John Judis writes in “Fundamentally Different: That's what American capitalism will be once Obama's done with it,” (The New Republic, April 23, 2009) that the impact of Obama’s policies will be “the balance of economic power away from the private and toward the public sector. The American relationship of state to economy will begin to look more like that of France and Sweden, whose non-crisis budgets total over 45 percent of GDP. And our politics may change accordingly--shifting public opinion on regulation, spending, and taxes well to the left.”
How, you might ask, does this happen, since the American people do not share these values? The answer – little by little, step by step – like everything else.
Obama’s remarks at Georgetown University on April 14 give insight into how language changes understanding. “I absolutely agree,” said Obama, “that our long-term deficit is a major problem that we have to fix. But the fact is that this recovery plan represents only a tiny fraction of that long-term deficit.”
The fact is correct but only because the debt more than doubles under his proposed budget, from $10 trillion (actual 2008) to $23 trillion in 2019. The 130 percent increase in debt is what makes the recovery plan appear to be a “tiny fraction” of the long-term deficit. But don’t get lost in the words: It’s not that the stimulus is small – but that the projected debt under Obama’s plan is immense.
The question is not only how fast we can help the economy recover, and at what economic cost – but also what would be the cost to our culture?
Bailing out companies, chasing stimulus money, converting government preferred stock into common stock (moving towards social democracy), making perpetrators victims, waiting for government to intervene and fix. These proposed changes do not reflect the America of opportunity and free enterprise – of hard work and reward.
Many of those Americans who have been financially successful in legitimate ventures are now trying to hide the fruits of their hard work. What has happened? In an effort to ease the pain – we have only spread it around.
While economic redistribution might “heal the pocketbook, it does not feed the soul” according to Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, “Americans are happiest as a nation of makers, not takers.”
It’s not the money that makes us happy, it might help us get by, but it doesn’t make us happy. We’re happiest when individuals – not institutions -- are helping others, creating value and making a difference. This happens in a country of opportunity, free enterprise and limited government.
If we are not careful, instead of change we can believe in – we are going to have change, in what we believe.