Now that Obama is the president, fasten your seat belts. During his first year in office, and particularly during his first hundred days, we are about to witness the most prodigious output of legislation since 1981-2 (under Reagan), 1964-5 (under Johnson), and 1933-36 (under Roosevelt). The combination of top heavy Democratic majorities in Congress and a mood of public fear bordering on panic over the financial crisis and the looming depression will speed his legislation through a compliant Senate and House.
We will enter his Administration as the United States, buoyed by an aggressive free market economy. We will exit his first year - and even the first hundred days - as France, burdened with massive government regulation, a vast public sector, and permanent middle class entitlements. And Obama will take care to arrange things so that massive and permanent political change accompanies his and protects his legislative achievements in the future.
He will call this radical change a stimulus package. He will dress up a generation of liberal priorities as necessary steps to fight the economic crisis. His programs and policies won't do much to end the depression. It will end only after the massive burden of debt is lifted from the shoulders of American and foreign households and companies, a process which will take years. At most, his stimulus will act as methadone while we withdraw from our debt addiction, mitigating the pain, smoothing over the trauma, and soothing our system.
But Obama's strategy is to hide inside the Trojan Horse of stimulus an army of radical measures to change America permanently.
The most pernicious of his proposals will be the massive Make Work Pay refundable tax credit. Dressed up as a tax cut, it will be a national welfare program, guaranteeing a majority of American households an annual check to "refund" taxes they never paid. And it will eliminate the need for about 20% of American households to pay income taxes, lifting the proportion that need not do so to a majority of the voting population. Unlike the Bush stimulus checks, this new program will be a permanent entitlement, a part of our budget that can only go up and never down. Politically, it will transform a majority of Americans from taxpayers, anxious to hold down government spending, into tax eaters, eager to reap new benefits.