The Liberals' Spending Delusions and the 2010 Elections

The problem isn’t debt but that we haven’t spent ourselves into more of it, according to delusionists.


The churn building toward Election Day is achieving a kind of cannibalistic feeding frenzy as liberal pundits, Democratic strategists, and MoveOn activists try to spin the public’s coming rejection of the Obama agenda. It’s not that the White House and Democratic Congress tried to cram left-wing policies down the esophagus of a center-right nation; it’s that they didn’t cram hard enough.

Here is a typical lament from former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich: “A stimulus too small to significantly reduce unemployment, a TARP that didn't trickle down to Main Street, financial reform that doesn't fundamentally restructure Wall Street, and healthcare reforms that don't promise to bring down healthcare costs have all created an enthusiasm gap. They've fired up the right, demoralized the left, and generated unease among the general population.”

Building upon an already unsustainable deficit, engaging in more spending to bail out reckless banks, issuing more regulation on the business community, and creating a true government-run healthcare system: This, he says, would have changed the election year dynamics--firing up liberal voters and demoralizing conservatives, resulting in victory for the Democratic majority. Nevermind that the Democrats are in trouble for exactly such thinking. Nevermind that the vast number of American voters have made clear--through polls, through votes in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and through riotous town hall meetings--that they want less of this, not more.

Call it the Titanic Delusion. If only the ship had barreled faster toward the iceberg, it would have broken through to safety.

You hear this theory most frequently applied to healthcare reform. Americans were all for the reform, we are reminded. Until they weren’t. What happened in between? According to the Delusionists, Obama backed away from his promises and choked when he had the opportunity to create a single-payer (translation: government-run) healthcare system. And in the process of his retreat, he alienated his base and merely stirred up conservatives.

His base? That expansive voting coalition of academics, Code Pink, and California? Heck, you can’t even include the voters of Massachusetts in the mix, as those poor dupes were the first of the guinea pigs to get a taste of Obamacare. In the special election showdown of Scott Brown-Republican vs. Martha Coakley-Obamacare, Brown’s upset victory was an unmistakable statement of anxiety about the direction the Democrats were taking this country.

Except to the left. They are like narcissistic actors on the stage who mistake the rotten tomatoes hurled at them as kind-hearted gifts from people who can’t afford better, bless their hearts.

You see the same delusions applied to federal spending and the stimulus plan. Just as few Democrats dare to campaign on the issue of healthcare, you see just as few trotting out their votes for the stimulus. The public is in a rage over ever-expanding, ever-intruding government funded by breathtaking taxing, borrowing, and spending. When the Obama White House started floating the idea of a Stimulus II package--that is, more spending with no serious effort to cut elsewhere--Democrats in tough election battles began gathering their own rotten fruit in the form of television ads denouncing all things Washington--a town run by Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. (Can Harry Reid, a man who cannot run his own campaign without stumbling over hideous gaffes, be said to be part of the ruling Triumvirate?)

[See where Pelosi gets her campaign money.]

We were told about all the shovel-ready jobs that would be funded by the stimulus. How unemployment would drop. What we got was funding for wasteful pet projects, more transference of wealth, and a new term for the American lexicon: “saved jobs.” But no new jobs. Unemployment went up. Taxes went up for job creators. Debt went up. And the deficit is going the way of Europe.

Evidently the problem is not that we now face historic levels of debt but that we haven’t spent ourselves into more debt, according to the liberal intelligentsia. Had Obama only spent more, borrowed more, taxed more … we would be on our way to economic recovery. And he to adulation and victory.

The New York Times’s Paul Krugman is the latest to voice this monotony. It’s not that Obama spent like a drunken sailor, he writes; it’s that he didn’t spend drunkenly enough. We didn’t even bother to bail out state governments that had gorged on programs they couldn’t afford for years, Krugman laments. The logic, I suppose, being that if the federal government isn’t spending with enough reckless abandon, then it should subsidize those governments that are. As long as there is spending, dammit, all will be well.

This, we are told, would surely have changed things at the polls.

The Krugmans of the world don’t believe it’s possible that regular voters, most of whom don’t boast a Nobel Prize in economics, could harbor a fundamental skepticism toward deficit spending. That they fear what they see taking place in Europe, where Obama-esque governments for years refused to cut any program and have now sunk under such a burden of debt that they are forced to slash at the worst possible time imaginable. Riots in France. Entire government agencies eliminated in Britain. And Greece? Should we even dare mention the unholy spectacle of Greece?

The American voter can’t possibly be worried about these things, say the Delusionists. Give them bread and circuses and they will move on their mindless way. Except they’re not. They are speaking with greater force at the polling booth.

The Delusionists are undeterred. Full steam ahead, fellows--these people will thank us afterwards!

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