Friday, April 9, 2010


As a “student of history”, I’m well aware that we’re currently living in a very historical time, or as some call them, “interesting times”. Historians, I am certain, will be tracing our current economic quagmire and expanding entitlement & spending bloat to one particularly historical event that occurred on September 11th, 2001. The lineage is not clear? Allow me to make some sweeping oversimplifications that you’ll be seeing in history books starting in 5-10 years, simplifications that I happen to agree with.

9/11 was an epochal event in recent American history (duh). It produced a wave of dread that I myself got swept up in, along with an outpouring of support for the President, who was nearly spot-on in those early days (if tone-deaf for most of the rest of his presidency). Bush rode that wave into complete overconfidence and a supposed mandate to conduct wars on foreign soil against shadowy terrorist networks, extending this war in 2003 with the backing of large majorities of the American people and of Congress to Iraq, which was connected to the War-on-Terror only in the sense of being a potential threat (not, as we learned, an actual one). As the war turned from a "quick victory" to an mismanaged, violent boondoggle to something that most Americans just wanted to ignore, Bush lost any lustre that he once had with Americans, and in a very big way. As more facts came out about how badly things were going over there – and the circumstances by which we got in – Americans turned on their president, who himself compounded matters by becoming one of the biggest presidential spenders & expanders of government of all time.

Bush and the Republican Party undid any differentiation they once had with free-spending Democrats, helped drive a recession, and hugely alienated large swaths of the American people, myself included. As punishment for quote-unquote imperial overreach, Americans voted for the fresh-faced new guy who promised a way out of the wars. We all figured that, yeah, he’s pretty liberal, but he just might move to the Center on economics – like Clinton did, right? He has to – we’re in a deep recession – right? So here we are, with a new President presiding over the greatest expansion of government since the mid-1960s, at one of the worst possible times to do so in American history. We’re still fighting and paying dearly in both money and lives for two wars, one of which he’s escalated. Entitlements at the federal and state level are threatening to bankrupt multiple states very soon, including California, for years the state that could most rightly be said to be the economic engine of America. And Obama and Congress just rammed through an entitlement that will set us back even further for decades, all on smoke, mirrors and lies they sold to the CBO that everyone knows were bogus. There will be no reduction in the nation’s ballooning, and frankly very scary, national debt, and everyone in Washington knows it.

So the terrorists won? I remember all sort of talk back in 2001 about how they wanted to bring down the Empire with one cataclysmic statement. Ironically, this chain of events that they set off may very well do just that. I keep hoping for good-old-Yankee ingenuity and some wake-up leadership in Washington to help make it right again, but I fear that only several state bankruptcies and the drying up of overseas lending to the US will start the ball rolling (both are coming, I am convinced - and for years I've been a total optimist), and even then far too slowly for meaningful change for years.

Sobering stuff, and a linkage I’m sure will be at least part of the history curriculum when the years 2000-2010 are studied & debated.

1 comment:

sean said...

No argument from me on any of this. The spending increases by the republican congress became the new baseline once the democrats got back into power in 2006, and there was no way President Obama was going to do any belt tightening.

Add in the TARP nonsense and the Auto industry bailout, where the was at the very least the perception (and probably the reality) that insiders were given special treatment, and I think we have a glimpse of our future.

I recognise that this is beyond the scope of your brief essay, but I think the Elian Gonzalez and Terri Schiavo cases are going to loom large in the coming years as the harbingers of increased Federal power. Both were hard and difficult cases and any objective observer could see the merits of both sides. In the Elian case, the boy's mother died to get him to the US, but his father wanted him back; In Schiavo, her parents wanted to take over her care, while her husband wanted to fulfill her unwritten wishes. Read the appellate court decisions in the Elian case and you can see the judges giving deference to the State Department despite their clear indication that nothing in the law compelled the return of the boy to Cuba. In the Schiavo case, a fucking Act of Congress allowed Federal judicial review of the multiple state court decisions, and how that was not a Bill of Attainder I will never understand. Thank god the judges in Schiavo (I think they were Reagan appointees) understood the limits of federalism and said "thanks for letting us review this, but we are declining and giving deference to the state court decisions."

Both of those cases are examples of the imperious exercise of federal power, and it does not matter if you call yourself a liberal or a conservative, once you cross the Potomac, you thirst for it.

The states are barely functioning as a bulwark against federal power. Once some of those states go belly up financially (and you are right, it is coming) and there is some sort of federal bailout with strings attached, we can say good bye to that, and settle narcoleptically into direct rule from the District of Columbia.

I think you live in California, so you may be the first to go bankrupt. I am in NJ, so I won't be far behind.