Saturday, March 21, 2009
A statist is as a statist does
Economist Alan Blinder, a Democrat who served in the Clinton Administration and as an advisor to Sen. John Kerry during his failed 2004 presidential campaign, took to the Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages yesterday to proclaim that President B. Hussein Obama is not a socialist.
I will concede Blinder this point: Obama is not a socialist in the academic sense; he's never stated that he's for public ownership of all property. However, Obama's policies are definitely statist, and a convincing argument can be made that they are quasi-socialistic as well.
Before I leave Alan Blinder, I have to address this point: Blinder states in his op-ed that Obama's proposal to return to Bill Clinton's tax rates is "hardly radical." I have news for Mr. Blinder: any president who proposes to substantially raise marginal tax rates during a serious economic downturn is not only radical, it's just plain stupid (see Herbert Hoover's tax-raisin' during the early stages of the Great Depression).
Now as to Obama's statism, I'll let Mark Steyn tell you 'bout it:
But here we are 20 minutes in, and full-scale Europeanization is already under way: Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized college education, Europeanized climate-change policy ... Obama’s pseudo-SOTU speech was America’s first State of the European Union address, in which the president deftly yoked the language of American exceptionalism to the cause of European statism. Apparently, nothing testifies to the American virtues of self-reliance, entrepreneurial energy, and the can-do spirit like joining the vast army of robotic extras droning in unison: "The government needs to do more for me." For the moment, Washington is offering Euro-sized government with Euro-sized economic intervention, Euro-sized social programs, and Euro-sized regulation. But apparently not Euro-sized taxation.
Hmm. Even the Europeans haven’t attempted that trick. But don’t worry, if that pledge not to increase taxes on families earning under $250,000 doesn’t have quite the Continental sophistication you’re looking for in your federal government, I doubt it will be operative very long.
Most Americans don’t yet grasp the scale of the Obama project. The naysayers complain, Oh, it’s another Jimmy Carter, or It’s the new New Deal, or It’s LBJ’s Great Society applied to health care. You should be so lucky. Forget these parochial nickel’n’dime comparisons. It’s all those multiplied a gazillionfold and nuclearized — or Europeanized, which is less dramatic but ultimately more lethal. For a distressing number of American liberals, the natural condition of an advanced, progressive Western democracy is Scandinavia, and the U.S. has just been taking a wee bit longer to get there. You’ve probably heard academics talking about "the Swedish model" and carelessly assumed they were referring to the Britt Ekland retrospective on AMC. If only. And, incidentally, fond though I am of Britt, the fact that I can think of no Swedish dolly bird of the last 30 years with which to update that gag is itself a telling part of the problem. Anyway, under the Swedish model, state spending accounts for 54 percent of GDP. In the U.S., it’s about 40 percent. Ten years ago, it was 34 percent. So we’re trending Stockholmwards.
And why stop there? In Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, government spending accounts for between 72 and 78 percent of the economy, which is about the best a "free" society can hope to attain this side of complete Sovietization. Fortunately for what’s left of America’s private sector, "the Welsh model" doesn’t have quite the same beguiling euphony as "the Swedish model." Even so, if Scandinavia really is the natural condition of an advanced democracy, then we’re all doomed. And by "doomed" I’m not merely making the usual overheated rhetorical flourish in an attempt to persuade you to stick through the rather dry statistics in the next paragraph, but projecting total societal collapse and global conflagration, and all sooner than you think.
Read the rest here.