November 3, 2009
A Liberal Whiff of PanicBy Christopher Chantrill
Peggy Noonan thinks that the American people are disheartened. Recently she talked to a mid-level man in Big Pharma. In the old days, it seems, people were confident; they could see a way through the nation's problems.
Now they don't. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can't figure a way out ... Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.
It is, I suppose, natural that when an elite is on its way out, it thinks that everyone agrees that "the problems we are facing cannot be solved." But Noonan is mistaken. We have been here before, and she ought to remember.
In the Carter years -- after the second explosion in energy prices, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, after double digit inflation, after Carter's "malaise" speech -- we had the same liberal funk. It was an era of limits, the liberals told us. Energy was running out; the US was entering a decline; nothing worked any more, nothing could be done.
If I were a liberal, I'd certainly be feeling a bit discouraged right now. After all, how could it be, how could it be, that the nation's most intelligent and most tolerant people are facing a hard two-year slog to get the economy back on track?
How could it be that it won't be possible to throw around a trillion in stimulus money for Democratic special interests, a trillion in a complete makeover of the health care system, and a trillion or more on a complete makeover of the energy economy? Oh, wait...President Obama has already committed himself, his administration, and the nation's elite to all these "nice-to-haves."
Now you understand why all the people that Peggy Noonan knows are in a funk.
But Noonan hasn't really penetrated to the heart of the problem. It is this: the year 2009 is the first in living memory that Democrats have taken over the White House in the nail-biting phase of a recession. They are rookies when it comes to recession-fighting.
Bill Clinton in 1993? He ran on "the worst economy in the last 50 years." But the recession had ended in 1991.
Jimmy Carter in 1977? In the aftermath of Watergate, he ran on never lying to the American people. But the recession had ended in 1975.
Jack Kennedy in 1961? He ran on getting the country moving again. But the recession had ended in 1958.
Over the last half century, Democrats have become experts in barracking from the sidelines as Republican presidents struggle through recessions. In 1969, Richard Nixon struggled with inflation and recession. Democrats were busy enacting standby wage and price controls.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan struggled with the Carter mess of ten-percent inflation and ten-percent unemployment. Democrats opposed his agenda of tax cuts and spending cuts as trickle-down "Reaganomics."
In 1990, George Bush struggled with recession in the wake of the S&L meltdown. Democrats opposed and defeated his plan for capital gains tax cuts.
In 2001, George W. Bush struggled with the high-tech recession and the NASDAQ meltdown. It took two years before he could talk a 50-50 Congress and John McCain into supply-side tax cuts. Democrats opposed his policy as tax cuts for the rich.
Well now, finally, it's the Democrats' turn to fix the economy.
No wonder they are panicked. They've never had to do it before. They've never had to slog through a two-year march with nothing but hope and courage to keep their spirits up. They scorn the warrior virtues and their harmless sublimation into the success ethic. So they have never practiced the art of sucking it in and pushing through to victory while everyone sneers at their "stubbornness."
The only thing that Democrats understand is politics and force. They know how to conjure up a helpless victim and order the American people to cough up money for said victim's help. And they know how to bully Americans with the race card.
Here is a paradox. Liberals tell us that in national defense and in policing, force is counterproductive. "Soft power" is best. But apparently, force is just dandy when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, public education, and relief of the poor. So we spend $1 trillion a year on government health care, according to usgovernmentspending.com. So Americans need to be bullied to take care of Grandma? We spend $905 billion on education. So Americans must be bullied to educate their children? Hello? Whatever happened to "soft power" and moral suasion?
Is there really no way out of the current mess? Of course there is a way. But there's probably no way for Democrats to dodge a really big one-two combination to the solar plexus.
No wonder Peggy Noonan's liberal friends are panicking.