I'm sorry but I'm having a hard time concentrating on anything other than this budget travesty. We'll get back to medicine soon enough. But, my God. What just happened this week? President Obama just got done spending over a trillion dollars of money he doesn't even have yet.
But the thing that pisses me off is the faintly scolding tone to his rhetoric. We hear about how now is the time to rectify past sins, now is when we will atone for the profligate ways of the "rich" over the past 10 years. Listen to his words:
"There's nothing wrong with making money," Obama's budget document said, "but there is something wrong when we allow the playing field to be tilted so far in the favor of so few."
Now what exactly does this mean? What is the implication here? That the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States exists because of nefarious, unfair tax codes? Really? In all seriousness? You mean the disappearance of the American middle class has nothing to do with de-industrialization and the failure of our nation to come up with some sort of transitional paradigm that would replace those steady, well-paying blue-collar factory jobs that got shipped off to Mexico or Asia? That all we have to do is take more chunks of money from those lucky enough to find themselves in the upper echelon of earning potential and everything will be just fine?
President Obama, despite all his avowed intellect and perspicacity, is making an irrational leap of induction that goes something like this: since we have entered a down cycle unlike anything we have seen in this country since the 1930's, capitalism must be fundamentally flawed and the solution is now to transition as quickly as possible to a nanny state and an unabashed redistributionist tax policy. The crisis we face is presented in overly simplistic, either/or terms-- either you are an avaricious, selfish champion of the sort of capitalism practiced by Americans for a hundred years and obviously led to our current dire straits or you now see the light and realize that only the federal governement can protect you, only the federal government can judiciously decide how we allocate our capital. For all of Obama's supposed "nuance" and "pragmatism", this sort of presentation isn't nuanced or complicated at all; it's pure propaganda for a leftist state.
Read through his opening remarks on the 2009 budget. After breezily running through examples of the intransigence of individuals left to their own devices he says, "at this particular moment, government must lead the way", as if there are no other options. You screwed up America. Now Daddy is here to put us all on the right path. Daddy will figure it all out, don't you worry. And the brazenness with which he brandishes his Big Government entreaties is utterly shocking.
We need to put tired
ideologies aside, and ask not whether our Government
is too big or too small, or whether it is the
problem or the solution, but whether it is working
for the American people. Where it does not, we
will stop spending taxpayer dollars; where it has
proven to be effective, we will invest. This is the
approach, for example, we have begun in allocating
funds to education, health care, and national
Again, he disengenuously presents himself as Pragmatist (i.e. "whether it is working..."), and then follows it up with actions that are ideologic rather than truly pragmatic. Read the second two sentences in the above blockquote again. The implication is that this regime will spend and spend and keep spending and later on, when the results trickle in, maybe they'll stop throwing around tax payer coin on those things that didn't work out so well, come what may. That's astounding. He's saying, "we're going to throw billions of your money around, some of it may stick, some may be wasted, we'll just have to see", and calling himself a pragmatist while he does it. What the hell, it's your money anyway, he seems to be saying. It's false and misleading and if you disagree with him, then you'll be held accountable for the impending "catastrophe" (which apparently is avoidable only if you fall into line with the Plan).
Listen, I'm not a Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh-esque conservative. I hate those guys. I'm not old enough or curious enough to know how a Conservative is "supposed" to act and think. All I can do is interpret the events of my life and form political opinions based on some sort of fusion of subjective and objective data. That's how I function. The Bush Presidency was an unqualified disaster on many fronts and certainly bears a large share of responsibility for our current state of affairs. I'm not advocating for The Republican Party. My stance on most social issues leans rather leftward. The neo-cons and the flapping jaws on FoxNews who have seized the mantle of "Conservative Gatekeeper" have alienated so many younger, upwardly mobile people from my generation who, from a fiscal standpoint, would seem to represent the future of the GOP, but are turned off by a party now fronted by Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. It's sad, really.
With wealth comes great responsibility. Obama is correct on that count. Society falls apart if life degenerates into a relentless, Hobbesian battle for the spoils between competing individuals and factions. We need schools and safety net health care and adequate roads and a strong national defense and our federal government is best suited to provide them. But why is it that this administration equates a man's obligation to society with how much he gives to the federal government. It's a "New Era of Responsibility", he says. By giving more, the rich will finally fufill their responsibilities. Why is this the only option? Why would anyone in their right mind think that the federal government is best suited to efficiently and cost effectively solve all the problems of mankind? Where in history is this evident?
What about the "rich" man who is a doctor in the community and provides free care to all the late night ER admits that end up on his service. Or the local attorney who gives thousands of dollars to the public library for the creation of a new children's reading room? Or the bank vice president who endows the local symphony? How will charity and local endowments be affected by this new tax code? You want to arbitrarily define "obligation" as 40% of what I earn, fine; but let me at least direct 10 percent of that to a charity or needy cause of my choice. Sending more to fund this wasteful morass in Washington DC is simply imtolerable.
You see, this isn't just a tax hike. What's happening now is epochal. It's societal reconfiguration. It could potentially change us on an ontologic level for generations, in terms of how we define success and obligation and our relationship to the at-large society. I know, that sounds like outlandish hyperbole. But listen to the content of the words coming out of Washington. Insidiously (and I say insidious because our President was elected under the guise of being the 'pragmatic centrist'), this brand new Administration has launched an all-out assault on the very form of capitalism that allowed this country to ascend to its heights of power, wealth, influence, and innovation. We're going all in with Keynesian economics. There's no turning back after this budget. Time will tell if it's justified.