- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

As recession-racked Americans try to enjoy this season of giving, this is a season of taking for much of our political class. Their grabbing hands are everywhere.

Consider Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. The late John and Jackie Kennedy’s daughter hopes to fill Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton’s soon-vacant Senate seat. Never mind that Mrs. Schlosssberg is a politically inexperienced mom and philanthropist who aims to expand her family’s Senate profile, as if she were Lady Caroline of Gotham in the House of Lords. Mrs. Schlossberg should have stated her case privately to Gov. David Paterson, who will appoint Mrs. Clinton’s successor. Instead, she hired a campaign consultant and is trying very publicly to squeeze Mr. Paterson in a vice. Mrs. Schlossberg’s “my, me, mine” approach is beyond tacky and should derail her senatorial ambitions.

For his part, accidental Mr. Paterson likely has depleted whatever good will he enjoyed after succeeding his hooker-chasing predecessor, Eliot Spitzer. Facing a $15.4 billion state-budget shortfall, Mr. Paterson recently proposed $4 billion in higher taxes and fees. But rather than a painful Doberman-like bite, namely an across-the-board income-tax boost, Mr. Paterson unleashed 88 new and increased taxes. Like a swarm of hornets, these sting all over.

Among many examples, haircuts, gym memberships, and movie tickets would be taxed. Atomic-power-plant permits would nearly double. Licenses for doctors, notaries, and private eyes are moving on up. Need a drink? Good luck. Mr. Paterson would raise the beer tax from 11 cents to 24 per gallon and wine from 18.9 cents to 51 per gallon.

Rather than leech New York’s anemic taxpayers, Mr. Paterson should have frozen overall spending, then privatized state assets, closed useless agencies, and deeply slashed lavish public headcounts, pensions, and entitlement benefits. New York’s per-capita Medicaid expenditure should not exceed that of California and Texas combined.

Meanwhile, sticky-fingeritis is rife in Washington, D.C. Regarding the Bush administration’s $13.4 billion Chrysler and GM bailout, Vice-President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Congress had ample opportunity to deal with this issue, and it failed. The president had no choice but to step in. Wrong!

On Dec. 11, the Senate dealt with this by sinking the House’s $14 billion Bush-Pelosi bailout. Under the Constitution, that legislation died. Whatever. Mr. Bush nonetheless swiped funds that Congress authorized for troubled assets, and then rewrapped them for troubled autos. Couldn’t GM and Chrysler borrow from bailed-out banks?

This cash is a golf cart beside the Hummer that is the $300 billion HOPE for Homeowners program. Congress enacted it to help some 400,000 Americans avoid foreclosure. Since July, only 312 homeowners formally have applied for relief. And the grand total spared foreclosure? Zero.

The Bush administration blamed Congress and said it micromanaged the program and made it too onerous, NBC’s Lisa Myers explained Dec. 17. And congressional Democrats blamed the White House by saying it opposed the program from the beginning, though Mr. Bush signed it.

This $300 billion is a bag lunch compared to the banquet that is the Federal Reserves’ $2 trillion in bank bailouts. While the Fed has become monetarily incontinent, it is airtight with information. Fed lending has zoomed 138 percent since Sept. 14, yet it refuses to identify recipients of its emergency loans, which taxpayers and investors should know. Bloomberg News sued for 231 pages of documents outlining this lending. So far, the Fed has stonewalled.

Fed Board Secretary Jennifer Johnson told Bloomberg it would be a dangerous step to release this otherwise confidential information.

The grabbiest hands - no surprise - are in Congress. While unemployment soars and Americans strain to survive, come January, each brave senator and representative will receive a $4,700 pay increase. They should have foresworn this $2.5 million obscenity. Perhaps it slipped their minds, what with the bickering, earmarks, and fund-raising.

So, this Christmas, please sip some eggnog, kiss your loved ones, and try briefly to forget what these clowns are doing to our beloved country.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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