The Corner

Atlas Still Shrugging . . .

The only mystery over the release of unemployment statistics was not whether it was going to be bad — everyone can sense the stasis in their own community first-hand — but whom would Barack Obama blame: Bush? The Republican Congress? The E.U. meltdown? The recent hot weather or summer in general? ATM machines? Hurricanes on the horizon?

After sharp recessions, we usually get more robust than average recoveries, but since June 2009, things have not recovered at all really, and we are in a sort of permanent European-style slowdown — sort of a recession, sort of a weak recovery.

If one wanted to ensure permanent 8 percent to 9 percent unemployment, one might try the following:

1. Run up serial $1 trillion deficits

2. Add $5 trillion to the national debt in three and a half years

3. Impose a 2,400-page, trillion-dollar new federal takeover of health care, with layers of new taxation, much of it falling on the middle class and employers, even as favored concerns are given mass exemptions.

4. Scare employers with constant us/them class warfare rhetoric about a demonized one-percenter class and its undeserved profits; constantly talk about raising new taxes and imposing regulations, ensuring uncertainty and convincing employers of unpredictability in regulation and taxes. You cannot convince a country to go into permanent near-recession, but President Obama is doing his best to try.

5. Appoint a bipartisan committee to study the fiscal crisis and then neglect all its recommendations.

#more#6. Subsidize failed green companies, while denigrating successful gas and oil concerns, as well as putting rich oil-and-gas federal leases off limits.

7. Vastly increase unemployment insurance, disability, and food-stamp constituencies, while promising all sorts of mortgage, credit-card, and student-loan bailouts.

8. Borrow hundreds of billions for stimulus programs that are not shovel ready, but are rather aimed to bail out state budgets, pensions, and unions.

9. Federalize elements of non-profitable private companies, while threatening to shut down profitable plants for supposed union or environmental incorrect behavior.

10. Do not address changing the above policies, but rather blame others for such self-induced stagnation.

Do the above and you can pretty much always ensure something like the present slow-down. Both employers and consumers are convinced that these are uncertain times, when money is better hoarded and protected rather than risked, given the uncertainty of administration policy and the certainty that profit-making is looked upon as suspicious. And just as many believe there will be no let up until the end of 2012, so, too, they trust that after that date, the long-term outlook — energy-wise, tax-wise, technology-wise — is pretty good, suggesting that they should weather the current storm to be poised for its passing soon. We are now at an impasse: The nation is shrugging, and will the president try to coax it to start lifting again, or in petulance, add more weight?

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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