- - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama is usually blamed for everything bad that happens to the economy. It’s why his approval rating is in the tank. It goes with the territory. He’s rightly blamed for stifling growth with new taxes and regulations, but only in the United States. It’s a bit nutty to think Mr. Obama has time to torpedo the economies of other nations.

But Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, blames “vultures [that] look a lot like the eagles of empires” for a New York judge’s order that Argentina must pay its debts to Americans. Mrs. Kirchner wants everyone to think that the judge’s decision was carefully coordinated by the White House. She obviously doesn’t understand that nothing is carefully coordinated, much less coherent, about this administration’s dealings overseas.

She apparently expects CIA hit squads, SEAL Team 6, or maybe Sam the Slicer from Cleveland, to show up any day to execute the contract on her. “If something was to happen to me,” she said in a televised speech, “nobody should be looking to the Middle East, but to the North.”

Argentina’s troubles are the inevitable poison fruit of decades of leftist control. Confiscatory taxes, trade barriers, corruption and a political climate that vilifies the producing class have expanded on Mrs. Kirchner’s watch. Recently her administration shut down the Buenos Aires printing plant of the Chicago-based RR Donnelley & Sons, accusing the firm of economic terrorism because it remains profitable.

Mrs. Kirchner raised her war on capitalism a notch last month by pushing through a new “supply law” that forbids companies from reaping “artificial or unfair profits.” The measure gives state bureaucrats the authority to dictate prices, set quantities of goods sold and even establishing profit margins for just about anything produced and sold. A business making a profit risks being fined.

Peugeot became the law’s first victim. The French automaker was fined for failing to deliver enough cars on time to satisfy Mrs. Kirchner’s automobile-subsidy program, her version of “cash for clunkers,” where a list of cars, including nine from Peugeot, are offered at a government-fixed price with government-backed financing.

For nearly a century, Argentina has deliberately devalued its currency to boost export numbers and bring in foreign cash to pay debts. The inevitable side effect of this policy has been runaway inflation — in the 30 percent range. Money in a savings account diminishes by the hour. Bewildered entrepreneurs can’t take long-term risks because they can’t calculate what their investment will be worth a few months in the future.

Mrs. Kirchner blames inflation on corporate greed, spinning the economic troubles as an excuse for more regulation and intervention in the market for “consumer protection.” The predictable result of setting prices below the market level is shortages. Companies won’t produce items they’re not allowed to sell for a profit. Earlier this year, McDonald’s couldn’t serve Big Macs with ketchup because there was a ketchup shortage.

Argentina has yet to go the way of Venezuela, which assigned the army to run the toilet-paper factories, but it’s looking for the way. Argentina has run its economy into the ground without help from Mr. Obama. Mrs. Kirchner knows how to do it herself.

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