Monday, February 1, 2010

Budget Insanity Redux, On Steroids

Obama has unveiled his spending-frozen proposed budget for 2011. It weighs in at a mere $3.83 trillion, with a projected deficit (that's the amount spent more than the Feds steal in revenue) of a whopping $1.6 trillion dollars. Obama's spending 'freeze' amounts to projected savings of about $15 billion out of that the total.

There's good news on the horizon, though. According to a WSJ editorial,
The deficit is forecast to stabilize at $800 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2018 before beginning to rise again, according to the White House projections. The projected rise is due to the retirement of the baby boomers, which is expected to result in increased spending on Medicare and Social Security.
If those facts aren't enough to warrant issuing arrest warrants for everyone involved, I can't think what would be considered enough. When I was in business — thankfully several years ago now — that would have constituted a clear case of embezzlement. Progressives, of course, have another name for it, something that sounds ever so much nicer: wealth redistribution.

I can't help but be reminded at this juncture of Mencken's definition of democracy: "the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." But I doubt even the cynical Mencken foresaw they would vote themselves into becoming Zimbabwe.

Hyperbole? Take a look at two graphs prepared by the Heritage Foundation.

And people still sometimes say (the admittedly dreadful) McCain would have been far worse. It's truly hard to see how.


Ken said...

It's not axiomatic that McCain would have been worse, but it is possible. For instance, we'd probably have some kind of health care "reform" that would be less bad than the moment. It would likely be made far worse later.

And had ClimateGate not broken, President McCain probably would have signed cap and trade (or again, a presently less bad version) that would get him nice reviews on CNN and the NY Times.

Jeff Perren said...

True, it's possible. But even in your examples here they're not "far worse."

I like to think, though I could be wrong and there's no way to settle it (yet), that Palin would have watered down or gotten McCain to abandon entirely the whole Cap and Trade thing.

As to health care, that game isn't over so we may still get much of what McCain might have pushed for. (I did admit he was dreadful.)

But I somehow doubt we would have have a new moral, financial, and military crisis on an almost daily basis - which is what we've had for the past year.

The uncertainty that creates is by itself a major reason for the continuing economic circumstance.

And one thing we know for sure, McCain would not have been apologizing to a half-dozen foreign dictators and declaring that all the bad that's happened in the world the past 50 years is America's fault.

Still, I don't want to be placed in the position of defending McCain, who was preferable chiefly because he wasn't Obama.

Awful that those were our choices, no?

Ted Amadeus said...

WOW! And that's without an altruistic designer cause or ethical fad to drive the borrowing!

Ken said...

I take your point, Jeff. The main problem with McCain is that he would have given the Senate "bipartisans" (the trimmers like Snowe and Voinovich) the cover they needed. I think you're right about the "new moral, financial, and military crisis on an almost daily basis."

The Tea Party movement, assuming no change there, would have taken an interesting cast under a President McCain. It would take someone with a better angle of forehead than I have to speculate knowledgeably about that.

madmax said...

There would have been no Tea Party movement under McCain. There would have been no outrage and Ayn Rand's popularity might not have received the same degree of upward movement under McCain. Obama's a disaster no doubt. But he is someone who brings ideological clarity. No one mistakes Obama for an advocate of free markets. McCain, like Bush, would have been thought of as a "free market ideologue". So, I am glad Obama won and unless the Republicans put up a Reagan or a Thatcher, I hope Obama stays in the White House as a basically sterile and impotent leftist who can't get anything done. We'll see if that pans out.

Jeff Perren said...


This is all somewhat academic, since he's there, but the discussion is still worthwhile because it may help correct what I maintain is an error. It's particularly relevant for how some might be influenced to vote in 2010 and 2012.

Yours is a reasonable point of view, but I believe its flawed in virtue of what it leaves out, and how it weights values. It implicitly regards "ideological clarity" as of greater value than all relevant others combined.

It leaves out the differing consequences that result from an Obama administration vs. McCain (or other pragmatist, half-liberal/half-conservative Republican). In particular, for example, it neglects the long-term effects of the choice of Justices for the Supreme Court. (No, I'm not suggesting McCain's would have been delightful, but I believe a John Roberts of Anthony Scalia to be far superior to Sonja Sotomayer.) It neglects the serious economic consequences that likely would be different in degree, and not a small difference at that. It neglects the difference of priorities and the likelihood of passage on such issues as health care legislation.

You may, apparently you do, regard Obama as nothing but an impotent leftist, but the health care legislation was stalled only by a last minute miracle. Would you likewise have preferred to see Coakley elected rather than Scott Brown in Massachusetts?

Taking your view to a consistent extreme, we should wish to replace the entire Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch – and all the agencies – with the most extreme, consistent Fascists. That would certainly present in very stark terms the nature of the philosophy driving our current government. But think of the real-world consequences.

How likely would we be able to overcome them in that case? Are we more likely to be able to overcome the ill-effects of the next three years than we otherwise would have? That's an open question in my book. Do you anticipate the backlash being that large, that successful? It isn't even clear how much practical, long-term beneficial effect the Tea Party movement will have.

There is a value to clarity, I agree, and it isn't small. But on the other hand, with a mixed system that limps along as half-socialist, half-capitalist (or ¾ socialist, if you prefer), we gain time, time for pro-reason, pro-freedom ideas to diffuse through the culture. At a certain point, practical circumstances can become so bad that diffusing those ideas becomes nearly impossible, at least for several generations.

(On a couple of minor points: I don't concede that McCain – or Bush, for that matter – was or would be regarded as a "free market ideologue," by anyone but leftists who – much as they might wish it – do not have undiluted, unopposed influence over 'the man in the street'. Nor is it necessarily true that there "would have been no outrage." There was already plenty of outrage at Bush, Paulson, TARP, Iraq and Afghan war expenditures and policy, etc. and not solely on or by the left, by any means.)

In my view, if current trends continue, we have perhaps two generations before Fascist-style totalitarianism arrives. The more consistent Progressives who occupy positions of power, the lower my time estimate becomes. That's because I have serious doubts about the theoretical correctness and practical strength and efficacy of the backlash theory in the real world.

I'm sincerely grateful for your comment, though, and I respect your position as honest, well-intentioned, and thoughtful.