The Meaning of Obama, Part II, with a note from J. L. Austin and an epitaph for cognitive dissonance
Last month, President Obama assured the world that "words must mean something."
Yes, but what?
The President has just informed us, in his most earnest tones, that current U.S. deficit spending is "unsustainable." More amazing news followed: government borrowing will mean higher interest rates for U.S. consumers as foreign countries shy away from investing in the United States. He even had a line about "mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt."
Now, I believe there is a lot to be said for all of these things. The debt carried by the United States is indeed "unsustainable." Interest rates are almost certain to rise; the gusty noise you hear offstage is, I'm told on reliable authority, that great asset acid, inflation, just waiting to make a comeback. And when I am not worrying about how I am going to pay for our children's college education I worry about what sort of country we are preparing to bequeath them: what will their tax burden be in 2025, say?
As I say, these are all good points. The question is, does Barack Obama have the right to raise them? Democrats and their shills in the legacy (formerly the mainstream) media wailed and wailed about the deficits run up by the Bush administration. They had my sympathy, frankly. Much as I admire President Bush -- and I do admire him -- he spent money like a drunken Democrat.
Or so I thought. It turns out that Bush was a rank amateur when it came to profligacy. His $400 billion deficit, which seemed like a lot of money at the time, is not even a weekend's "stimulus" bill for Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid & Co. A week or so ago, the White House told us that the budget deficit for the current fiscal year would be $1.75 trillion dollars ($1,750,000,000,000). Somebody forgot to include the party favors, though, because a few days later that estimate was raised to $1.84 trillion ($1,840,000,000,000), a difference of some $90 billion, or more than 4 times the $17 billion in "savings" that Obama announced with such fanfare recently. After the laughter subsided -- after all, the President's Potemkin cuts amount to 1/2 of 1 percent of his budget -- Obama shot back: "In Washington, I guess [$17 billion is] considered trivial. Outside of Washington, that's still considered a lot of money."
Right on both counts, Prez! In Washington, $17 billion is considered trivial. To the rest of us, however, who will eventually be called upon to pony up for the dough, it is, as you say, a lot of money. That's exactly the problem: Washington spends it, we pay for it.
The English essayist William Hazlitt once observed that "those who lack delicacy hold us in their power." Most of us, encountering someone who lectures us about "unsustainable" levels of debt, "mortgaging our children's future," etc., expect that if we scratch the chap we find a fiscal conservative.