Perhaps the greatest trap opinion columnists fall into is when we disconnect from reality and simply pretend the world is the way we see it. We all do this, but some are more susceptible than others.
Take David Brooks, who’s supposed to be the in-house conservative voice of The New York Times op-ed page.
“What would happen if Obama sidestepped the fruitless and short-term stimulus debate and instead focused on the long term?” Brooks mused on July 26. Um, David, where’ve you been these last 18 months? Everything about President Obama’s agenda is “focused on the long term.”
His health care “reform” law creates a massive new entitlement that can only grow as the years go by. Sure, candidate Obama tried to convince voters that he intended to “bend the cost curve.” But the law he ultimately signed is heavy on spending promises and light on spending cuts. Unless conservatives manage to repeal the law, we could be stuck with a single-payer health care system in a decade or so.
The president’s financial reform bill followed a similar path.
Everyone agrees we don’t want to repeat the 2008 meltdown in the markets. The law that passed, though, doesn’t directly address the real problem: that some banks are “too big to fail” and can thus always count on federal bailouts.
Instead, the law creates a bunch of new regulatory agencies. They’ll spend the next couple of years (long term enough for you?) writing rules and regulations that businesses will have to abide by. Thus, corporations can look forward to several quarters of uncertainty and regulators can look forward to several years of heavy lobbying by wealthy interests.
Even the man who wrote the bill isn’t sure it’ll work. “We don't know ultimately how well the ideas we’ve incorporated here will achieve the results we desire,” Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said. “It will take the next economic crisis, as certainly it will come, to determine whether or not the provisions of this bill will actually provide this generation or the next generation of regulators with the tools necessary to minimize the effects of that crisis when it happens.”
Other long-term policies remain on the burner. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., insists he’ll keep pushing for a cap-and-trade bill similar to one the House of Representatives already passed. It would supposedly deal with “global climate change,” and that, of course, is the ultimate long-term concern. The bill would impose massive taxes and regulations immediately, while any benefits would be seen years, if not decades, from now.
Finally, on spending.