Dark Prospects For Spendthrift Democrats
Investor's Business Daily
June 9, 2010
By Ernest S. Christian and Gary A. Robbins
It is old news that many congressional Democrats
are on the road to political oblivion - 33 House members and
nine senators are already on the endangered list. Now, however,
even incumbents in "safe" seats are looking toward the future
with fear and trembling.
They worry that the Democratic Party's most well-known characteristic
(spend a lot of money fast) may be fatal at the polls. Sen.
Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of his party's dwindling clerisy,
is sorely vexed by an epiphany full of dark portents.
"I have come to the conclusion," he proclaims, "that the
voters are saying now that just throwing money at various
kinds of issues - virtually all of which are deserving - isn't
Don't laugh; this may be serious political history in the
making - perhaps the end of a Democrat-dominated epoch during
which federal spending as a percent of GDP has already grown
from 2.5% in 1929 to 25.4% today and is heading toward 30%.
Like generations of Democrats before them (and a few quisling
Republicans), Wyden and his colleagues in Congress are habituated
to throwing billions of dollars at every real or imagined
imperfection in society, no matter how slight.
It's not that liberal applications of money actually cure
anything. Usually they don't. But in politics, what counts
is putting cash in the hands of favored constituents who are
expected to express their gratitude on Election Day.
In 2008 under the guise of economic stimulus, Congress mailed
out millions of $1,200 to $1,800 checks to constituents. Speaker
Pelosi airily declared that her magical gift packages would
quickly "create" 500,000 jobs.
Sadly, six months and $100 billion later, the economy had
already lost an additional 465,000 jobs, and the carnage has
since continued at a rapid rate to the accompaniment of even-more-extravagant
Feckless spending is a disease endemic to Washington, especially
among Democrats who seem to have a nearly maniacal urge to
give away other people's money.
But those wasted billions are chicken feed compared to the
extra $6 trillion that Obama is trying to spend in a frenzied
record-setting spree so futile in job-creation (unemployment
has risen to 10%), frightening in its motivation (a permanent
welfare-state imperium for himself) and dire in its financial
implications (national bankruptcy) that even ideologically
hardened Democrats are beginning to flinch.
With other spendthrift socialists having already caused
financial crises in Britain, Spain, Greece and, most recently,
Hungary, can Democrats credibly claim shock and surprise?
Are they actually learning for the first time that their own
ongoing profligacy is not a virtue? Of course not. The iron
laws of economics (and common sense) have long been flashing
Democrats understand (although they prefer not to) that
the money they squander is not "free." Despite pretending
otherwise, they also understand the fatal flaw inherent in
a big-spending government: The economic feedback to society
of a dollar of government spending is typically less than
a dollar, whereas the cost to society of a dollar of government
taxes to pay for that spending is typically several dollars.
Voters are, via the Internet and otherwise, angrily looking
over Washington's shoulder. They've caught on to the scam:
The more the spendthrifts spend, the worse off we all are.
"It's becoming not only a fiscal problem, but also a political
problem," Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., complained to the Washington
(Normally Democrats assuage voters' discontent by throwing
money at them, but that is not a smart option when government
profligacy is itself the source of voter anger.)
It's too soon to start shorting the Democratic Party's stock,
but the prognosis is not good for Obama's rehashed version
of the big-spending, Depression-era policies of the New Deal.
Unlike the 1930s when the modern Democratic Party was born,
Americans are today much better educated and far less credulous.
They are prosperous by comparison and more interested in getting
on with their own lives than becoming wards of the state.
In most cases, their votes can no longer readily be "bought"
- at least not for anything the Democrats presently have a
credible capacity to offer.
The Democratic Party is today economically and culturally
out of step with the great changes in attitude and outlook
going on in America and the world - and to make matters worse,
it is in a period of intellectual decline at exactly the time
that new ideas and approaches are required.
Christian, an attorney, was a deputy assistant secretary
of the Treasury in the Ford administration. Robbins, an economist,
served at the Treasury Department in the Reagan administration.