Friday, December 11, 2009

Do my eyes deceive me? Did I really see President Obama this week calling for a vast increase in government spending?

He is promising to “spend our way out of this recession.” He plans to build highways and bridges. There will be tax cuts for small businesses. There will be tax incentives for making our homes more energy-efficient. Economic stimulus will be extended for unemployment insurance. Checks for $250 will be sent to senior citizens and veterans. More money will be sent to state and local governments so they will not have to lay off teachers, firefighters and police. It is estimated that the president’s eruption of generosity will cost an additional $170 billion, perhaps more.

He has made this promise despite the fact that fear is spreading throughout the country that our government deficits are unsustainable. The so-called independents have forsaken him because of their fear that he is bankrupting the country. For that matter, he has expressed the same fear - half a year ago.

Yes, this generosity comes from the same president who told a C-SPAN interviewer last spring, “We are out of money.” That grim revelation came from Mr. Obama in response to the interviewer’s observation, “You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?” The president’s response was, “Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits.”

About the time the president announced that this nation, which is “out of money,” is going to “spend our way out of this recession,” the Gallup Poll spoke. According to the poll, the president’s approval rating is lower than that of any of his predecessors at this point in their presidencies, and few came in with Mr. Obama’s high favorable ratings. Today he polls at 47 percent, down from 53 percent last month. A wit at the Los Angeles Times notes that the pulchritudinous former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is within a point of the president in popularity.

What is going on here? I suspect that the citizenry is coming to realize that the Democrats who have been in charge of the country since January are not doing so well. The average American is telling the pollsters that “the country is going in the wrong direction.”

One of the ways the country is going in the wrong direction is not simply with huge government spending, but with huge government, period. Ordinary Americans are uneasy about trusting their fate to huge government. They know government services are inefficient, expensive and occasionally repressive and subject to corruption. More than that, huge government is unreliable.

The health care debate has to be reminding ordinary Americans of their unease over government promises.

Think about it. The same big-government Democrats who promise government-secured health care are promising “health care savings” that clearly are the denial of Medicare services to the elderly. That is to say, Medicare services that once were promised to seniors by Medicare’s advocates are being taken from them under the false claim that they are savings. Face the facts: The Democrats’ health care savings are actually health care denials to those who have been counting on those services for years.

Government does not keep its promises. Yet government is the Democrats’ solution to practically all our current problems. Many Americans who have followed the health care debate are increasingly aware of this. The longer the health care debate continues, the more aware Americans will be that they are about to be cheated out of the health care they now have.

When Medicare was passed, it was understood that government would stand aside from the relations that a patient has with a doctor. Supposedly, those relations would always be a private matter between the doctor and the patient, free of government interference. Yet on Page 146 of the Senate version of health care reform, it is clearly written that once the bill is passed, insurance plans certified by the government can only pay the fees of a doctor who “implements such mechanisms to improve health care quality as the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] may by regulation require.” In plain English, government henceforth not only will intervene between doctors and patients but will control that relationship.

Once again, government cannot be trusted. What government gives to us, government can take away. So maybe the president will not be spending that additional $170 billion.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.

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