George Will

WASHINGTON -- Epiphanies are a dime a dozen among congressional Democrats as they discover urgent new reasons to experience the almost erotic pleasure of commandeering other people's money. For example, freshman Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat whose district includes Disney World, was recently there and was inspired.

The world, he realized, would be a sweeter place if Congress mandated that all companies with 100 or more employees provide a week of paid vacation to those who work at least 25 hours a week. After three years, they would be entitled to two weeks, and companies with more than 50 employees would have to start providing a paid vacation week. Grayson would not mandate that paid vacations be spent at Disney World.

With the welfare state approaching insolvency and businesses sagging, this is an odd time to augment Americans' entitlement mentality. But the travel and tourism industries think Grayson's idea is neat.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus want the Treasury Department to subsidize minority owners of broadcasting properties. The broadcasters are not "too big to fail" and so do not pose a "systemic risk," but, the representatives say, failures of minority broadcasters would diminish diversity.

Such government micromanagement of the economy is everywhere. The Washington Post recently reported that Richard Wagoner, the former CEO of General Motors who was removed by the government, remains on GM's payroll "because senior Treasury officials have yet to decide whether he should get the $20 million severance package that the company had promised him." His 2009 compensation -- $1 -- is payable on Dec. 31. The $20 million promised to him includes contractual awards, deferred compensation and pension benefits accrued over 32 years with the company. Promise-keeping, including honoring contracts, is the default position of a lawful society. But suddenly, many citizens' legal claims are merely starting points for negotiations with an overbearing government.

State governments, too, are expected to accept Washington's whims, but plucky Indiana is being obdurate. Gov. Mitch Daniels, alarmed by what he calls the Obama administration's "shock-and-awe statism," is supporting state Treasurer Richard Mourdock's objection to the administration's treatment of Chrysler's creditors, which include the pension funds for Indiana's retired teachers and state policemen, and a state construction fund. Together they own $42.5 million of Chrysler's $6.9 billion (supposedly) secured debt.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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