'Impossible Political Promises are Believed Only by the Prepared Mind'

"We seem caught in an eternal cycle," Theodore Dalrymple writes in City Journal,  "in which a period of government overspending and intervention leads to economic crisis and hence to a period of austerity, which, once it is over, is replaced by a new period of government overspending and intervention, promoted by politicians, half-charlatan and half-self-deluded, who promise the electorate the sun, moon, and stars." Needless to say, his essay can be easily understood on both sides of the Atlantic:

When our new government came into power—after a period in opposition during which, fearing unpopularity, it failed to explain the real fiscal situation to the electorate—there was broad, if reluctant, acceptance that something unpleasant had to be done; otherwise, Britain would soon be like Greece without the sunshine. But the acceptance was on narrow grounds only, and this is worrying because it implies that we are far from liberating ourselves from the binge-followed-by-austerity cycle. A large part of the public still views the state as the provider of first resort, which means that the public will remain what it now is: the servant of its public servants.

As soon as the crisis is over, though this may not be for some time, the politicians are likely again to offer the public security and excitement, wealth and leisure, education and distraction, capital accumulation without the need to save, health and safety, happiness and antidepressants, and all the other desiderata of human existence. The public will believe the politicians because—to adapt slightly the great dictum of Louis Pasteur—impossible political promises are believed only by the prepared mind. And our minds have been prepared for a long time, since the time of the Fabians at least.

In the States, just plug in FDR in that last sentence; the president who prolonged the Depression by seven years, whom Obama was favorably compared to by Time magazine shortly after being elected (speaking of "prepared minds"), whom our self-described "progressive" president now thinks was too fiscally conservative.

Oh, and speaking of Obamamobius Loops, the president said yesterday "In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it. President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it 7 times."

Which Senator Obama never voted to approve, voting against it once and ignoring a vote on the issue twice, while in office during President Bush's administration. As Ed Morrissey writes, "Obama talks the talk now, but when it came time to cast his own votes when it counted, Obama walked … away."

Update: In the New York Post, Michael Walsh adds:

Ever since Obama was forced last December into retaining the Bush tax cuts, he's watched his once-formidable stash of political capital dwindle to almost nothing. Yet he still refuses to move away from his tax-raising, soak-the-rich monomania.

"Don't call my bluff," Obama had ominously warned House Republicans, but last night, he called his own bluff, putting (as usual) no specifics on the table, but continuing his class-warfare jihad, again dragging in "people like me [who get] tax breaks we don't need and didn't ask for."

And yet bluffs must be called if the nation is to finally stagger home sober from this prolonged spending binge with a few bucks still left in its pocket -- and that's just what Boehner did.

Reassuring the nation that the United States "cannot default on its debt obligations," the speaker explained that the president "wanted a blank check six months ago and he wants a blank check today." He's not going to get it.

Democratic reactionaries are still fiercely wedded to the infinitely expanding entitlement state. The idea that the nation's wealth might someday run out seemingly has never entered their heads.

Obama won't be running against Boehner in the next election, but last night's dueling speeches starkly laid out the choices of the 2012 election: The blame game or fiscal sobriety? More irresponsible spending in the name of "social justice," or a return to first principles?

Quoting Jefferson, the president said, "Every man cannot have his way in all things." Obama should heed his own words, let Congress sort this out, and worry about re-election later.

The time for talk is over, but alas, talk is all this president has.

"New polls confirm Obama's Democratic base crumbles," Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times adds.  Though at least one veteran Democrat may be sleeping easier these days.