The Obama Watch

PAYGO PAYGO

Obama's vacation from reality.

By 2.4.10

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Barack Obama's rhetoric about the economy in recent days has been a blizzard of excuses, euphemisms, denials, and scapegoating attacks. Notice that Democrats are more upset that he is caricaturing Las Vegas than Wall Street.

By telling people not to "blow" their money in casinos, Obama is killing business there, they say. But what about demonizing and discrediting bankers and "fat cat" employers? How is that good for business and job seekers who depend upon them? Obama's sophomoric reliance on quasi-Marxist fragments, clichés, and favored villains in the place of real economic thought explain his ill-considered gibes at Nevada and New York.

Obama is hurting business all around, even for allies at his unofficial headquarters, MSNBC. Keith Olbermann's ratings, according to reports, have plunged under the weight of anti-Obama ennui.

"You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas," says Obama. No, you do it with him in D.C.  What's "greed" in the private sector counts as "good government" in the public sector. It is always more virtuous to waste other people's money than your own.

The mayor of Las Vegas calls Obama a "slow learner" now that he taken two swipes at the city's economy. Left-wing ideologue would have been a more polite way of putting it.

Unfortunately, Obama's problem goes beyond business-killing comments to business-killing policies. Hire more people, he urges businessmen while saddling them with new taxes and regulations. He wants companies to "invest" and "grow" while telling Americans to view them as polluting profit machines.

Forced by events to fake up an anti-Washington posture, Obama reaches out for the usual gimmicks -- the PAYGO bill," "spending freezes," "earmark reform." It all sounds about as credible as Al Gore's plans in the 1990s to "reinvent" the federal government.

Unless Obama plans to adopt limited-government views, his "cuts," "freezes," and "reductions" have zero meaning. Has he suddenly seen the light? Does he now agree that the federal government should restrict itself to those few essential tasks beyond the capacity of state and local governments?

No, his view of the federal government is as unlimited and glib as ever. He sees no relationship between deficits and his party's political philosophy. That excessive spending reflects its excessive view of the federal government's competence and proper powers wouldn't occur to him. Consequently, his idea of a solution to deficits is taxing anything that moves. According to the Washington Post, he wants to drop a $120 billion tax on multinational corporations over the next decade and squeeze another $300 billion from "high earners" by tinkering with itemized deductions.

He automatically equates economic growth with government growth. So the "spending freeze" has to be postponed until "recovery measures" have worked. Under Obama's thinking, there are good deficits and bad deficits, good earmarks and bad earmarks, and they all happen to dovetail with his "priorities" of the moment.

The definition of words in D.C. grows ever more slippery. A "cut" by any other name is still not a cut. Would the PAYGO bill, for example, translate into reductions in the size of government? No, just shifting and sloshing of government funds. As Obama casually put it in a quote that appeared on cbsnews.com, the "concept here is very simple. You want to start a new program? Go ahead. But you've got to cut another one to pay for it. That's how we make sure we're spending your money wisely."

Wouldn't it be wiser not to start that new program in the first place? It is Obama's glib "Go ahead" attitude that explains the ease of deficit spending, and since he views taxation as an instrument of wealth redistribution it is not "your money" but the state's.

As Obama tells Americans not to go to Las Vegas, he presides over a city that more and more resembles it, with schemes instead of slot machines and farcical politics instead of shows.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.