- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

The superheroes I always found hard to keep track of were the ones who kept relaunching themselves. I mean, Batman has been Batman for 70 years and Spider-man has been Spiderman for the best part of 50.

But I’m thinking of chaps like Ant-Man. Very small, as one might expect. Then he became Giant-Man. Then he became Yellowjacket (his girlfriend was the Wasp). Then he became Goliath. I’ve lost track of him since then. But, thanks to my usual 20-second exhaustive research, I see he was relaunched only a month ago, this time as the Wasp. Hang on, I thought the Wasp was his chick? Has he had a sex-change? Hey, why not? For a while he was both Giant-Man and Yellowjacket, playing a kind of schizoid double hero with each superpower emphasizing a different side of his identity.

Anyway, that’s how I feel about the endlessly morphing supergovernment hero battling the planet-swallowing economic crisis. Back in September, we were told to put our faith in Bailoutman. Then in January, Bailoutman went to his tailor, had the long underwear redesigned, and relaunched himself as Mister Stimulus.

A few weeks later the Obama crowd noticed that “stimulus,” like “bailout,” had become a cheap punch line, and decided the approved term was “recovery.” So Captain Recovery swung into action.

In fairness to Ant-Man, he got very small, and then he got big, and then he got small again, and then he got super-big, and for a while he was both small and big, in a superheroically bipartisan way. But Bailoutman started out as a huge staggering behemoth and has inflated from there. Once upon a time he was as a meek mild-mannered trillionaire, but a mere five months later he was a meek mild-mannered multi-trillionaire.

If you find it hard to keep track of these all these evolutions, the president in his address to Congress finally spilled the beans and unveiled our new hero in his final form: the Incredible Bulk, Statezilla, Governmentuan - a colossus bestriding the land like a, er, colossus.

What superpowers does he have? All of them! He can save the economy, he can reform health care, he can prevent foreclosures, he can federalize day care, he can cap the salary of his archenemies the sinister Fat Cats who “pad their pay checks and buy fancy drapes.” No longer will the citizenry cower in fear of fancy drapes: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

With one solar panel on the roof of his underground headquarters, Governmentuan can transform the American energy sector and power his amazing Governmentmobile, the new environmentally friendly supercar we’ll soon all be driving because we’ll be given government car loans to buy the government cars!

He’ll have hundreds of thousands of boy sidekicks, none of whom will ever be allowed to drop out of high school because (in the words of his famous catchphrase) “that’s no longer an option!” “Gee, thanks, Governmentuan!” says Diplomaboy the Boy Wonder, as he goes off to college to study Gender As A Social Construct until he’s 34.

And our hero can do this all without raising taxes on any family earning over $250,000!

Look - up in the sky: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a sudden eclipse plunging you and three adjoining states into total darkness? No, it’s the Incredible Bulk flailing through the air, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Well, actually, it’s more like the European way. But Americans will get used to it after a while.

Of course, when Barack Obama is accused of creating his Six-Trillion-Dollar Man “because I believe in bigger government” he denies it: “I don’t,” he says flatly. This is like Clark Kent telling Lois Lane he’s not Superman: They just look a bit similar when he removes his glasses. Likewise, any connection between Mr. Obama and a Big Government behemoth swallowing everything in sight is entirely coincidental.

Do you ever go back to the first issue of this comic book and try to figure out what the plot’s all about? Wasn’t it something to do with subprime mortgages and two strange creatures called Fannie and Freddie? And then it became something to do with saving banks, wasn’t that it? And somewhere along the way the Big Three auto makers got involved? And now it’s about everything.

Mr. Obama is going to do everything. So he needs to be able to spend everything. Only we don’t call it “spending” anymore. Everything government “spends” is now deemed an “investment.”

Government will “invest” in “more efficient cars,” it will “invest” in day care, it will “invest” in a new Federal Regulatory Agency of Fancy Drapes and Window Treatments. It will “invest” in an impact study group that will study the impact of recalling every edition of Webster’s and pasting it in a little Post-It note on the page defining “spend” saying “obsolete - see ‘invest.’ ”

If you’re feeling a sudden urge to “invest” in a gallon of tequila and a couple of hookers and wake up with an almighty hangover and no pants in a rusting dumpster on a bit of abandoned scrub round the back of the freight yards, it may be because you’re one of that dwindling band of Americans foolish enough to pursue his living in what we used to call “the private sector.” You were never exactly Giant-Man, more like Average-Sized Man. But you have a vague sense you’re gonna be a lot closer to Ant-Man by the time all this is through.

Noting the president’s assurance that the 250-grand-and-under crowd won’t pay “a single dime” more in taxes, the Wall Street Journal calculated that if you took every single dime - 100 percent - of the income of the crowd making more than $250,000, it barely begins to pay for this program, even before half of them flee the country. The $4 trillion Congress plans to spend next year (2010) could just about be covered if you took every single dime of the taxable income of every American earning more than $75,000 per year.

But it doesn’t matter. Because Big Government is the ultimate hero, and the private sector is merely a supporting role. Last week, the president redefined the relationship between the citizen and the state, in ways that make America closer to Europe. If you’ve still got the Webster’s to hand, “closer to Europe” is a sociopolitical colloquialism meaning “much worse.”

Is the new all-powerful Statezilla vulnerable to anything? Unfortunately, yes. He loses all his superpowers when he comes into contact with something called Reality.

But happily Reality is nowhere in sight. There are believed to be some small surviving shards somewhere on the planet - maybe on an uninhabited atoll somewhere in the Pacific - but that’s just a rumor, and Barack Obama doesn’t plan on running into Reality any time soon.

Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller “America Alone” and is an internationally syndicated columnist.


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