Steyn: 'Worse is the New Normal'

Rick Moran
Several gems in this Mark Steyn column at NRO, including this play on words used by Churchill:

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, we have been less rich, and our stupidity ought in theory to be less affordable. Instead, it's been supersized. To take only the most obvious example, President Obama has added six-and-a-half trillion bucks to the national debt, and has nothing to show for it. As Churchill would say, had his bust not been bounced from the Oval Office, never in the field of human spending has so much been owed by so many for so little.

It gets better, as "worse" becomes "the new normal":

Obama's pointless, traceless super-spending is now (as they used to say after 9/11) "the new normal." Nancy Pelosi assured the nation last weekend that everything that can be cut has been cut and there are no more cuts to be made. And the disturbing thing is that, as a matter of practical politics, she may well be right. Many people still take my correspondent's view: If you have old money well managed, you can afford to be stupid - or afford the government's stupidity on your behalf. If you're a social-activist celebrity getting $20 million per movie, you can afford the government's stupidity. If you're a tenured professor or a unionized bureaucrat whose benefits were chiseled in stone two generations ago, you can afford it. If you've got a wind farm and you're living large on government "green energy" investments, you can afford it. If you've got the contract for signing up Obamaphone recipients, you can afford it.

But out there beyond the islands of privilege most Americans don't have the same comfortably padded margin for error, and they're hunkering down. Obamacare is something new in American life: the creation of a massive bureaucracy charged with downsizing you - to a world of fewer doctors, higher premiums, lousier care, more debt, fewer jobs, smaller houses, smaller cars, smaller, fewer, less; a world where worse is the new normal. Would Americans, hitherto the most buoyant and expansive of people, really consent to live such shrunken lives? If so, mid-20th-century America and its assumptions of generational progress will be as lost to us as the Great Ziggurat of Ur was to 19th-century Mesopotamian date farmers.

It may be attractive in a political sense to blame Obama and the last few years of his governance for all of this - and there is no doubt that there has been an accelerated decline the last 5 years - but that doesn't begin to tell the story. The "new normal" used to be the American Colossus, bestride the world following World War II as we were the only major industrialized nation untouched by the war. For the 20 years that it took Europe to rebuild its civilization (largely with our help and protection), the country got fabulously wealthy. This led to a sense that liberal democracy demanded we share that wealth with all, that government be used to take from some and give to others. Who could object when money was easy, inflation was low, and you could go to work at a unionized plant after high school and retire with a nice pension 35 years later?

But the world wouldn't wait for America to wake up. Eventually, the fantasy of redistribution turned into the reality of dependency and entitlements began to take over the federal budget. For a while in the 1980's. it was just possible to imagine that the juggernaut could be stopped, or controlled. An illusion to be sure. When dependency becomes a political strategy - a winning political strategy - the practical world of politics yields and both sides play the game.

Read the whole thing.


Several gems in this Mark Steyn column at NRO, including this play on words used by Churchill:

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, we have been less rich, and our stupidity ought in theory to be less affordable. Instead, it's been supersized. To take only the most obvious example, President Obama has added six-and-a-half trillion bucks to the national debt, and has nothing to show for it. As Churchill would say, had his bust not been bounced from the Oval Office, never in the field of human spending has so much been owed by so many for so little.

It gets better, as "worse" becomes "the new normal":

Obama's pointless, traceless super-spending is now (as they used to say after 9/11) "the new normal." Nancy Pelosi assured the nation last weekend that everything that can be cut has been cut and there are no more cuts to be made. And the disturbing thing is that, as a matter of practical politics, she may well be right. Many people still take my correspondent's view: If you have old money well managed, you can afford to be stupid - or afford the government's stupidity on your behalf. If you're a social-activist celebrity getting $20 million per movie, you can afford the government's stupidity. If you're a tenured professor or a unionized bureaucrat whose benefits were chiseled in stone two generations ago, you can afford it. If you've got a wind farm and you're living large on government "green energy" investments, you can afford it. If you've got the contract for signing up Obamaphone recipients, you can afford it.

But out there beyond the islands of privilege most Americans don't have the same comfortably padded margin for error, and they're hunkering down. Obamacare is something new in American life: the creation of a massive bureaucracy charged with downsizing you - to a world of fewer doctors, higher premiums, lousier care, more debt, fewer jobs, smaller houses, smaller cars, smaller, fewer, less; a world where worse is the new normal. Would Americans, hitherto the most buoyant and expansive of people, really consent to live such shrunken lives? If so, mid-20th-century America and its assumptions of generational progress will be as lost to us as the Great Ziggurat of Ur was to 19th-century Mesopotamian date farmers.

It may be attractive in a political sense to blame Obama and the last few years of his governance for all of this - and there is no doubt that there has been an accelerated decline the last 5 years - but that doesn't begin to tell the story. The "new normal" used to be the American Colossus, bestride the world following World War II as we were the only major industrialized nation untouched by the war. For the 20 years that it took Europe to rebuild its civilization (largely with our help and protection), the country got fabulously wealthy. This led to a sense that liberal democracy demanded we share that wealth with all, that government be used to take from some and give to others. Who could object when money was easy, inflation was low, and you could go to work at a unionized plant after high school and retire with a nice pension 35 years later?

But the world wouldn't wait for America to wake up. Eventually, the fantasy of redistribution turned into the reality of dependency and entitlements began to take over the federal budget. For a while in the 1980's. it was just possible to imagine that the juggernaut could be stopped, or controlled. An illusion to be sure. When dependency becomes a political strategy - a winning political strategy - the practical world of politics yields and both sides play the game.

Read the whole thing.