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Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Spending Our Way To Prosperity
Turner Catledge, a journalist during the Roosevelt era, described the pattern used by the Roosevelt administration to sell his legislative proposals to the public as follows: “First there is the early ‘idea’ period, when either the President or some group of his associates hatches the rather rough for of what is to be attempted. Then there is the selling stage, in which the person or the group who thinks up the idea has to ‘sell’ it to the other. There follows in third place the ‘method’ stage when the modus operandi is evolved. The there comes the final ‘publicity’ stage when the program is announced and the argument is submitted both to Congress and the public in behalf of its adoption.”
 
Sound familiar? It should. It’s the tried and true formula that was used by Obama and his administration to panic the public into accepting the so-called stimulus package at the time it was wending its way through Congress.
 
Economist Walter Williams observed: "The stimulus package being discussed is politically smart but economically stupid. It's that bedeviling, omnipresent Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy problem again. ... A far more important measure that Congress can take toward a healthy economy is to ensure that the 2003 tax cuts don't expire in 2010 as scheduled. If not, there are 15 separate taxes scheduled to rise in 2010, costing Americans $200 billion a year in increased taxes. In the face of a recession,
we don't need that."
 
And, columnist Michelle Malkin noted: "Bashing Rush Limbaugh last week, Obama urged GOP lawmakers to ignore the voices of obstructionism and sign on to his behemoth stimulus package: 'We shouldn't let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done.' ... History has shown us that 'Get Things Done' is mindless liberal code for passing ineffective legislation and expanding government for government's sake."
 
In an open letter disseminated by the Cato Institute, two hundred economists stated, "More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan's 'lost decade' in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today."
 
In short, the stimulus package was hyped as the way to spend our way to prosperity. The president told us that if we didn’t act immediately, the nation would never recover from economic condition at the time, which he characterized as the worst economy since the Great Depression. However, if it is really possible to spend our way out of a recession, why isn’t the economy perpetually strong?
 
People who have held positions of responsibility know that that panicking in an emergency does not solve anything. As a matter of fact, it makes things worse. Panic keeps people from thinking clearly and acting without sufficient facts, especially in complex situations that present a variety of alternatives. And, the worst situation of all is when leaders panic.
 
President Obama’s image has been that of a cool customer who keeps his head under pressure. Yet, he has repeatedly appeared in press conferences and public appearances, telling us that the situation with the American economy was so urgent that if we did not act immediately, we would never recover. 
 
I don’t see that as leadership. Under pressure, true leaders try to keep everyone else from over-reacting and losing control.
 
Unfortunately, the initial response of the Bush administration was also to overreact and hastily push through the $700 billion bailout package, then immediately spend $350 billion without any accountability. 
 
It’s clear that it did not work, yet we are being told that we need more of the same. The reality is that no one in either the Bush or the Obama administrations provided any clear information about how the causes of the financial crunch that brought the economy down can be fixed, because they don’t know. 
 
For my part, I would prefer to see our leaders try to keep the public calm while they go about the business of methodically working to restore the economy.
 
The American people, who generally have more sense than their political leaders, appear to agree. A Gallup Poll found that 54% of Americans either wanted to see major changes to the current stimulus plan, or they rejected it outright.  Other surveys also indicated that public support declined rapidly.  
 
Politicians can call it stimulus and they can call it change, but it's just more of the same old tax and spend approach.
 
© 2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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