Larry Elder

"I'm not exaggerating," said President Barack Obama. "Leaders of the Republican Party ... called the passage of (the health care reform bill) 'Armageddon.' Armageddon! 'End of freedom as we know it.' So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling or some cracks opening up in the earth. Turned out it was a nice day. Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall."

Post-ObamaCare the sun indeed rose in the east, Denny's remained open and California stayed attached to the mainland. Therefore, according to Obama, ObamaCare opponents engaged in baseless fear-mongering. This is an interesting definition of success: Government tax-spend-spread-the-wealth works if, come morning, our cars start.

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The corrosion caused by the relentless expansion of the Welfare State doesn't work that way. The costs are harder to see, the damage more difficult to discern -- especially given our leftist media/commentary class, which doesn't know Milton Friedman from Milton Berle.

Government, for example, again and again extends unemployment compensation -- oblivious to or unconcerned about its hidden costs. Last December, the then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chortled on his Web site: "I have great news to share with you. The House passed an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits last night. Had we not acted, 1 million workers would have lost these benefits at the end of the year."

Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and current Obama economics adviser, wrote in 1999: "(One) way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. ... Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs (cause) an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer." Had "we not acted," how many people would have taken action and found work?

Similarly, banks and financial firms engaged in "reckless" behavior in part because they assumed -- correctly so -- that government considered them too important or too big to fail. Encouraged by government policy to increase lending to those unable to meet usual criteria, banks made loans to otherwise non-creditworthy borrowers. And "government-sponsored entities," Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bought these loans with an implicit understanding -- true, it turned out -- that the government would not let Freddie and Fannie fail. What stops bailouts from promoting future counterproductive behavior?


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.