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Mr. President, You're Stuck on Stupid Keynes: The End of a Bad Idea

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A Bridge Too Far

by Christopher Chantrill
June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm

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ACCORDING to Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard, the Obamis are planning a lame-duck session of Congress, “filled with defeated and retired senators and House members,” to pass a VAT tax.

Liberals know that they only get a chance to enact progressive legislation once in a generation. That’s when the cycle of politics throws up a liberal majority in Congress and liberals have the votes to cram down their agenda. That’s why President Obama is in such a hurry, eager to jam down liberal legislation in the teeth of popular opposition.

I call it the ratchet.

In the 1900 decade, liberals got to do a ratchet on popular election of senators, the income tax, and central banking. They got to do a ratchet on financial regulation, pro-labor legislation, Social Security and welfare in the 1930s. Only the NRA wage and price controls got repealed. They got to do civil rights, and ratchet the war on poverty and environment in the 1960s. Only one welfare program out of 79 got to be repealed—30 years later. And now, after a forty year hiatus, liberals are hoping to ratchet ObamaCare and a huge expansion of the stealth welfare state onto the American people.

Obviously, as President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rush to jam their agenda through this year, and plan for a lame-duck session after the election to pass the VAT tax, they are assuming that the 20th century liberal ratchet still applies. Voters will want to keep their new entitlements. The extreme right wing will never be able to take them away.

But maybe the lame-duck session will be a bridge too far. The question is: will the defeat be a minor setback, like the bridge at Arnhem in 1944? Or will it be a strategic defeat like the German attempt to close off the Kursk salient in 1943?

Here are six reasons to hope for a strategic reverse.

The Upchuck Factor. After the liberal legislative banquet comes the upchuck, the moment when the American geese object to force-feeding by the latest liberal president. I’ve written that the time it takes for the American people to get into upchuck mode seems to be going down. For President Clinton it was two years from inauguration. For President Obama it was two months.

No Money to Co-opt the Middle Class. The great Irving Kristol used to say that the only way to help the poor was to deal in the middle class. You want to help the poor in old age? You have to include the middle class in Social Security and Medicare. ObamaCare and cap-and-tax and VAT violate this principle. Liberals get the benefits. The middle class just gets to pay.

Government Default. In This Time is Different Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff write that while developing nations often default on their sovereign debt, mature nations don’t. But after reading a book of essays on government finance edited by Michael D. Bordo and Roberto Cortes-Conde, I’d disagree. All governments default in the end. Britain and the US didn’t default through the long 19th century, but both did a partial default in the 1930s and ever since have followed a policy of rolling default, i.e. inflation. Guess how the US government is going to deal with its $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Dynastic Decline. Everyone knows about the Chinese dynasties. The Last Emperor in the dynasty is a blithering idiot played by Peter O’Toole. Even in the US the founding Adams family declined from the curmudgeonly John, to the insufferable John Quincy, to the merely historian Henry. Our present progressive dynasty, the educated elite, is showing definite signs of decay. Obama is no FDR. And Rahm Emanuel plus David Axelrod and dozens of Czars are no 1930s Brains Trust.

The Road to Injustice. It’s telling that the Obama administration is following the letter of the law when it comes to life jackets and fire extinguishers on barges, on environmental permitting and keeping up with the Jones Act. But when it comes to paying for the cleanup, BP is supposed to pay up without regard to law; conscientious objector Joe Barton (R-TX) gets tarred and feathered. All governing parties end up dealing out naked injustice.

The Revolt of the CEOs. All over America, CEOs are punching out the windows on their executive jets. Er, sorry. That’s just my little joke. There will never be a revolt of the CEOs. That’s because, using Secretary Salazar’s metaphor, the liberal elite has had its boot firmly on the necks of the CEOs for the best part of a century. If and when the CEOs show any signs of life, it will be the sign that the conservative revolution is at hand and it is time for the rats to leave the sinking ship.

Of course, maybe Obamism isn’t a bridge too far. Maybe ObamaCare will stick and the American people will decide that the Tea Party offers a false choice between Hope and Change.

But second thoughts are for the future. Today we organize. Today we fight. And always we hope.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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