this year, and it’s simply this: they didn’t realize how much damage their party’s leaders had done to it going back to June of last year.
At that time, in the name of electoral victory and with the help of their party, the architects of what I have for the past year been calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy — Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Harry Reid — deliberately took positions and actions that were destined to take down the economy, seriously underestimating the harm they would do to its fragile-but-decent condition.
They thought they could gain votes by promising, almost gleefully, to severely tax the nation’s most productive people, increasing their marginal tax rates by up to 17% (12.4% Social Security plus 4.6% federal income tax), so they could redistribute individual amounts that are relative pocket change to everyone else. Even as it became clear that the economy was struggling, Obama irresponsibly ramped up the rhetoric further. Days before the election, he accused those who opposed his tax increases of wanting “to make a virtue out of selfishness.”
They thought they could gain votes by repeatedly telling the electorate of their intent to dramatically reduce and ultimately abandon the use of fossil fuels, seemingly regardless of whether viable replacement energy sources exist. Obama shamelessly (or ignorantly?) peddled the absurd notion that “we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling — if everybody was just inflating their tires.”
They thought they could gain votes by capitalizing on the housing and mortgage-lending mess when it came to a head in September, falsely framing the situation as a greed-based regulatory failure. Last time I checked with the eminent Thomas Sowell, “Lenders did not spontaneously begin to lend to people who would not have qualified for loans under the traditional criteria that had evolved out of years of experience in the market.” Instead, it was the Democrat-inspired collection of mandates, otherwise known as “regulations,” that had threatened or forced financial institutions into these unsustainable lending arrangements.
In sum, Team Obama underestimated in January 2009 how much they and their Democratic cohorts’ pandering for electoral advantage trashed the economy during the final seven months of 2008. They underestimated how many businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and investors engaged in anticipatory downsizing during the second half of 2008 as a result of the rhetorical horrors they witnessed from their country’s likely and then victorious leaders.
Pelosi, Obama, and Reid got their precious votes. In the process, they sowed the seeds of a serious economic decline. Now they, and sadly we, are reaping the whirlwind. After the election, it only got worse.
Democrats cheered in December when a lame-duck president expanded the bailout effort to the auto industry. It had Obama’s strong encouragement — never mind the “who’s next?” uncertainty it injected into the entire economy.
Once at the controls, with the serious recession they had caused already going strong, Pelosi, Obama, and Reid ignored options to reverse it that have historically worked (tax cuts, opening up domestic exploration and drilling, etc.) in favor of an inherently time-delayed, ineffective “stimulus” plan that, like its predecessors in 1930s America and 1990s Japan, hasn’t stimulated anything and is well on its way to becoming the mother of all boondoggles.
Thus, in the one-year anniversary month of the POR economy, now the POR recession as normal people define it, the carnage continues. The White House predicted that unemployment would peak at 8% if the stimulus plan passed, but it’s already at 9.4%. Obama has conceded that it will hit 10%. Odds are that once again he’s underestimating.