A Bridge Too Far?

According to Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard, the Obamis are planning a lame-duck session of Congress, "filled with defeated and retired senators and House members," to pass a VAT (value-added tax).

Liberals know that they get a chance to enact progressive legislation only once in a generation. That's when the cycle of politics throws up a liberal majority in Congress, and liberals have the votes to cram down their agenda. That's why President Obama is in such a hurry, eager to jam down liberal legislation in the teeth of popular opposition.

I call it the ratchet.

In the 1900s, liberals got to do a ratchet on popular election of senators, the income tax, and central banking. They got to do a ratchet on financial regulation, pro-labor legislation, Social Security, and welfare in the 1930s. Only the NRA wage and price controls got repealed. They got to do civil rights and ratchet the war on poverty and environment in the 1960s. Only one welfare program out of 79 got repealed -- thirty years later. And now, after a forty-year hiatus, liberals are hoping to ratchet ObamaCare and a huge expansion of the stealth welfare state onto the American people.

Obviously, as President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rush to jam their agenda through this year, and as they plan for a lame-duck session after the election to pass the VAT, they are assuming that the 20th-century liberal ratchet still applies. Voters will want to keep their new entitlements. The extreme right wing will never be able to take them away.

But maybe the lame-duck session will be a bridge too far. The question is: Will the defeat be a minor setback, like the bridge at Arnhem in 1944? Or will it be a strategic defeat, like the German attempt to close off the Kursk salient in 1943?

Here are six reasons to hope for a strategic reverse.

The Upchuck Factor. After the liberal legislative banquet comes the upchuck, the moment when the American geese object to force-feeding by the latest liberal president. I've written that the time it takes for the American people to get into upchuck mode seems to be going down. For President Clinton, it was two years from inauguration. For President Obama, it was two months.

No Money to Co-opt the Middle Class. The great Irving Kristol used to say that the only way to help the poor was to deal in the middle class. You want to help the poor in old age? You have to include the middle class in Social Security and Medicare. ObamaCare and cap-and-tax and the VAT violate this principle. Liberals get the benefits. The middle class just gets to pay.

Government Default. In This Time is Different, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff write that while developing nations often default on their sovereign debt, mature nations don't. But after reading a book of essays on government finance edited by Michael D. Bordo and Roberto Cortes-Conde, I'd disagree. All governments default in the end. Britain and the U.S. didn't default through the long 19th century, but both did a partial default in the 1930s and, ever since, they have followed a policy of rolling default -- i.e., inflation. Guess how the U.S. government is going to deal with its $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Dynastic Decline. Everyone knows about the Chinese dynasties. The Last Emperor in the dynasty is a blithering idiot played by Peter O'Toole. Even in the U.S., the founding Adams family declined from the curmudgeonly John to the insufferable John Quincy to the mere historian Henry. Our present progressive dynasty, the educated elite, is showing definite signs of decay. Obama is no FDR. And Rahm Emanuel plus David Axelrod and dozens of czars are no 1930s Brain Trust.

The Road to Injustice. It's telling that the Obama administration is following the letter of the law when it comes to life jackets and fire extinguishers on barges, on environmental permits and keeping up with the Jones Act. But when it comes to paying for the cleanup, BP is supposed to pay up without regard to law. Conscientious objector Joe Barton (R-TX) gets tarred and feathered. All governing parties end up dealing out naked injustice.

The Revolt of the CEOs. All over America, CEOs are punching out the windows on their executive jets. Er, sorry. That's just my little joke. There will never be a revolt of the CEOs. That's because, using Secretary Salazar's metaphor, the liberal elite has had its boot firmly on the necks of the CEOs for the better part of a century. If and when the CEOs show any signs of life, it will be the sign that the conservative revolution is at hand, and it is time for the rats to leave the sinking ship.

Of course, maybe Obamism isn't a bridge too far. Maybe ObamaCare will stick, and the American people will decide that the Tea Party offers a false choice between Hope and Change. 

But second thoughts are for the future. Today, we organize. Today, we fight. And always, we hope.

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his roadtothemiddleclass.com and usgovernmentspending.com. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.