Ralph Benko

Would you happily sign an IOU for $126,000 to allow Barack Obama to keep his Big Spender status going? In some ways, that’s the bottom line on how people are going to vote on November 6th. That’s what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama’s proposed deficits, from 2011 through 2020, will add to a family of four’s share of America’s liabilities.

What do you get in return for a tab of that size? According to Grover Norquist and John Lott, Jr.’s new book, Debacle, you get higher unemployment, reduced economic growth and depressed housing prices.

Norquist is widely — even, in a backhanded way, by Mr. Obama — considered one of Washington’s most effective advocates for limited government. Lott is an influential scholar who repeatedly has shown more interest in determining what effect policies really have than in doctrine and dogma. His statistical analyses tend to the rigorous, elegant and counterintuitive.

Lott and Norquist recently trained their sights on the claims of the Big Spenders of Washington. The Big Spenders, like any addicts, are always ready to provide facile rationalizations for their maladaptive behavior. In the case of the U.S. economy, of course, the Big Spender claim is that matters would be much worse but for Obama’s spending frenzy. Extremist commentators such as Paul Krugman insist that the spending was not frenzied enough. This is, of course, a nonfalsifiable, unverifiable, brazen claim!

Is there any evidence for their claims? Norquist and Lott drill down into the data from the real world rather than consulting an Oracle composed of the bon mots of Lord Keynes (or even Milton Friedman). The evidence they found shows we are experiencing the worst recovery ever recorded. “Astoundingly, the unemployment rate during the 29 months of recovery averages three full percentage points higher than the average unemployment rate during the recession.”

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.