- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2010



Barack Obama, who only yesterday was the student prince everybody was swooning over, is fast becoming Rodney Dangerfield: “He don’t get no respect.”

Suddenly, he’s all thumbs, and every time he swings the presidential hammer he takes out another fingernail. The Muslims to whom he pays court like a cow-eyed teenager in pursuit of the homecoming queen have gone spectacularly sour on him. Fair or not, the Gulf oil spill is widely regarded as a government screw-up, and some Democrats are talking darkly of screwing up the screw-up. Bill Clinton wants the Navy “to go down there and blow up that well.” Some of the president’s economists are talking about another recession when we still haven’t used up the one we’ve got, and it’s hard to see how he could persuade even Michelle that a new recession would be George W.’s fault.

Not so long ago, the United States dominated the Group of 20 sessions, where the leaders of the big, prosperous nations of the world meet to chat and chew, accompanied by fracas, tumult and the noise of riot, uproar and other street entertainments. But who listens to Barack Obama?

Some of the wealthy countries of the world, having scared themselves sane, seem determined now to cut back on the insensate spending necessary to prop up welfare states. They’re determined (or say they are) to reduce, or at least chip away, at the mountains of debt piled up in the go-go years, lest they disappear in an era of bye-bye years.

But not the United States. Not Mr. Obama.

The president and his Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, want a “measured approach” to reduce debt, which is Obamaspeak for “throw some more money at somebody.” The U.S. Bureau of Engraving still has a lot of press capacity and can print money 24/7 if necessary. The feds can always buy more presses.

The frightened countries, led by Canada, endorsed a goal of cutting their deficits in half over the next three years. Germany and Britain joined this chorus. The United States was joined by India to call the goal, such as it may be, merely an “expectation.” Why listen to economists when you can groove on the music of a smooth-talking butter and egg man? Why stand with the first world when the living is easier in the third?

Mr. Obama, ever the smooth talker, said there was “violent agreement” that sanity was a worthwhile goal — that a nation’s debts should be reduced with the passage of the years, just not now. (The president did not describe just how “violent agreement” is reached. Shadow boxing, perhaps.) The spendthrift leaders, including Mr. Obama, insist that reducing economy-killing deficits is a good idea, just not now. Some day, not today. So the final communique from Toronto, which is not necessarily intended to be taken seriously, said such goals can be “tailored to national circumstances.” Translated from the argle-bargle that is the lingua franca of these sessions, this means everybody is free to do whatever he pleases, and never look back. The joint statement was a classic of argle-bargle: “There is a risk that synchronized fiscal adjustment across several major economies could adversely impact the recovery. There is also the risk that the failure to implement consolidation where necessary would undermine confidence and hamper growth.”

Mr. Obama tried to translate the argle into bargle for reporters as the meeting broke up. “A number of our European partners are making difficult decisions. But we must recognize that our fiscal health tomorrow will rest in no small measure on our ability to create jobs and growth today.” What everybody agreed on, he said, is the need for “continued growth in the short term and fiscal sustainability in the medium term.” We’re supposed to take comfort, presumably, in Winston Churchill’s observation that in the long term, there is no long term. Some comfort.

The president understands that his own “long term” begins Nov. 3, the day after the November congressional elections, when he might have no further reliable Democratic majorities. The only way to prevent the politician’s fate worse than death — political oblivion — is FDR’s famous formula of “spend and spend, elect and elect.” He can only stimulate “the fragile economy” with more of the medicine that hasn’t worked so far, the town drunk’s cure for alcoholic stupor. But that’s no change, and it’s not much hope.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.



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