The Corner

About Power, Not Kids

The president who has run up $5 trillion in debt in three years is now accusing those who are horrified by that figure of wishing to turn America into a “banana republic.” But don’t banana republics print money they don’t have?

I think the debt impasse distills into something like this. Obama et al. wanted to borrow $5 trillion to make things better and instead, by throwing around these borrowed trillions, made things far worse. So now, without any honest acknowledgment of that fact, they want to raise taxes on the upper middle classes to help to pay, not just for the continuation of these annual $1.5 trillion deficits, but to go back and start paying back some of the money that has been borrowed and wasted since 2009. That will be known as “fiscal responsibility” and opposition to it “recklessness.” And certainly the huge Obama debt has to be paid back — despite the early-2009 fantasy-land, Keynesian-gobbledly-gook talk that it did not.

The current conservative reply ought to be, essentially, “It didn’t work, so just go back and spend about what we were spending in 2006 or 2007, since the increases since then have made things worse, not better.”

The liberal retort is, “We are all in this together, and the bar since 2009 has been raised, like it or not, to a new level of government spending, and now we all have to pay for it.” In other words, the old adolescent promise that, “Okay, I won’t max out my credit card anymore, so let us just pay down the huge balance and let me keep the card.” 

In such a mindset, it matters nothing that we have achieved historical peacetime highs in federal spending as a percentage of the economy, or that we have run up record annual deficits, or that we have added more to the national debt in less time than at any point in our history since World War II. That was then, this is now.

We are supposed to forget all that — the “shovel-ready” stimulus, the 400,000 new jobs from Obamacare, Joe Biden’s eagle-eye monitoring of waste and fraud — and instead consider this bloated and unsustainable budget as traditional and sacrosanct. That way, courageous liberals willing to trim its vast increases are heroic and statesmanlike, while conservatives are out to hurt kids, the blind, and the aged in order to save Gulfstreams.

I wish the issue really was helping people. But the gargantuan Obama debt has scared employers and financial markets; his economic package of takeovers and more regulation and his spread-the-wealth rhetoric have led to stubborn 9.1 percent unemployment, slow growth, stagflation, record gas prices, etc. It is hard to see how he can believe that any more Greek-like borrowing will do anything but send us into depression. 

Therefore, the battle seems less about helping people and more about preserving a new, larger, and more redistributive federal government for those constituents invested directly in it on the receiving end (or, indeed, dependent entirely upon it), the technocracy that is so well rewarded for running it, and the power, control, and influence it affords to a D.C. overseer elite that so fiercely champions it.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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