November 5, 2008
Hope and Change in the Real WorldBy Christopher Chantrill
I'm not expecting Sen. Obama to deliver on hope and change, let alone on "transforming the world."
You can't deliver on hope and change when you have a vast government apparatus eating up 35 percent of gross domestic product and your program is to increase it. Here are the projected numbers for fiscal year 2009, according to usgovernmentspending.com.
Pension Industrial Complex: 5.9% GDP
Medical Industrial Complex: 6.4% GDP
Education Industrial Complex: 5.8% GDP
Military Industrial Complex: 5.4% GDP
Welfare Industrial Complex: 3.1% GDP
Yep, that military industrial complex doesn't look quite as big and frightening today as it did in 1961 when President Eisenhower first mentioned it.
With so much money sloshing around you'd think that there would be plenty in there for change -- to look after seniors, to cure the sick, and educate the children. After all, the Pentagon is fighting a couple of foreign wars on its share of the national product. But Sen. Obama doesn't think so. He's not proposing to change very much. He is more into increases. He proposes to increase the size of the medical industrial complex to extend health insurance to the 50 million uninsured. He's proposing to increase the size of the education industrial complex by introducing universal pre-kindergarten to pre-schoolers. And he's proposing to increase the size of the welfare industrial complex by giving "tax cuts" to people who don't pay federal income tax.
They say that Sen. Obama has a first-class intellect joined to a first-class temperament. But what do intellect and temperament have to do with another mindless Big Push to increase the size of the welfare state?
Perhaps he can avoid the failures that happened on President Bush's watch. There was the failure to warn about 9/11, the failed post-war strategy in Iraq, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, and the present financial crisis brought on by excessive leverage both at investment banks and at Fannie and Freddie. Democrats have done a good job pinning all this on the incompetence of the Bush administration, and the international media have agreed with them. No doubt an Obama administration's "first-class intellect joined to a first-class temperament" would have avoided these disasters.
Or maybe not. It is hard to imagine the US intelligence establishment performing any differently under a President Gore or that Democrats would have responded differently to Hurricane Katrina, since it was Democrats at the state and local level that contributed mightily to the sluggishness of government's response to the disaster. And it is Democrats who stood in the door at Fannie/Freddie year after year opposing reform.
Let's be honest. Every government program starts in a blaze of hope and change. Then the program starts to run down. Time passes and needs change. The program's assumptions and administrative policies drift further and further from reality, but the program managers lack the mandate or the will to reform it. Eventually the program runs off the road into the ditch and the disaster attracts, finally, the notice of elected politicians.
Sen. Obama has not campaigned on reforming the mess of government health care; he has campaigned to extend it. Sen. Obama has not campaigned on reform of the education industrial complex; he has campaigned to extend it. Sen. Obama has not campaigned to simplify and rationalize the complicated US federal tax system; he has campaigned to complicate it with new wrinkles and new credits.
This is not a moment of hope and change, or a moment that will transform the world. This is just the prelude to new disasters as more and more government programs unreformed for twenty, fifty, or-in the case of public education-over a hundred years run off the road into the ditch.
Conservatives believe that the failure of government programs is built into their very nature. We believe that the best we can hope for with government is to run a few simple programs very badly.
It's obvious that Sen. Obama doesn't agree with conservatives. But we can all hope that he will change. If he doesn't, we can always replace him with another politician-in the interest of political hygiene.