Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama, Please Do Nothing

Michell Malkin discusses the pending 'jobs' bill, or as she calls it (accurately) Porkulus II, and labels it a boondoggle.

Her outrage is well placed, though she doesn't point out that even if it resulted in zero fraud and the money went for exactly 'the right things', it would still be the wrong thing to do. That it is the wrong thing is suggested by Obama's recent statement on the subject: "What I won't consider is doing nothing in the face of a lot of hardship across the country."

To repeat for — what is it now? — the hundredth time: that's exactly what is wrong with his entire approach to government. He should take his cues not from FDR but from Coolidge, who understood the value of the Federal government doing nothing in the face of economic hardship.

(Coolidge was, by the way, roundly mocked for it by the leftist columnist Walter Lippmann, who later said of FDR: "The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers.")

Or, better still, Obama should listen to James Madison who said (when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees),
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” [4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794]
Now, in theory, the 'jobs' bill isn't charity. More accurately, it's the same absurd Keynesian-inspired approach that has failed time and again. (Interestingly, Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon suggests that Obama doesn't even have Keynes right. But never mind that now.) But the idea behind it is the same: that the Federal government should step in to 'help' when private business 'isn't doing enough.'

It should be no surprise that the idea has failed whenever it's been tried. Because when the Federal government does nothing outside what it is supposed to do, the citizens have the freedom to do what they think best.

When private citizens have it, they typically do far from nothing. And the something they do is far preferable than anything Obama will ever do. More importantly, private sector individuals don't violate the rights of everyone in the country when they do it.

If Obama really wanted to 'do something' — something actually helpful — he could encourage Congress to discuss repealing Sarbanes-Oxley, eliminating capital gains taxes, gutting the EPA, phasing out Social Security, and Medicare, and in general shaving the leviathan down to bare Constitutional bones. Not surprisingly, in those areas — and thousands more — Obama would prefer to do nothing.


Moataz said...

that quote from lippmann is startling. talk about dictatorial power

Jeff Perren said...

Welcome to Shaving Leviathan, Moataz.

Ain't it just? Not too surprising, though, if you know he was a buddy of Herbert Croly and with him one of the founders of The New Republic - an early, and still highly influential Progressive magazine.

Sadly, that view (that FDR had to act like a Fascist in order to stave off the coming of communism in America), is still around among many left wing intellectuals today, both as history and as a recommendation for Obama.

Jason_Pappas said...

The Lippmann quote is frightening. And the Madison quote is delightful. I didn't know of either quote.

In any case, you gave the best advice to Obama: first do no harm. By the way, I like the way you fused the moral and practical dimensions in the article.