Roger’s Rules

My favorite American

My favorite American at the moment is Rick Santelli. A week ago, Mr. Santelli was just another financial television journalist. As of February 19, he has been elevated into a national hero for those, like me, who regard the economic policies of the current President of the United States with a mixture of revulsion and horror.

Speaking from the trading floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Mr. Santelli called for a Chicago tea party next July: a taxpayer’s revolt against the obscene redistributionist policies of the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika.

Commenting on the latest effort to take yet more of your money to subsidize failure, Mr. Santelli bluntly charged that “The government is promoting bad behavior.”

After poking a little fun at the derisory tax rebate (“$8 or $10”) the current plan would provide for low-income workers, Mr. Santelli proceeded to eviscerate the style and substance of the Democratic Special-Interest and Wealth-Transfer Initiative (that’s an English translation of “Stimulus”) that Washington just shoved down your throat.

As to style: how about a little “transparency”? Why don’t we actually debate the provisions of this $787,000,000,000 plan before passing it? Didn’t the current President of the United States promise “a new era of responsibility” in the way government does business?

“The new administration,” observed Mr. Santelli,

is big on computers and technology. How about this, Mr. President and new administration. Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers mortgages? Or would they like to at least buy cars, buy a house that is in foreclosure — give it to people who might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water?

What do you reckon the results of that referendum would be? Mr. Santelli then dilated on the “spread-the-wealth-around” confiscatory assumption behind the White House plan.

How many people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand! [A chorus of boos, but no hands raised.]

President Obama, are you listening?

You know Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now they’re driving ‘54 Chevys.

It’s time for another tea party.

What we are doing in this country will make Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin roll over in their graves.

You said it! And Washington, Madison, and Hamilton would be rolling over along with them.

There been a lot of talk about the current President of the United States looking for a “Swedish solution” for crisis in the banking industry. A depressing prospect, that. But I think Mr. Santelli touches on another real danger to the US economy, even worse than the Swedish solution, namely the Cuban Catastrophe. I don’t think the current President of the United States is going grow and beard and start donning combat fatigues (too much Harvard for that). But his policies just might tip the mighty US economy over into a serious and protracted decline.

They just don’t get it.

Practical economics is not about “fairness” (one of the current President’s favorite words) or “spreading-the-wealth-around” (the ultimate aim of his domestic policy). Practical economics is about the creation of wealth, not the redistribution of wealth. A rising tide floats all boats. More wealth means more jobs, greater prosperity for everyone.

We learned these lessons in the 1980s, reaped their benefits in the 1990s and beyond: do we really need to go back to economic kindergarten and relearn them?

We’ve already suffered through Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous “Great Society” wrecking ball and Jimmy Carter’s flailing incompetence once. Do we really have to go through it again? Haven’t we learned anything about the place that  the road paved with good intentions leads?

The immense popularity of Mr. Santelli’s performance (you can see it here) caught the White House off-guard. Hey, there’s someone peeking behind the curtain and offering an independent, critical opinion over there! Sound the alert!

Result: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is wheeled out to pour a bit of scorn on Rick Santelli.

Non sequitur alert, division of liberal guilt

“I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so,” quoth Robert Gibbs. “I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives [Hello? What difference does that make? Who cares where Mr. Santelli lives?]  . . . but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school.”

Got it! People are struggling, ergo, ignore criticism of this gigantic engine of impoverishment and wealth-transfer.

This didn’t play so well; I suspect Mr. Gibbs understood that; so he opted to try a modified patented Presidential “I won” ™ tactic:

“I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that.”

Right: the current President of the United States won the election in November, ergo, any criticism is off limits.

Possibly the most repellent part of Robert Gibbs’s thrust-and-parry was yet to come. “Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won’t help everyone,” Gibbs said. [Dear Reader: ask yourself this: will the President’s plan help you?] “This plan helps people who have been playing by the rules. … I would encourage him to read the president’s plan.

Whoa! “Read the president’s plan.” That’ s rich. I wonder whether Mr. Gibbs has read it. No, that’s wrong. I do not wonder. I know that he hasn’t. In fact, I will go further. I would wager that not one of the duly elected (and, God willing, soon to be unelected) lawmakers who voted for this 1000-page fiscal enormity read it before cast casting their vote. Not one. Any takers on that wager? [UPDATE: I mean of course 1073-page mother-of-all-spending blowouts, not the brief, toxic “Home Affordability” codicil.]

Rahm Emmanuel, the current President’s chief of staff, has said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. His boss obviously agrees, and has been assiduous about exploiting this crisis not to “stimulate” the economy but to cater to every conceivable Democratic interest while the panic lasts. Democratic lawmakers, in collusion with the White House, realized they could capitalize on the crisis by taking a big step towards socializing the economy.

Here’s how it works. You canvas your supporters and lobbyists and special interests: “Hey, the candy store’s open folks! We’ve got nearly $800 billion here: what do you want? Green golf carts? no problem? Another $89 billion for medicare? It’s yours. $4 billion or so for ACORN and other para-military voter fraud initiatives? be my guest.” Like Pooh Bah, in his role as Koko’s Private Secretary, the word went around: “I should say that as the city will have to pay for it, don’t stint yourself, do it well.”

Here’s a question: how much of this is naked cynicism, mere paying off special interests and shoring up one’s political power base and how much of it is an honest if deeply misguided effort to do good? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it is worth thinking about.

Robert Gibbs ended his little exercise in damage control by inviting Rick Santelli to come to the White House to read the bill, generously offering to buy him a cup of decaf coffee.

Only one cup of coffee (and decaf!) as Santelli struggles through a thousand-page document? Sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me. If Mr. Santelli were at Gitmo there would be howls of protest over such treatment.

Mr. Santelli responded, lavishing upon the Gibbs-dibs some of the contempt it deserves. He warned against “going down the road of subsidizing other people’s mortgages”–that way lies ruin. And elsewhere he noted a glaring inconsistency in the administration’s policy. If you are going to subsidize other people’s mortgages, why not subsidize their 401ks and investment portfolios? “We want our 401K money back,” Santelli said. “I want my stock money back. The retirement funds of many Americans [are] much larger of a loss than some people on their housing at this point in time.” So why isn’t the current President of the United States expropriating yet more of your children’s money to make people whole for those losses–losses, by the way, which were caused as much by such Democratic policies as the Community Reinvestment Act as anything. And as for Mr. Gibbs’s disingenuous offer of a cup of decaf coffee, Mr. Santelli said thanks but no thanks: “I prefer tea.”

I think there may soon be a run on tea. The question is, does the nascent taxpayer’s revolt that Mr. Santelli is help to spearhead have legs? Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit suggests that it does, pointing to tea-party protests planned in “Dallas, Chicago, Fayetteville, NC, San Diego, Omaha, and elsewhere.” I hope such a party will be coming to a township near you.

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