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Pork -- it's for everyone, including Obama

The president's 'solutions' to the economic crisis amount to spending as much as possible for as long as possible.

June 30, 2009|JONAH GOLDBERG

There's an old joke about a fantastic three-legged pig and a farmer. It comes in many versions. In some tellings, the pig saves the farmer's life. In another, it can talk. And the punch line always comes after a visitor asks the farmer, "So how come he only has three legs?"

"Because," explains the farmer, "you don't want to eat a pig like that all at once."

More and more, it seems that the Obama administration has just that attitude toward the economic crisis: doling out pork for as long as possible.

Recall the White House mantra of "never let a crisis go to waste." Though the economic implosion had specific causes stemming from the financial and housing markets and how they were regulated, President Obama insisted that his campaign wish list -- overhauling healthcare, imposing carbon cap-and-trade and reforming education -- would be the real solutions to the crisis.

"The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight," Obama told Congress in February. And only by "investing" in policies formulated years before "toxic asset" became household words could America really get out of the crisis.

As a result, we're now stuck with some of the most absurdly counterproductive legislation imaginable. The national debt is growing faster than the GDP. According to the Congressional Budget Office, within 10 years, Uncle Sam's publicly held debt will double to 82%. By 2038, the CBO predicts that our debt will be 200% of GDP. Debt siphons off growth for the simple reason that dollars go to paying it off rather than investing in something productive.

Meanwhile, thanks to ongoing trade deficits and relentless borrowing, America's financial status is deteriorating rapidly. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the value of U.S. assets owned by Americans is $19.89 trillion, while the value of American assets owned by foreigners is $23.36 trillion. In other words, as of 2008, we are a "net debtor" to the tune of $3.47 trillion. That represents a 62% increase over 2007. Foreigners, most significantly China, own nearly 50% of all the government's public debt.

So while the Obama administration frets over the largely phony idea that we are dangerously dependent on foreign oil (Canada sends us as much oil as the entire Persian Gulf region, and Mexico not much less), we are increasingly threatened by dependence on foreign bondholders who could wreak havoc on the dollar and our interest rates far more easily than OPEC could cut off our oil.

And what are we doing in response? For starters, the Democrat-controlled House passed carbon cap-and-trade legislation that, as it stands, essentially adds an onerous and inefficient energy tax on everyone, outsources jobs to carbon-profligate India and China and raises tariffs in an attempt to stem the inevitable bleeding of jobs and manufacturing (the last time we raised tariffs in the midst of a bad recession, we got the Depression). Rather than invest in new oil and gas jobs (among the highest-paying of any industry), Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that one-time gigs weatherizing Granny's attic and replacing light bulbs are preferable.

Worse, even if you think climate change is a huge threat, the bill's own supporters admit its impact on global warming will be trivial to nonexistent. But, we're told, we must lead by example.

Then there's healthcare "reform," aspects of which the administration insists will save money. But according to the CBO, the whole thing will cost $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion. The savings will allegedly come from government-imposed efficiency -- which approaches "jumbo shrimp" as an oxymoron. It's funny how nobody has been talking up Medicare as a source of huge savings, and yet that's the model: Medicare for everyone.

Now, in fairness, the Obama administration did tackle the crisis more directly. It passed a $787-billion stimulus bill that hasn't prevented unemployment from soaring (in January, when the stimulus was on the table, the administration estimated it would mean joblessness would peak at just above 8%; it's now 9.4% and rising). Maybe that's because the vast bulk of the stimulus wasn't meant to kick in until 2010 and beyond -- after the administration's predicted robust economic growth began. Or maybe it's because much of it was intended to pay for a pent-up wish list of Democratic projects.

Now Obama is publicly mulling the possibility of a "second stimulus" that would in fact be the third stimulus (let's not forget President Bush's $168-billion "booster shot for our economy") paid for with money we don't have or with tax hikes we don't need. But hey, anything's worth it to savor the pig for as long as possible.

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