Given the choice between retaining power in the short term or doing what's right for America, which would you choose? Most Americans, I believe, would be willing to sacrifice a great deal for their country, and this willingness to sacrifice has always been the great pillar of American democracy. Unfortunately, there is no fondness for sacrifice in Washington these days, especially among the Democratic leadership and its supporters.
The irresponsibility of the left is on display daily as one piece of self-serving legislation follows another. The latest example comes in the form of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. Sponsored by Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan -- a state certainly in need of jobs, if not of loophole-closing -- the bill is one more exercise in political cynicism on the part of the most cynical Congress in history. Coming just five months before the all-important November elections, the bill is a blatant exercise in vote-buying paid for with money we don't have. But since the Democrats have added $1.75 trillion to the national debt in 2009 alone, what's another $190 billion tacked onto the national debt? Especially since its intent is to energize the liberal base (and quiet the unease of a 9.9% unemployment rate) by transferring another $2,000 to every adult Obama-supporter -- and this on top of the $787-billion stimulus of 2009 and the $410-billion omnibus spending bill that followed shortly after. Given the choice of ruinous spending versus short-term political gain, the left always chooses political gain.
As unemployment continues to rise toward 10%, it should be obvious that the earlier rounds of stimulus spending have not been effective, and they have not been effective because they were not designed to be. Rather, they were designed in the most cunning fashion for the sole purpose of securing power. How else could one explain unemployment rates that are now on average nearly twice what they were under George W. Bush? Surely the combined brainpower of Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, and Timothy Geithner, if not the singular brainpower of their boss, could have designed a fiscal policy that would have stimulated private-sector job growth -- for example, by lowering corporate taxes and eliminating regulation. Instead, Obama's policies have been consistently anti-business and anti-growth, and Volcker's promotion of a European-style value-added tax is simply another backdoor tax on growth. When you seize business profits in the way Obama has been doing, do you really expect to see businesses investing in new jobs and plants?
Far from stimulating growth, the Levin stimulus bill increases taxes on business (though over three-fourths of the bill is "funded" by further deficits). Long ago, the Democratic Party decided that the way to win elections was through promotion of special interests at the expense of the public at large. The general public will suffer the effects of deficit spending and unprecedented debt. The public will also pay in the form of higher prices for increased unionization and government regulation, much of which is little more than a legalistic shakedown designed to enlarge the lucrative revolving-door trade between government bureaucrats and corporate legal defense teams.
The provisions of the latest stimulus bill demonstrate just how corrupt the Democratic leadership has become. What is $65 billion in Medicare physician payment doing in a so-called stimulus bill? It is there so Democrats can hide the true cost of Obamacare from the public, who will end up paying for it. What are further billions in handouts to minority farmers and welfare payments doing in a bill that is supposed to create jobs? And since when does the government distinguish between minority and non-minority farmers? What's next? Minority and non-minority physicians? Well actually, that's already in the health care bill.
The only provision in the American Jobs bill directly tied to job-creation is one billion for "summer jobs," but these jobs, it turns out, are hardly jobs at all. They are essentially internships for low-income youths in government and the non-profit sector, not in the private sector, where these kids might conceivably learn something about work.
But then, the point of the American Jobs bill is not to promote private-sector employment; the point is to shift more and more Americans from private-sector employment into dependence on government make-work and welfare. Aside from the stealth Medicare reimbursement increase, the American Jobs bill is designed entirely for the purpose of silencing a restive Democratic base until after the fall elections, after which the extended benefits will run out and there will still not be enough jobs in the private sector to bring about normal levels of employment.
The premise of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act is that money buys votes. Depressing as it sounds, Democrats have it about right. A few scraps, such as the $2.8-billion "aid to localities" and the $1.5-billion "disaster relief for farmers" (to say nothing of the $4.6 billion for minority farmers), can buy a sizable number of votes, especially since the tax increases needed to pay for all of this are being kicked down the road.
Whether the American Jobs bill can buy enough votes for Democrats to retain control of Congress remains to be seen, but I would not bet against a party as ruthless and irresponsible as the modern-day Democratic Party.
Only a major shift in political consciousness on the part of Americans at large -- a new awareness of how corrupt the left has become and of how grave the consequences are going to be -- might save America from fiscal ruin. Unfortunately, that sort of shift in consciousness comes about only around once in a lifetime, as it did in 1980. Payoffs to special interests take place ahead of every election.
Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.