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The Old ‘Not Enough’ Excuse
True believers in government spending can never be proved wrong.


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Victor Davis Hanson

To newly inaugurated Barack Obama and his prime-the-pump technocrats, the logic seemed so simple. America’s problem was a struggling economy. The solution was to spread around even more borrowed government money. The result would be a return to prosperity.

But after nearly three years and $4 trillion in borrowed “stimulus,” things have only gotten worse. Unemployment is stuck at 9.1 percent. Consumer confidence is approaching a record low.The stock market is tanking. National debt is increasing at a rate of $4 billion a day. Economic growth has almost vanished. America’s creditworthiness has been downgraded. The housing market is still depressed. Food and fuel prices are skyrocketing. In response, only 26 percent of the public expresses confidence in the president’s handling of the economy.

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Apparently, as even the president himself recently confessed, government cannot so easily manufacture “shovel-ready” jobs. But it did far better at scaring cash-hoarding businesses into a historic hiring paralysis with nonstop talk of higher taxes, more national debt, more regulations, them vs. us class-warfare rhetoric, threatened government shutdowns of private plants, and higher-priced energy.

Obama is still promising to borrow more for “infrastructure” and “jobs.” Despite nearly $15 trillion in federal debt, the administration apparently wants to defy the rules of logic and do more of what made things worse in the first place, under the euphemism of “investments.” American popular culture has coined all sorts of proverbial warnings about such mindless devotion to destructive rote: “Don’t flog a dead horse,” “If you are in a hole, stop digging,” and “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

No matter: The administration still adheres to the logical fallacy that the toxic medicine cannot be proven to be useless or harmful, because there was supposedly never enough of it given. And the proof is that the worsening patient is still not quite dead.  

The same fallacy arises over the rioting in Britain and the flash mobbing in American cities. With food stamps, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, disability payments, and general assistance at all-time highs in the affluent West, why did looters target mostly high-end stores? Was the criminality really due to a lack of government investment and public caring — or was it perhaps the result of too much coddling and dependency? Yet some observers are talking of renewed “investments,” not of pruning back the destructive programs that seemed to facilitate an angry underclass in robbing electronics and boutique-clothing stores.

That there is never enough spending is a seductive fallacy because it never requires any empirical proof: If millions of those supported by the state have lost their self-reliance and self-initiative, perhaps it is because millions supported by the state were not supported well enough, and so in response, some resorted to stealing things they could not afford.

Consider also the current government-sponsored notion of “millions of green jobs” — a siren call that Obama and “green-jobs czar” Van Jones voiced to lift the economy and transition America over to sustainable, affordable energy. But tens of billions of wasted dollars later, electricity and gas prices are at near-record levels. The attempt to make subsidized green power competitive by cutting back on fossil-fuel exploration while trying to shut down coal plants and stop gas pipelines has only made energy prices climb and further burdened American households.

Meanwhile, hundreds of billions in green subsidies created neither much new energy nor many new jobs. But the massive handouts did provide a lot of public money in sweetheart deals to administration-friendly companies that either went broke, outsourced jobs to China, or hired the unemployed at insane costs, sometimes at $2 million per worker.

Yet despite the dismal record, President Obama is still touting the same-old, same-old, 2008 “millions of green jobs” mantra, apparently on the fallacious notion that massive subsidies to government-supported plants like Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts and Johnson Controls in Michigan have not worked too well — only because there were not enough costly investments.

As we witness the financial insolvency of blue-state America, the monetary meltdown in southern Europe, and the criminality breaking out among some members of the Western underclass, logic suggests that massive state deficits not only did not bring a promised utopia, but ensured chaos.

But for those who are invested materially and psychologically in the religion of never-ending government borrowing and spending, there is always the true believers’ excuse of “not quite enough.”

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



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