Thank You for the Stimulus
One standard modern procedure for a military battle when you hope to take ground is to “prepare the field”: use artillery, close air support, etc. to soften and confuse the enemy before you take the field yourself.
Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
—Sun Tzu’s Art of War, ss. 6.2: Weak Points and Strong
While this “budget battle” is hardly a military endeavor, for conservatives, the President has unknowingly helped us to “prepare the field” for returning liberty to the hands of the American people.
If spending money by the central government leads to prosperity, then certainly we should expect to be awash in said prosperity today, wouldn’t you think?
President Obama’s “stimulus” spent $821 billion on relief programs and alleged projects to spur job growth. Without giving focus to the “promises” within the marketing for passage of this bill, we can focus solely upon the results since the 2 years following its passage.
So Obama and the Democrats were in charge, with their historic majorities able to spend money at levels never before seen in all the history of our Government. Thus, they were able to spend nearly unlimited levels of resources upon ideas, programs, and projects to their own heart’s content. Effectively, they were able to whatever they liked with their representative powers. What was the result of this government largesse?
The shorter point is this: by spending more resources than ever before on centrally-planned “economic stimulus” projects, we have seen one of the worst-performing economic cycles in the recorded history of our country. And we have not just received “temporary relief” in return, but also guaranteed higher government spending.
GDP growth since President Obama’s “stimulus” has been, at best, decidedly average. Even the Great Depression of the 1920’s was able to show better temporary growth in the short run than the sustained relative malaise of this Great Recession. It would seem some level of naïve to not also give weight to a theory that this obscene government spending (plus increasing the far-reaching yet unknown mandates by government on businesses and individuals) has some correlation to the inability of this economic cycle to retreat from this general malaise and back into vibrant growth – like every other recession or depression recorded before now.
In other words, if the government today is doing something never done before at this level – and the economy is also behaving in a way generally not seen before (not in a good way) following an economic trough – should we not begin to wonder if the two are related?
Frankly, for a reasonable person this is a relatively easy case to make. If the wisdom behind a larger central government, spending record amounts of money (most of which we have not yet earned) were able to lead us to record prosperity – should we not be seeing evidence of that NOW? Surely the argument for such a lack of empirical evidence of prosperity could never be “we just need more funding” when the argument began with the Government spending more (unearned) funds than ever before!
Yet, the statists in the audience cannot give up their holy grail of centralized planning and control. ‘The evidence be damned, this is working! We just need more time and more funding!’
Without diving further into Economics 201, let me get right to the point of my post.
Evidence is heavily mounting that there is little, if any wisdom in centralized economic planning. Further, the case for shrinking government is further prepared by the immorality of spending resources (debt) today that have not yet been earned.
The national debt stands today at roughly $14.3 Trillion. If we merely follow the proposed budgets of the Obama administration, we have no hope of even balancing the budget for an entire generation, much less addressing the debt already accrued. While President Obama is technically only responsible for the debt accrued during his administration, as the Chief Executive of our nation (and thus the federal government) he is severally responsible for addressing the deficit AND debt as it exists today. Leadership requires leadership.
To buttress the point, if we literally zero out spending to stupid levels: no defense, no entitlements, all federal public servants from the President to the cube farm residents work only as volunteers – it would take roughly 6 years to simply pay off the existing federal debt without considering interest payments during that time. When I speak of the morality of the federal government, we are literally talking about how we should spend today the tax revenues my toddler child has not yet earned long into the future. How can this be a morally upright position? We are literally making decisions today using money the next generation has not yet had a chance to earn and thus be taxed upon.
The sad thing about this current state today is that it is blatantly clear the field for shrinking government has been well-prepared. Further, citizen movements such as “The TEA party” and their kin have shown broad-based support within the population to address this imbalance between centralized government, spending, and liberty.
I say this is a sad thing, as it continues to apparently be a political hot-potato in Washington D.C. to seriously consider broad-based cuts to government spending in general, and “entitlements” and other long-standing programs in particular.
GOP leadership has allowed this well-prepared field to be squandered in the short term. They have lost the PR battle in D.C. and in the media at large. If the GOP hopes to convince political moderates of the strength of their position, they need to realize and believe they speak from the proverbial higher ground. Who will believe you are in a position of strength if you continually act in weakness? Positions of strength do not remain so unless they are protected forcefully.
GOP leaders have instead believed the well-rehearsed propaganda of the statists that the GOP does not have a mandate to make serious cuts…that the worst thing that could happen for the GOP would be to “repeat 1995” and shut down the government. The statists of the left are clearly rooting for this shutdown to happen. What the GOP leadership continues to fail understanding is this is NOT 1995 – that was 16 years ago! I’ve already pointed out the clear field preparations that exist today, and much of this did not exist then. In particular, a CRUSHING debt and a tsunami of deficits (threatening to explode the former) did not exist in 1995.
Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity proposal at broad-based budget reform is naturally an excellent first step in the right direction. While Nancy Pelosi is apparently convinced that cutting one dollar from the federal budget will starve grandma, Paul Ryan’s proposal is remarkably modest, on balance.
This sort of budgetary reform has been well-telegraphed for some time and is not unexpected. I also realize that presently the GOP holds only one house of Congress and is thus hamstrung by the reality that the Democrats heavily check the ability of the GOP to reform anything. That said, the GOP effectively holds the keys to the purse! Let the Democrats shut down the government.
Let Democrats and President Obama own the immoral ground of spending the unearned taxes of our children on ant research projects, understanding monkey unfairness, and planting palm trees in Fresno, CA.
True budgetary reform will not be a quick-fix process, this much is certain. Our country has now spent multiple generations accruing this debt and government largesse, so no sane person expects it to happen in fiscal 2011.
However, the short-term actions of the present GOP leadership in apparently squandering a well-prepared field to even trim $61 billion from the current budget – a mere 4% of the current deficit – do not endear much optimism for their leadership ability.
If we cannot trust them with the small things, how can we trust them with the big things?
The continuing resolutions need to stop. At the very least, if more CR’s are required, they should get exponentially difficult for Democrats and the President to sign upon. The agenda of the American taxpayer should not wait for the political comfort of statists and Democrats. The U.S. House needs to pass a fiscal 2011 budget that makes serious, substantial cuts to the existing budget…$60-100 billion is a serious minimum, and let it ride. The bill(s) need to take DEEP hacks at some of the burgeoning government mandates of the last four years, particularly including the EPA and the Dept. of Health. I would also like the leadership to take a strong swipe at repealing or heavily neutering Obamacare and its time-release stink bombs. Also, take a strong push toward repealing the Dodd-Frank financial deform bill and replace it with a serious reform that addresses the structurally inept issues that still exist (partly due to previous “reforms”) – particularly Fannie/Freddie et.al., and the peculiar role of government in the mortgage and financial industry.
It would a moral and easily-defensible position to draw a line in the sand and politically declare ‘we are finished with squandering the resources of our future generations, cuts must happen now,’ and let the Democrats stake out the low ground while crying foul. The case could easily and intelligently be made, but it requires some calcium in your political backbone.
Does the GOP have enough?
Cross-posted at BA Cyclone‘s blog.