Monday, July 20, 2009

"Emergency driven central planning"

By Donald Sensing

I posted last March that "Crisis is the health of the state," a trend of American government started by FDR and embraced by presidents of both parties right to this very day.

We are now living in a permanent state of emergency, according to our Washington overlords. They are not going to waste this crisis, and rest assured there will be many more to come that they won't waste, either. And the only solution we'll be offered will one that regulates our lives at an ever-increasing rate, growing the power of government at our monetary and political expense.

Once again: I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
Continuing this line of thought, I observed later that "Washington does not do crisis management. It does management by crisis."

Come now Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie, writing in the WaPo of the crumbling disarray of President Obama's signature programs.
Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike.
The president's approval rating stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. And exactly the same percentage of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track.

Rasmussen's daily tracking poll reveals that while 30 percent of Americans strongly approve of the president's job performance, a whopping seven percent more strongly disapprove.
Voters see cost, not universal coverage, as the biggest health care concern. ... Half (50%) now oppose creation of a public insurance company to compete with private insurers. Seventy-eight percent (78%) believe that health care reform is likely to lead to middle class tax hikes.
Welch and Gillespie continue,
From a lousy cap-and-trade bill awaiting death in the Senate to a health-care reform agenda already weak in the knees to the failure of the stimulus to deliver promised jobs and economic activity, what once looked like a hope-tastic juggernaut is showing all the horsepower of a Chevy Cobalt. ...
Obama seems determined to reprise the worst traits of both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush (rare is the politician who can manage that!) while ignoring the best traits of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan in economic policy. And for that matter, ignoring JFK, too. (In fact, I actually started a post category called Bush Rehab to show the ways that the new boss is the same as the old boss, but gave up after only four posts. I couldn't keep up. Glenn Reynolds, however, has here and here.)
The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year. ...

What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance. Instead, Obama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another.

On this last point, Obama is a perfect extension of Bush's worst trait as president. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act, a massive, transformative piece of legislation that plainly went unread even as Congress overwhelmingly voted aye. Bush whipped up an atmosphere of crisis every time he sensed a restive Congress or a dissatisfied electorate. And at the end of his tenure, he rammed through the TARP bailout at warp speed, arguing that the United States yet again faced catastrophe at the hands of an existential threat.
I predicted as much the very day after Obama took office:
Big government is itself apolitical. It cares not whose party is in power. It simply continues to grow. Its nourishment is the people’s money. Its excrement is more and more regulations and laws. Like the Terminator, "that’s what it does, that’s all it does." Roosevelt, Bush, Obama: we're a day into Terminator 3 now, and you know how that movie ends.
The fact that there is no threat actually existing, no crisis actually imperiling America to justify the robbery of sovereignty from the American people that this administration is committing is not slowing the thievery in the slightest. As the WaPo piece points out:
But contrary to the dreams of dystopians and paranoiacs everywhere, there simply is no outside threat to the American way of life. No country can challenge us militarily; no economic system stands to dislodge capitalism; no terrorist group can do anything more than land the occasional (if horrendous) blow. And as history has shown, the U.S. economy is resilient enough to overcome the worst-laid plans from the White House.

Bush learned the hard way that running government as a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Obama's insistence on taking advantage of a crisis to push through every item on the progressive checklist right now is threatening to complete that cycle within his first year.
We've been had for so long by so many that we have come to think it is the norm. Whether we will - or can - wake up in time to save what's left of the American ideal is still an open question.

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