Do we have the leaders we deserve? I know, I know: you’re thinking of Hamlet’s response to Polonius: “Use every man after his desert, and who should scape whipping?” Let me rephrase the question. Granted James Madison’s observation, in Federalist X, that “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm” to adjust the clashing interests that beset society: still, do we really have to be satisfied with the likes of our current crop of, ahem, “public servants”?
I thought of this while glancing over the day’s headlines. Let’s leave news of the partisan bi-partisan televised spectacle in which the Democrats will present their so-called health care “reform” [laugh track here] bill and the Republicans (so goes the script) will make various noises and then acquiesce in this gigantic fraud on the American taxpayer. National Review has a splendid editorial on that whole fiasco, the bottom line of which is that “a Republican surrender” is the only kind of “bi-partisanship” Barack Obama is interested in. We’ll see later this week how rhetorically adroit the Republicans can be. Any bets?
While we wait for the results, consider this headline: “Curbing the debt: A new panel takes on America’s spending fetish.” Good idea, what? Though I have to say “fetish,” though colorful, is not quite the right word and, by the way, isn’t the American government’s addiction to profligacy that we need to be primarily worried about? In any event, attend to what this “new panel” has in mind:
President Barack Obama’s creation Thursday of a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to counter the alarming spiral in America’s federal debt is promising.
The debt stands at $12.4 trillion and, based on this fiscal year’s anticipated deficit of over a trillion dollars, will continue to grow at a rapid rate if no action is taken.
Yes, you betcha. But what do you think of this “bipartisan panel”? I say it’s apple sauce. Why? Because Barack Obama has been the most fiscally irresponsible President in the history of the republic. Perhaps—perhaps—it isn’t really his fault, since he is clearly operating far out of his depth. The sheer incompetence of his administration is a wonder to behold. The poor fellow doesn’t know what he is doing. SInce “fault” implies intention, we should cut him some slack.
But what, as Aristotle might suggest, if he ought to have known better? Is he then at fault? A good question for another day. For today, let’s ask:
is it only incompetence? It’s a question I’ve asked before in these virtual pages: Incomptence or malevolence: which best characterizes the Obama administration. (Note to students: that “or” does not signal what logicians call an “exclusive disjunction.” The administration might be incompetent as well as malevolent.)
I ask because as I contemplate the financial dégringolade abetted by Obama’s famous patented non-stimulating, pork flavored “stimulus,” when I ponder his yawning appetite for debt, his apparent belief that he can spend his way to solvency and his unconcern for the lives of the Americans he is preparing to tax into submission—when I think of all that, I say to myself “I haven’t sent my life in the taxpayer-funded corridors of power but if you are interested in curbing the public debt how about trying something fairly simple as a start?”
1. An immediate moratorium on federal hiring. Total. Across the board. Senate staffer leaves, he is not replaced. Under-under-secretary for coddling dictators retires, she is not replaced. All those bloated, inefficient government bureaucracies go on an immediate diet: they slim the easy way, via attrition. We start this tomorrow, maybe today, and we keep it in place for, say, three years. Any green-eye-shade chaps out there with a calculator who would care to offer us a guesstimate about how many billions that would save?
2. Social Security was a “temporary” government program (no, really, that’s what “temporary” means in governmentese: permanent and growing) based on actuarial assumptions that were current in the 1930s. In the meantime, Americans’ life-expectancy has gone up by more than a decade. What we do is increase the age at which people can begin to collect benefits by six months a year for the next six years. When the guys with the calculators finish up the previous task, I hope they’ll start in on this one and tell us how many gazillions this postponing of eligibility for Social Security is going to save.
3. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent (tax cuts are the one area in which “temporary” does seem to mean temporary in the politicians’ lexicon). How much dough will that inject into the economy next year? And how much is that going to help the unemployment rate? Speaking of which, since unemployment is a problem, we also cut the business tax rate by, say, 10 percent, and eliminate altogether the immoral tax on capital gains. (Immoral? Yes: you already paid tax on the $100 you risked: why should you be penalized if your risk pays off?)
This of course is only a beginning. Call it Dr. Kimball’s remedial prescription for financial recovery. I’m sure there is much more that can and should be done. But as a start, is it any worse that what the unenlightened statesmen we now have at the helm have proposed?