Jonah Goldberg

Why, this week, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) even conjured the specter of those old devils, the "robber barons." "Sadly," she declared with barely suppressed glee, "we are now living in a new era of robber barons." Pelosi, who is more of a student of polls and left-wing blogs than history, probably doesn't much care that the modern stereotype of the robber baron as rapacious economic predator is more a product of the collectivist spirit of the New Deal than of the 19th century. "The Robber Barons," an error-filled 1934 tract written by a socialist named Matthew Josephson, was intended to pump up Depression-plagued readers with bile about "economic royalists" blocking social progress. Josephson was inspired by Honore de Balzac's witticism that "behind every great fortune lies a great crime." The statist playbook, it seems, is never out of print.

But we should not blame Democrats too much for their opportunism, cynicism and populism. As the party out of power, they are expected to seize on GOP weaknesses like jackals upon a wounded fawn. And their party is dedicated to the proposition that the state should always meddle when it feels it can do "good," regardless of what it did last year or even yesterday.

It is the congressional GOP that should be booed and shamed from the public square for the harlot it has become. Before the pyre of pandering even ended, the Republicans launched their fire sale, offering to sell off their remaindered principles at bargain basement prices. It was almost like they were paying voters to take their intellectual integrity off their hands. ("We're practically giving it away!")

They even tried to proposition voters with a $100 bribe to stop whining about "obscene" gas prices, rather than point out the real obscenity: overregulation that has kept American oil in the ground and prevented any new refineries or nuclear power plants from being built in 30 years. The $100 gimmick died from terminal boneheadedness, and even the House majority leader conceded, in an all-too-brief flash of sanity, that it was "stupid" and "insulting" to voters.

If this is what we can expect from congressional Republicans during a booming economy, heaven help us when the next recession comes.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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