Enthusiasm for Obama among the scribbling classes–journalists, academics, most beneficiaries of tertiary education, and, ex officio, “community organizers” of all descriptions–puts me in mind of Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of the Eternal Return. Nietzsche wanted to come up with the world’s most difficult idea–difficult in the moral or emotional sense. Nietzsche wanted to affirm the world, but he wanted to be sure he wasn’t sentimentalizing it. Hence the idea of the eternal recurrence: if he could say Yes to a world in which everything returned over and over again–every horror, every boredom, every stupidity–then he would know he had achieved his goal.
As a piece of philosophy, I think the idea of the eternal return of the same is a pretty silly idea, but as a metaphor for human folly it has its uses. If the pundits are to be believed, the American people are just about to elect as President a man who espouses in concentrated form just about every bad, discredited, and exploded social and economic idea of the last fifty years.
For example, as has been pointed out by many commentators, what people call Obama’s “tax plan” is really a tax and welfare plan. Far from granting a tax cut on “95 percent” of taxpayers, as he claims, it will raise a whole suite of taxes:
— marginal tax rates
— estate taxes
— taxes on dividends
— capital gains taxes
And that is before breakfast. Just wait till Obama, together with a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Henry Reid, really get going.
But the tax portion of the Obama Plan to Redistribute Money is only the first step. A second and in some ways even more worrisome portion regards the welfare side of the equation. Note well: it’s not just that Obama plans to cut taxes for people he thinks do not make enough money; he also wants to send them some money from folks whom he thinks make too much money. Yes, that’s right: the IRS will be in the business of issuing as well as collecting checks, not just for refunds, as has been their practice, but as a means of redistributing your money to those that Obama thinks deserve it more.
In other words, Obama plans to resuscitate the welfare policies of the Great Society, but by stealth. It will be the same thing–the dole–but it will be called a “tax credit,” which has a more emollient sound than “relief,” “public charity,” “the dole.”
What I find depressing about this–as, indeed, about the whole Obama juggernaut–is the extent to which it represents a return of bad ideas that have already been tried time and again, have failed and made people poorer and less stalwart, and yet seem poised to make a sorry comeback once again. I’ve written about the “déjà-vu-all-over-again” phenomenon before in this space. Bill Ayers? Haven’t we done that? Jeremiah Wright? Haven’t we done that, too? Haven’t we tried Obama’s “soak the rich,” anti-business economic policies? Haven’t we tried his “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” foreign policy? Don’t we know that economics is about the creation rather than the redistribution of wealth, and that low taxes and strategies that encourage productivity and investment are best calculated to make the entire society, including the less fortunate, more prosperous? Don’t we know where appeasement and capitulation get us in foreign affairs? Don’t we remember Jimmy Carter? Haven’t we learned anything?
The whole thing puts me in mind not only of Nietzsche but also of that advertising slogan: In Life, Experience Is the Great Teacher; In Scotch, Teacher’s Is the Great Experience. The problem, of course, is that experience has been a bad tutor indeed, which is why one wants to reach for the Teach.
Still, I do not despair. I’m on record saying that I thought McCain would win by a landslide. Of course, that was before the economy suddenly said goodbye to $3 trillion, a fact that bizarrely counts for Obama–“bizarre” since it was the policies of his party that precipitated this economic dégringolade. Nevertheless, were I Obama, I’d hesitate before thinking about how to furnish the Oval Office.
People tell me that all the ducks are lining up in a row for Obama. To which I say: “Fine. But are the voters?” A few months ago I said I didn’t think Hillary would get the nomination. Everyone looked at me sadly and said, “Poor chump, don’t you see it’s inevitable?” Like so many things, it was inevitable until it didn’t happen. That’s one reason I dislike this constant recourse to polls–weekly, daily, hourly polls, polls, polls. But “RealClearPolitics/Gallup/Zogby/Rasmussen says . . .” Meaning what? That voting is a superfluous exercise? “Oh no, you must vote, but really the polls say . . .” I say, forget the polls: just vote. You might be surprised!