July 7, 2009
Liberals: Learning Nothing and Forgetting NothingBy Christopher Chantrill
A liberal acquaintance couldn't understand why conservatives are impatient with Obama. Didn't conservatives get enough of a chance with 30 years of Reagan and Bush, he asked?
OK, it's true that conservatives did get some tax-rate cuts. And we did win the cold war. And we did roll back one social program, welfare, a little, for a while.
But conservatives look on the Obama administration so far and say: Liberals are like the French Bourbons -- the royal house of France, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, deposed in the French Revolution.
After the defeat of Napoleon the Bourbon kings were restored in 1814. Talleyrand was disappointed. They have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing, he said.
The whole point of the Reagan era was to demonstrate that government should keep its cotton-picking hands off the economy. Governments and their mega-projects, their subsidies, "backing winners," "investments," always end in tears, just like they did in the stagflation of the late 1970s.
But it's pretty obvious that our Democratic friends have learned nothing from the lessons of the Reagan era, and have forgotten none of their old liberal delusions.
First we got a trillion dollar special-interest giveaway that was called a stimulus package. But unemployment keeps going up, now to 9.5 percent. Then the House of Representatives has passed a cap-and-trade energy bill that's another special-interest giveaway. Next up is a trillion dollar health reform bill that proposes to lower costs while increasing the number of people covered.
Yet Democrats are honest enough to be ashamed of what they are doing. Why else would they pass their trillion dollar stimulus bill without serious hearings or even a copy of the bill available to read. The same is clearly true of the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House of Representatives, sight unseen, on June 26. As Stephen Spruiell & Kevin Williamson show on NRO Online, the Waxman-Markey bill is nothing more than subsidies, payoffs, corporate welfare and goodies for liberal activists. No wonder it had to be rushed through in the dead of night. It couldn't stand the light of day.
In the Waxman-Markey bill the grand principle of limiting carbon emissions through auctioned and marketable emission permits gets thrown under the bus in a crude special-interest feeding frenzy. What happened to saving the planet?
And buried in the bill are economic howlers that will freeze up the economy in the years ahead, write Spruill and Williamson:
That will really help to revive the economy.
But President Obama's budget director had the best argument against the bill, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial:
The reason that the Democrats threw their grand cap-and-trade principle under the bus is that they didn't dare try an honest campaign to persuade the American people to back their Big Idea, that we should pay more for energy to prevent global warming.
When President Bush wanted to reform Social Security in 2005 he took his case to the American people. He failed to persuade them, and so he didn't get his reform. Democrats and President Obama don't have the guts for that sort of thing.
If only the Democrats were as queasy about the gigantic deficits they are forecasting. If only they were nervous about the rigidities they are introducing into the economy with their plans for forced-march government health care and green-energy subsidies.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the combination of wasteful special-interest spending in the stimulus package, wasteful special-interest spending in the Waxman-Markey bill place a severe cost upon the US economy. Then there is the black hole of possibilities in any government takeover of the health care industry.
In Britain, a month ago, a Conservative Party spokesman admitted that public spending cuts would be needed. Prime Minister Brown thought that allowed him to make political points, one more time, on Labour "investment" versus Tory "cuts." But then came the news that senior civil servants were drawing up contingency plans for 20 percent cuts in spending, starting after the election next year, in case the Chinese balk at buying British government bonds.
So far, the Obamanites have not realized that there might be a limit to borrowing, spending and subsidy.
That's because they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.