As I absorb the fresh assault of news items reporting on the latest incursion of Congress or President into the lives of Americans, I feel somewhat at a loss as to how to characterize what the hell is going on!
A simple list of the threats to life as we know it and want it to be is a great challenge. I am sure to leave something out. Anyway, it's a good place to start. Just the list. The book, the article, the commentary cannot be written just yet because the ground is changing to rapidly under our feet. The earthquake is not over.
- Government spending obligations continue to rise- no end in sight and no good plan to pay for it.
- Taxes are starting to rise everywhere – as predicted.
- Environmental initiatives imply new taxes, new restrictions – I challenge any honest person to deny that this will have no effect whatsoever on so-called global warming – it may, however, destroy the economic recovery.
- Labor union power is on the rise – my report that this initiative had died was premature. As resources are moving from the private sector to the government sector the power of labor movements is increasing. Unemployment in the governments sector is about 2%. Unemployment in the private sector is about 9%. We are seeing strikes, and expensive political initiatives against any attempt to introduce fiscal responsibility into government. Government workers, unlike workers in the private sectors, are refusing to make sacrifices – like foregoing salary increases and bonuses. These can only be paid by taxpayers. Those who take are increasing at the expense of those who give. The reincarnation of union power in America is an ominous development, one that could destroy its economy.
- Health care reform is downright scary. The details of the President's plan have been left deliberately vague, but the indications are that this is really about bringing more of the health care insurance and delivery system under the control of the Federal government – in short it looks like it is a move to make all of health care more like Medicare. Medicare operates at a huge loss, with great waste and corruption, and succeeds in spite of this to deliver health care to millions of mature Americans, only because of the very high-priced-high-quality private health care system that subsidizes it. The impending deficit for Medicare dwarfs the huge social security deficit. This initiative is a power grab to nationalize medicine and it will make health care less accessible, less innovative, less responsive, and less attractive to doctors, nurses, paramedics, patients and everyone involved. The ultimate human and monetary cost defy estimation and imagination. An aspect of this is the bringing of health-care insurance under the umbrella of the Federal government. This will discourage access to new and effective medicines and strengthen the hand of the FDA in denying such important treatments to millions of Americans each year, in the treatment of cancer and other life threatening diseases. It will also mean a centralization of medical records with the Federal government gaining enormously increased power.
- Protectionism is on the rise – initiatives to protect domestic industries with trade barriers and subsidies – very dangerous.
- Incipient Inflation is a real threat. The level of reserves created by the Fed is very high and the prospect of "mopping" this up very dubious to my mind. Inflation is the most insidious tax of all.
- The power of government continues to expand everywhere you look. The President is talking about controlling the actions of even those companies who have not accepted TARP money, while those who have are already being micromanaged by government bureaucrats. And the Fed now has control over all manner of "banking" not only commercial banks, but investment banks and brokers as well. Big brother has grown very big.
- Antitrust – there are alarming indications that this administration is going to move toward a European approach to anti-trust – competition in which there are any losers is a bad thing (witness the recent butchering of Intel in Europe). In fact the Europeanization of American public policy seems to be a common theme in much of the above.
Have I left anything out?
I cannot talk authoritatively about foreign policy, but I worry about it.
Actually, with the Democrats so powerful in Congress, there are some things that the President could do, some real opportunities to do something good amidst this madness. I can think of three – maybe there are others.
- Immigration – surely Democrats could get behind an initiative to free up the movement of workers across borders to the north and especially to the south. Lets declare amnesty for all those who have lived peacefully and gainfully employed in America for at least two years and make is easier to get a work visa. On what basis could "liberal" Democrats oppose this.
- School Choice- President Obama supports the public school systems in America, but, like the vast majority of Democratic members of Congress, sends his kids to expensive private schools. What hypocrisy! It does not have to be like that. School choice can be extended to all parents in America, starting with the poorest in Washington DC where the mayor (who is black) is leading a movement in favor of school-choice. Charter schools are a start and Obama can begin by refusing to destroy the charter movement in DC that is immanent in a bill before Congress. But parent scholarships or vouchers is a logical step for the whole country. On what basis could "liberal" Democrats oppose the giving of school choice to parents of lower-income children? It could hardly be worse for them than it is now. The real obstacle is the unscrupulous, self-serving power of the teacher-unions. President Obama could really show intelligence and courage on this one. He could get lots of non-partisan support.
- The Drug War - is prohibitively costly. The collateral damage is accumulating and is not worth it. Even if one does not believe that people have a right to decide what substances to consume, there is no way to justify this "war" in any realistic cost-benefit terms. The resources committed, the corruption produced, the private lives violated and destroyed, it is a catastrophe. President Obama can get out ahead on this - change the focus from enforcement to education - reallocate resources. Decriminalizing the drug traffic would put the violent cartels out of business. Surely "liberals" can support this.