Let's cut through all of Barack Obama's baloney. His speech on the economy at Georgetown University on Tuesday was a testament to the massive ego of a callow leader with grandiose pretensions bordering on megalomania. Everything he outlined in his vision for a near-Utopian economic future is designed to come about through the intervention of a government central planner -- his own Oneself -- combined with the coercive force of government to make it happen. It's a promise of economic growth at the point of a gun, at least tacit if not explicit -- and all as if some genius in the Oval Office or elsewhere in Washington has the wherewithal to know exactly how and where to "invest" and to "regulate" and to "stimulate" and to "reform" (the latter meaning, in most cases, to have government either take over something or else kill something it currently considers politically incorrect).
Others who actually understand economics -- unlike Obama -- already have been pointing out all the flaws in his radical change we dare not fall prey to. And others doubtless will take on the task of pointing out all of his speech's fallacious logic, deliberate misrepresentations, smoke- and-mirrors accounting, and convenient fictions in political narrative.
What's left for forward-looking conservatives, then, is to figure out how to keep Obama's false Utopia from becoming a reality before a somnolent American public wakes up. And we cannot do it -- absolutely cannot -- unless we understand, and prepare for, the reality that proto-fascist Keynesian economics will appear to work in the short term. Conservatives are justly warning that Obama's economic interventionism is a profoundly dangerous new opiate that eventually will lead our free economy into a quivering, junkie-like existence. But we make a big mistake if we don't realize that opiates do produce a real (if short-term) high.
All of the cash being pumped into the American and world economies, literally out of nowhere, through bailouts and stimulus packages and Federal Reserve actions and probably-illegal commitments to the International Monetary Fund, will create an illusion of recovery. By late summer or early fall, Obama will be claiming credit for the apparent effectiveness of policies that never were needed in the first place. And, like any good opiate, its first "relief" will seem to be substantial and reasonably long-lasting. So watch for everything to seem on the right track from, say, sometime in August all the way through next spring -- and for Obama to claim the mandate due a miracle worker.
Then look for the economy to start slowing down again, just as the New Deal economy slipped back into the doldrums after the first shot of FDR's financial heroin wore off. And Obama, ever-ready, will tell a credulous public that the six prior months of apparent recovery were proof that he knows what he is doing, and that the current slowdown is evidence that we need more of the medicine. He will reprise, almost word for word, these passages from his Tuesday speech at Georgetown: "All of this means that there is much more work to be done. And all of this means that you can continue to expect an unrelenting, unyielding, day-by-day effort from this administration to fight for economic recovery on all fronts. But even as we continue to clear away the wreckage and address the immediate crisis, it is my firm belief that our next task is to make sure such a crisis never happens again…."
Like a long-successful drug pusher, Obama will tell us that what we need is one more shot of his potion, one more sprinkling of his magic dust. And he'll say that those who would deny Americans his cure, those benighted and greedy conservatives, are not to be trusted because it was their fault we had been down-and-out in the first place. And so he'll frame the election as a choice between more of his "cure" versus more of the conservatives' pain. As Billy Joel sang in "Captain Jack," Obama will say "just another push, and you'll be smiling."
Conservatives must be prepared for all this. Conservatives must not make the mistake of warning that all will go to hell because of Obama's outrageously big government, unless we make clear that we are talking long-term, not short. Otherwise, Obama and his lackeys at the New York Times and CBS will make conservatives into Chicken Little-like laughingstocks, falsely warning that the sky would fall.
And even if conservatives are careful to couch their warnings in terms that only consider the long term, that distinction will be of little use to the huge percentage of Americans who these days (unfortunately) think only in the short term. There's just no way conservatives can win by making only the argument about the long-term detriments of Obamanomics. Sure, conservatives can and should warn about hyperinflation and stagflation. Conservatives can and should warn about massive debt heaped on our children and grandchildren. But that can't be our primary message. Today's text-message attention span and instant-gratification ethos won't reward that sort of appeal.
Smart conservatives, therefore, will find another overarching theme. We must find a way to pound home an understanding of the infringements on liberty that Obamanomics represents. We must find a way to explain how it would interfere with our own free choices, how it would mire us in bureaucratic red tape, how it would lead to rationing of some goods or services we take for granted.
Barack Obama has cleverly laid out an appealing, overarching vision. We must lay out a different vision, just as readily understandable, of how Obama's vision would actually burden us or restrain us. And we must also explain how we propose to let the innate genius of the free American people lead us back to prosperity without central planning by The One who The One has been waiting for.
Right now, Obama holds more cards than most Washington conservatives think he holds. We need to know how to play our own cards far, far more effectively than we so far have done.