Streetcar Line

Save Wrath for Obama

John Boehner isn't the enemy.

By 4.15.11

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Ladies and gentlemen, this nation is in deep, deep trouble. We have a president and a Senate majority and four of nine Supreme Court Justices who believe that property, earnings, and even rights all belong to government, and that those blessings are merely doled out to individuals as the government sees fit. The government rules the people, not vice versa.

We also have a president who believes that a cut from the federal government is the same thing as a cut from the things the feds help fund. In his speech on Wednesday, he accused Republicans supporting the Paul Ryan budget of aiming at "a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout much of our history. A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25 % cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation."

Well, no. This is a lie. Even if Republicans may propose a 25 percent cut from federal government support for education, that is not a 25 percent cut in the nation's education: It's a 3.68 percent cut in total government support for education (local, state and federal combined). And that doesn't even take into account how much other money goes to private education (more than 6.2 percent of American students go to private schools). Considering how much waste and duplication stems from federal education programs, and merely clutters up the works, that's a 3+ percent which, when cut, might actually improve the quality of education by removing red tape. Likewise, a "70 percent cut to clean energy" is merely a cut to federal support for otherwise unwanted, non-competitive clean energy programs -- but it's not at all a cut to clean energy itself. It's only a cut to clean energy itself if government is the be-all and end-all of all "investment" and all progress.

Our nation is in deep trouble because we have a president and Senate who actually believe that government creates progress. They actually believe that government can "invest" in things. They actually believe that a tax cut is the same as "spending." They even believe that an itemized deduction on a tax return is the same as government "spending." We have a president who wants to ration care (read: death panels) thusly: "We will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need." That "independent commission," by the way, is designed to operate with almost no congressional oversight. Its model sure does operate as a death panel in Oregon, which pays for assisted suicide but won't pay for cancer treatments. Barack Obama actually believes that it is worse to be "at the mercy of the insurance industry" than to be at the mercy of these government death panels. And he dares to claim the mantle of "patriotism" for his vision of a "sense of responsibility" as expressed through government fiat, which means at the point of a gun -- this man claiming patriotism while he runs around the world apologizing for sins this nation did not even commit.

But back to the idea of government "investment": The great Frank Chodorov, one of the earliest editors of Human Events and of the Freeman, put it best a full half-century ago: "The use of the word 'investment' in connection with a bond issued by the State is a treacherous euphemism…. The State, however, does not put your money into production. The State spends it -- that is all the State is capable of doing -- and your savings disappear." Also: "Government is not a producer. It is simply a social instrument enjoying a monopoly of coercion…. It uses its monopoly of coercion for the distribution of wealth, not for the production of wealth."

Barack Obama doesn't care. He would rather "spread the wealth around," as he told Joe the Plumber, even if it means hindering the production of a greater total store of wealth in the country.

This self-important scold in the Oval Office dares tell us that "we would not be a great country without [federal social programs]." Oh? Were we not a great nation in the 1920s? Were we not a great nation in the 1820s? Were we not a great nation from the moment of our founding? Would we not be a great nation if we relied on private charity combined with state, rather than federal, assistance for the indigent? What the hell does he know about greatness?

But as dangerous as are Obama's self-delusions and extremist ideology, those aren't the only reasons to fear for the country. We also have reason to fear because his opposition cannibalizes itself. It spends more time arguing over whether its leaders are being "tough" enough with regard to one seventy-fifth of the budget than it does in figuring out how to evict Obama from office. It spends more time arguing over whether a cut in budget authority is a real cut (it most certainly is) or a "fake" cut than it spends explaining and publicizing why its own budget, the Ryan plan, would mark a huge advance in individual freedom, prosperity, and fiscal survivability. It spends more time freaking out and engaging in internal warfare than it spends keeping its eye on the ball, long-term.

With a needlessly fractious opposition like this, Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Elena Kagan and all the government-firsters in their ranks may well survive their own deep unpopularity. They may survive their own fecklessness. They may survive their own, abundantly evident hypocrisy, and may survive their own ineptness. They may do so because their opposition -- the activists who carry the ball for the majority of Americans who are basically center-right, basically market-oriented, basically individualist -- is so pathetically unable to get its act together.

Self-criticism is perfectly fine in its place. When one-sixth of the entire economy is at risk of government takeover, as it was last year, it makes sense to berate leaders who won't use every single tool at their disposal to beat back the vile attempt. But when just one seventy-fifth of the federal budget, which means about one three-hundredth of the whole economy, is at risk, it makes more sense to target those in power who threaten our whole way of life than it does to target our wrath at our own leaders who may or may not have extracted every drop of blood from a half-year, Continuing Resolution turnip.

This is not to say that self-criticism has no place. It is to say that its tone and its threatened repercussions should be more reasonable. Mouth-frothing, if it comes to that, is neither a very becoming sight, nor a very effective tactic. Nor is it wise when the stakes of the larger political war are so much higher than the stakes of the short-term budget skirmish, nor is it wise coming from so many people who have no clue how the federal budget process works.

This is a sad time for these United States. We stand on the threshold -- within three or four years -- of financial ruin, of a loss of liberties, or even worse. Yet we who understand these things spend more time fighting each other than we do in fighting the domestic political adversary who is the one posing the threat. An existential threat can't be defeated in the midst of internecine warfare.

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About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.