It seems like half of Washington has escaped the withering heat wave this week, heading out to Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival. The opening session featured U.S. News Editor in Chief Mort Zuckerman and Niall Ferguson of Harvard, who both agreed that President Obama’s deficit spending is an economic disaster for the United States--to hearty applause from a celebrity-filled audience that included Barbra Streisand. Here are a few key excerpts of the Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove's report from Aspen:
-“If you’re asking if the United States is about to become a socialist state, I’d say it’s actually about to become a European state, with the expansiveness of the welfare system and the progressive tax system like what we’ve already experienced in Western Europe,” Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson declared during Monday’s kickoff session, offering a withering critique of Obama’s economic policies, which he claimed were encouraging laziness.
-“We are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,” Zuckerman said. “The real problem we have … are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.”
-Ferguson added: “The critical point is if your policy says you’re going run a trillion-dollar deficit for the rest of time, you’re riding for a fall…Then it really is goodbye.” A dashing Brit, Ferguson added: “Can I say that, having grown up in a declining empire, I do not recommend it. It’s just not a lot of fun actually—decline.”
Ferguson called for what he called “radical” measures. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough the need for radical fiscal reform to restore the incentives for work and remove the incentives for idleness.” He praised “really radical reform of the sort that, for example, Paul Ryan [the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee] has outlined in his wonderful ‘Roadmap’ for radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement system” and “unleash entrepreneurial innovation.” Otherwise, Ferguson warned: “Do you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? I’d advise you against it.”
David Cameron, the new conservative prime minister of Great Britain, is doing his best to reverse the damage done by massive deficit spending under the Labour party. My column this week contains a few things President Obama could learn from Cameron’s approach. If he follows Cameron’s approach, it might even help him win Barbra back.