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Tax Day 2010: Two Thoughts From Hayek and an Observation from William Hazlitt

President Obama would be proud of me: this morning, it being the 15th of April, I got out my check book, searched the innermost recesses of my savings accounts and lines of credit, and with a few strokes of the pen helped to “spread the wealth around.” While engaged in this melancholy task, I noticed that Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, is warning about the deficit. The man we pay to preside over the country’s money supply has had the amazing revelation that a $1.6 trillion deficit  might impede economic recovery.  Amazing!

How do you suppose Mr. Bernanke’s testimony fits into the narrative being woven by the Obama administration?  Try this on: the President embarks on a spending spree the dimensions of which are unprecedented in U.S., indeed, in world history, committing us to trillions—that’s “trillions” with an “s”—in “stimulus” packages, bailouts, cash-for-clunkers, cash for socialized medicine, etc., etc.  Then he and his minions turn around and point out we are deep, deep, deep in debt. How’d that happen? No one seems to remember.  The bottom line, however, is that now you—i.e., we—must pay. And pay. And pay.

It’s really a breathtaking performance. They rack up several trillion dollars in debt. Then, like the rat who invites you to lunch and then announces he has forgotten his wallet, they stick us with the bill. (The analogy is imperfect and unfair to the rat: at least with him you did get lunch.) “So sorry, we hate to raise taxes, but we just discovered this gigantic deficit and unless we take more of your money, we won’t be able to go on spending, spending, spending like there’s no tomorrow mad that wouldn’t be fair would it?”

“But,” you point out, “taxes haven’t really risen yet.”

Precisely.  And yet even so here’s an ordinary slob like me  feeling like Boxer in Animal Farm. What happens when the taxer-in-chief really gets going?

It was at this point in my musings that I thought about the 19th-century English essayist William Hazlitt: “those who lack delicacy,” he pointed out, “hold us in their power.” Early on in the Obama administration, Governor Mitch Daniels spoke about Obama’s “shock and awe statism.” The staggering spending programs. The government takeover of health care. The cap-’n-trade initiative. The destruction of thousands of perfectly good automobiles for the sake of a “green economy.” It has been difficult to keep up. It’s been a veritable Blitz: the spending, the world tyrants tour, the sudden coolness to Israel and Great Britain, the announcement that our nuclear arsenal is basically just for show, the coddling of terrorists: we now see  just how much in earnest Obama was when, a few days before the election, he told his followers that they were on the threshold of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”