Saturday, January 31, 2009
The Obama Administration
I believed Obama when he said he would deliver change. And not just by altering the social composition of the country by granting amnesty and citizenship to millions of illegal alians, who compete with Americans now mostly for ever scarcer jobs, and not, as they will in the future should Obama get his way, at the ballot box and for government hand-outs.
Obama and the Democrats are in complete control of the elected branches of government and seem poised to implement their Socialist agenda. The Wall Street Journal notes that Obama's "stimulus" package that passed the House "manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years:"
In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.Doug Ross (via Ed Morrissey) has the list:
Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President's new budget director, told Congress a year ago, "even those [public works] that are 'on the shelf' generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy."
• $83 billion in welfare payments (the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax)That's not all. Kimberly Strassel takes a look at the health care language contained in the bill:
• $81 billion for Medicaid
• $66 billion on "education", more than the entire Department of Education required just ten years ago
• $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits
• $20 billion for food stamps
• $8 billion on "renewable energy" projects, which have a low or negative return
• $7 billion for "modernizing federal buildings and facilities"
• $6 billion on urban transit systems, dominated by unions and which, almost universally, lose money
• $2.4 billion for "carbon-capture demonstration projects"
• $2 billion for child-care subsidies
• $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that's run in the red for 40 years
• $650 million for "digital TV conversion coupons" (on top of billions already spent)
• $600 million on new cars for government (added to the $3 billion already spent each year)
• $400 million for "global-warming research"
• $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
The bill even takes a whack at the private market. Under the guise of money for "health technology," the legislation makes the government the national coordinator for electronic health records, able to certify what platforms are acceptable. This is an attempt to squelch a growing private market that is competing to improve transparency and let consumers compare providers and costs. In liberal-world, only government should be publishing (and setting) health-care prices.Indeed, they are. Ed Morrissey comments:
Add it up, and Democrats may move 10 million more Americans under the federal health umbrella -- in just four weeks! Good luck ever cutting off that money. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority is gearing up for a Medicare fight, where it may broach plans to lower the eligibility age to 55. Whatever costs accrue, they'll pay for by slashing the private Medicare Advantage option.
Mr. Obama will, of course, offer his health-care reform at some point. But he's clearly happy to get what he can, when he can. Despite talk of entitlement reform, he's voiced no disapproval of this vast new health-care grab. And don't forget he chose Mr. Daschle, who appreciates stealth himself. In his 2008 book outlining his health-care reform, he offers his party two pieces of political advice: Move fast, before there can be a public debate, and write as vague a bill as possible.
Guiding all of this is the left's hope that by the time America wakes up to what's happening, it'll be too late. Democrats might be on to something.
What this does has nothing to do with stimulating the economy. Worse, it exponentially increases the difficulty in reforming entitlements, and Medicare already was the one program most in need of reform. It’s heading into insolvency even without the additional load of ten million new and unplanned subscribers in three weeks. Now, we will have even more subscribers to throw into the reform grinder, making it more painful than ever to effect the necessary changes to bring the program back into solvency.Paul Hsieh explains why nationalized health care and individual liberty are incompatible:
And how do the Democrats plan to make this work? They want to kill the one part of the program that actually receives payments. Medicare Advantage is exactly the kind of public/private partnership that could rescue Medicare, where recipients buy supplemental coverage to make Medicare work for them better and extend the bargaining power to reduce costs at the same time. Democrats want to kill that program and force all MA patients back to the poor coverage Medicare alone provides.
What about Obama's plans for defending the nation? Dismantle the security infastructure implemented by the Bush administration which has kept us safe and instruct the Pentagon to cut its 2010 budget request by more than 10%. Ed Morrissey comments:
The Japanese government argues that it must regulate citizens' lifestyles because it is paying their health costs. This highlights one of the greatly underappreciated dangers of "universal healthcare." Any government that attempts to guarantee healthcare must also control its costs. The inevitable next step will be to seek to control citizens' health and their behavior. Hence, Americans should beware that if we adopt universal healthcare, we also risk creating a "nanny state on steroids" antithetical to core American principles.
Other countries with universal healthcare are already restricting individual freedoms in the name of controlling health costs. For example, the British government has banned some television ads for eggs on the grounds that they were promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. This is a blatant infringement of egg sellers' rights to advertise their products.
Obama’s busy expanding all of the rest of the government except for its primary, Constitutional mission: defending the nation.Exactly. But Obama isn't all that fond of the Constitution he's sworn to defend:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples. So that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.
But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical.
It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you, it says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.
(The audio of Obama's interview I quoted is here.)
Those constraints exist because the founders valued individual freedom and feared tyranny. But, as Obama's views of freedom and liberty are antithetical to those of the founding fathers, he's going to try to find a way around them.
This is what Rush Limbaugh means when he says he wants Obama to fail. Obama and the Democrats plan to implement Socialism incrementally and by stealth. We should all hope they fail.
Mark Steyn reminds us that big government is where nations go to die:
Setting aside the more messianic effusions (“We needed him. And out of that great need,” gushed Maya Angelou, “Barack Obama came.”) as unbecoming to the freeborn citizens of a constitutional republic, it seems clear that large numbers of people voted for this president because they wanted something different, something other than “politics as usual.” Not just something pseudo-different like the dreary maverickiness of John McCain “reaching across the aisle” (one of those dead phrases no one outside the Beltway gives a hoot about), but something really different. But the “stimulus” package is just politics as usual with a few extra zeroes on the end. Will you notice anything? No. Don’t get your hopes up. If you’re broke now, you’ll be broke in October. The Congressional Budget Office estimates only 25 percent of it will be spent by early next year. The other 75 percent is as stimulating as the gal in the Nancy Pelosi Pussycat Lounge telling you she had such a good time she’s penciled in a second date for spring 2010. A third of all the spending won’t come until after 2011.Obama promised us hope and change. Change is coming. Once its here, we'll see if there is any hope.
In a media age, politics is a battle of language, and “stimulus” is too good a word to cede to porked-up statist hacks. “Stimulus” has to stimulate—i.e., it’s short-term, like, say, an immediate cut in payroll taxes that will put real actual money in your pocket in next month’s paycheck. That way, you don’t need to wait for ACORN: You can start “stabilizing” your own “neighborhood” right now.
But, if this fraudulent “stimulus” does pass, it will, in fact, de-stimulate, and much more than the disastrous protectionist measures of the Thirties did: Back then, America was dealing with a far less globalized economy, and with far fewer competitors. “In the long run, we are all dead,” Lord Keynes, the newly fashionable economist, famously said. But, if this bill passes, in the medium term, we’re all dead. It’s a massive expansion of the state in the same direction that has brought sclerosis to Europe. A report issued last week in London found that government spending now accounts for 49 percent of the UK economy—and in the Celtic corners of the kingdom the state’s share of the economy is way higher, from 71.6 percent in Wales to 77.6 percent in Northern Ireland. In the western world, countries that were once the crucible of freedom are slipping remorselessly into a thinly disguised serfdom in which an ever-higher proportion of your assets are annexed by the state as super-landlord. Big government is where nations go to die—not in Keynes’ “long run,” but sooner than you think.
MORE: Via Ed Morrissey, Suitably Flip illustrates that "the interest alone will be costlier than the Louisiana Purchase or going to the moon."
Thomas Sowell has further thoughts on the "stimulus."