Madness, Thy Name Is 'Stimulus'

Underscoring the extreme folly of ensnaring generations of future Americans in ever more crushing taxation and debt to pay for the so-called "stimulus" bill, Citizens for Common Sense and Accountability titled its opposition to the plan "Stop the Stimulus Madness!"

The outcry against the liberal Democrats' and President Obama's legislation, the most profligate spending plan in U.S. history, has so far advanced along mostly economic, not sociopolitical, lines.

Sen. James Inhofe slammed it as "stuffed with waste and less than 7 percent real economic stimulation," and "bloated with millions of dollars for stupid projects" such as coupons for digital TV transition.

Harvard economist Robert Barro anathematized it as "probably the worst bill that has been put forth since the 1930s" and, in a word, "garbage." 

With the bill's social consequences no doubt well in mind, the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector scored the House version of the bill as a "welfare spendathon," which could cost as much as $787 billion, not the $264 billion that advocates have claimed, and which would fund every conceivable program for low-income people, among others, food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, child care, energy assistance, homelessness prevention, etc.

"Both bills [Senate and House versions]," Rector warned, "use the idea of economic stimulus as a Trojan horse to conceal massive, permanent increases in the US welfare system." "None of these programs," he said, "deals with the fundamentals of poverty, which are low levels of work and lower levels of marriage. They just say, ‘Give me more.'"

But the undying urge by the radical leftists among us to create a welfare state entails not only economic but also societal folly, as many thoughtful conservatives and liberals have recognized in the past. (After all, notably, it was Bill Clinton, a liberal president, who signed welfare reform into law.) One novel analysis of the roots and destructive consequences of this folly, rich in insights that apply to the present, irrational "stimulus" legislation, comes from Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., a psychiatrist.

In The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, Rossiter makes the case that neurotic themes dominate radical liberals' view of the world and their political agendas. Their portrayal of citizens as suffering, victimized, helpless children in need of rescue mirrors their "unconscious projections of early childhood dynamics transferred into the political arenas of adult life." Thus -- and circling back to the "stimulus" spend fest -- radical liberals imagine the world peopled by villains (among others, those in Congress whom Obama angrily castigated for delaying passage of the bill), victims (such as those in need of the multi-millions of dollars designated, at least in the original versions of the bill, for "smoking cessation activities" and "tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction"), and heroes (radical liberals themselves, of course). According to Rossiter, these liberals fabricate an idealized world of loving care and absolution from responsibility, and seek in an all-enveloping assistance (think billions of dollars for anti-obesity campaigns) from the "Modern Parental State" what they missed as children.

The destructive social results of such subservient government dependency -- the institution of perverse incentives, debilitated families, disintegrated communities, the preemption of private charitable and altruistic endeavors -- have been, again, acknowledged across the conservative-liberal spectrum.

But Rossiter is especially astute in analyzing other aspects of the terrible price that radical liberals may exact from "the competent society." In its trampling of the values essential to ordered, civilized liberty, radical liberalism, among other madness:

  • Devalues individual lives by treating citizens as fungible elements of economic, social or political classes;
  • Curtails individual freedom of choice and action by substituting regulation and dependency for autonomy and freedom;
  • Discourages and even precludes self-reliance and voluntary exchange in favor of government coercion;
  • Violates property rights and indentures the citizen's labor;
  • Institutionalizes, via its social justice programs, theft, and invites manipulation;
  • Promotes hostility, vulgarity, rudeness and defiance as justified rebellion against imaginary oppression, discrimination and exploitation;
  • Degrades the moralities of obligation and aspiration, and, in keep with its secular tradition
  • Attacks the legitimacy of formal religion, dismisses its historical importance, and denies its critical role in maintaining the nation's moral integrity.
The extent to which the smothering "stimulus" legislation is a neurosis is a matter for debate. But that it will lead in the direction of collectivizing this nation and rendering subservient its free citizens is beyond doubt.

Let us stand warned, for, in Rossiter's words, "Any government with the power to mother its citizens also has the power to dominate them and steal from them." And the perennial antidote to the "stimulus" madness and its like? "The legally enforceable institutions of society must be very limited, lest the government charged with the people against tyranny and theft becomes itself the most dangerous tyrant and thief."