"Say something nice about Obama."
This challenge came at a party from a good-natured self-described "rabid Obama supporter." Normally, when off the clock, I avoid this kind of stuff. How different is it to, say, approach a physician in a social setting and say: "Doc, my knee hurts in the morning. What do you think it is?" But the guy seemed nice enough.
"OK," I said. "Obama is likable. He means well. He appears to be a good father and a faithful and loving husband."
"You asked me to say something good. I just did."
"Aren't you leaving something out?"
"I'll bite," I said. "What?"
"Well, you left out something that's pretty obvious. The man is extremely intelligent, don't you think?"
"I make a distinction," I said, "between intelligence and wisdom, intelligence and judgment, and intelligence and common sense. Obama attended elite schools and did well enough at Harvard to become president of the law review and graduate magna cum laude. But …"
"But my 93-year-old Republican father, who only finished the eighth grade until going back to get his GED in his late 30s, has more judgment, wisdom and common sense. My father never spent one minute in the auto industry and does not think he could run it. Obama thinks government can. My father thinks if you lend or borrow money irresponsibly, you shouldn't be 'saved' by taxpayers. Obama -- and a whole bunch of Republicans -- think they should."
"It's about helping people," my "rabid" friend said.
"My friend, economist Thomas Sowell, told me that whenever government wants to 'do something,' ask yourself three questions. 1) Who pays for it? 2) How much will it cost? 3) Will it work? With this brief analysis, Sowell said, one almost always finds 'something' is not worth it, is wrongheaded, or makes things worse.
"Who pays?" I continued. "Taxpayers do -- either through higher taxes, borrowed money to be repaid with higher taxes, or printing money that creates inflation and higher interest rates."
"The cost?" he asked.
"Well, last Sunday morning, Obama appeared on 'Meet the Press,'" I said. "He offered a massive 'infrastructure' program, a New Deal II. The cost? Obama said his economic team is working on that. So far, the amount of government money spent or expects to spend -- on FDIC insurance and to rescue banks, borrowers, insurance companies and investment firms, as well as the auto industry -- exceeds $7 trillion or $8 trillion.