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We Are All French


Conrad Black’s NRO piece on The Obama Economy contains, among many other intelligent observations, this comment:

In claiming to have cut the taxes of 95 percent of Americans, as in excoriating the Supreme Court for opening the floodgates of foreign corporate influence-buying (in fact, foreign corporations were exempted from the court’s ruling), he again strained credulity, which is particularly unwise when the president has to lead the country over difficult policy terrain.

No kidding. The president’s credulity has been strained to the consistency of Yorkshire peas. If the taxes of 95 percent of Americans actually had been cut, surely somebody other than Obama would have noticed. In fact, according to the New York Times, that “difficult policy terrain” is all uphill. But at least there are no twists and turns, if we follow the administration’s map, because taxes and deficits have left zero room for maneuvering. As David Sanger wrote a couple of days ago:

American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

For Mr. Obama and his successors, the effect of those projections is clear: Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors.

This parallels pretty neatly Le Figaro’s bottom-line analysis (I wrote about it here) of the options available to France, a country that also has “no room for new domestic initiatives” for the same reasons Sanger cites — it’s been taxed and overspent into paralysis.

In both cases, the only domestic initiatives that will matter, obviously, are those that actually do cut taxes or reduce spending. As Conrad Black puts it, “President Obama could recover quickly if he took the deficit seriously and presented imaginative but moderate policy initiatives on health care, energy use, and other key issues.”

That’s an “if” the size of the Ritz. The fact that these kinds of initiatives are now impossible in both countries, and for approximately the same reasons  — call it a failure of political imagination — is just damned triste.