Never before in history has such overwhelming evidence failed to convince the smart-set governing class of the obvious: Government cannot create wealth. Instead, our rulers bitterly cling to the notion that the government can spend your money more wisely than you can.
It’s easy to blame President Obama for our economic quagmire, but that’s only part of the story. Sure, Obamanomics has become the science of downward-sloping graphs - with the notable exceptions of spending, borrowing and taxing - but Mr. Obama did not invent the big-government annexation of our economy - he only accelerated it.
Let’s not forget that former President George W. Bush also worshipped the false idol of “stimulus” economics. His 2008 $168 billion “booster shot” was straight out of the Keynesian pump-priming playbook, and despite Mr. Bush’s claim that it was “large enough to have an impact,” it didn’t. In retrospect, MSNBC’s analysis is as comical now as it was prophetic then: “Economic analysts generally believe the $168 billion package Mr. Bush signed will help prevent the current downturn from ballooning into a crisis. But if the rebates don’t spur a consumer spending spree strong enough to cure what ails the economy, Congress is ready to throw more money at the problem.”
And how! If there’s one thing we can count on Congress to do, it’s throw more money at problems. Eight months later, Congress wrote the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) check and President Bush signed it - with Sen. Barack Obama’s endorsement - promising that it would prevent economic Armageddon. It didn’t. In fact, TARP head Neil Barofsky later acknowledged to taxpayers: “You were robbed.”
Parenthetically, when the Obama administration claimed TARP was “remarkably effective by any objective measure,” it’s unclear if it specifically meant the successful fleecing of Americans.
Just four months later, with the economy still in a downward spiral despite so much “stimulus” and so many empty promises, Mr. Obama signed his $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law with still more grand promises that it would “create or save” millions of jobs and unemployment would stay below 8 percent.
Mr. Obama’s wild stimulus spending spree didn’t stop there. His administration has claimed straight-faced that food stamps and jobless benefits are really - wait for it - job stimulus programs. With 1 out of 7 Americans on food stamps and 400,000 new jobless claims each week, it’s a stimulus bonanza. Add in the gimmicks like “Cash for Clunkers” and “Cash for Caulkers,” and don’t forget that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi billed Obamacare as a jobs stimulus program, too: “It’s about jobs. In its life, [the health bill] will create 4 million jobs - 400,000 jobs almost immediately.” Never before in human history has an economy been so thoroughly marinated in government stimulus.
All told, our governing class - Republicans and Democrats - has spent on the order of $5 trillion we don’t have on jobs that never materialized, in some cases in zip codes that don’t even exist. We mortgaged our children’s and grandchildren’s futures, and what exactly did we get in return?
In every measurable way, not much. In fact, worse than not much. Absent any actual economic success stories, the governing class has been reduced to claiming that things would have been worse without its wild orgy of spending. Really? Unemployment shot to nearly 10 percent, with underemployment almost double that and the average length of unemployment at an all-time high. Consumer confidence is approaching an all-time low. Food-stamp dependence is at an all-time high. Homeowners have lost a decade of equity, and foreclosures continue unabated. The debt has ballooned to $14.6 trillion. And for the first time in history, the United States of America has suffered the self-inflicted humiliation of having its credit rating downgraded.
The Keynesian pump-priming of Mr. Bush and the pump-flooding of Mr. Obama have been unmitigated disasters. The inescapable reality is that the government cannot create wealth and every dollar it spends must be taken from the private sector, which can. As Ayn Rand wrote, “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
Martha’s Vineyard is a great place to avoid reality, but our president is well-rested now and ready to try his luck once more with a big-government stimulus program. This from the man who famously said, “We’ve got a big hole that we’re digging ourselves out of.” Please, just stop digging. Instead, give Americans themselves a chance to stimulate our economy.
Entrepreneurs will create the jobs and reignite the economy if the government will create a predictable business climate and then just get out of the way. Start by eliminating every chokehold the government has on the economy. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent (until fair flat-tax reform can be enacted). Repeal Dodd-Frank. Suspend Sarbanes-Oxley until it can be reformed. Repeal Obamacare. Institute an immediate moratorium on new government regulations and take a machete (not a scalpel) to the current Federal Register. And finally, stow the destructive and divisive class-warfare language that is unbecoming of an American president.
In short, allow Americans to be Americans once more.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a cousin of President Obama’s. He blogs at MiltonWolf.com.