Victor Davis Hanson

Small employers in many states have no such recourse and now pay more than half their incomes in assorted federal, state and local taxes. Naturally, they are hiring fewer people and making fewer capital investments.

That greater tax hit might have been worth it had the new rates been part of a balanced-budget agreement like the Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich deal of 1997 that froze spending levels and for a time stopped our ruinous borrowing.

Not this time. We end up with the worst of all worlds: once again a 39 percent top tax rate, but now with out-of-control federal spending and more multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

By virtually shutting down gas and oil leases on federal lands, the administration has declined the chance to create millions of new energy jobs and to lower fuel prices. For now, cheaper power bills and gasoline prices, and the creation of more jobs in energy, depend entirely on those who drill on private lands -- despite, not because, of federal efforts.

Even the many sires of Obamacare now deny their past parentage. Unions want out of it. Congress demands exclusion from it. Well-connected businesses won exemption from it.

The poor who mostly do not pay federal income taxes will get a largely free, bureaucratized federal health-care system. Many of the rich praise Obamacare but will quietly use their own money to avoid it. The middle class will see their premiums soar and the quality of their coverage erode.

These are surreal times. Wealthy elites who help to shut down jobs in energy, timber and mining are deemed liberal -- but not always so the middle classes, who suffer the consequences in lost jobs and higher prices.

Universities voice progressive bromides, but they care mostly for the tenured and the technocrat, not the part-timer and the indebted student. Despite soaring tuition, campus is now the haunt of the very wealthy who can afford exorbitant tuition and the very poor who are often exempted from it. The less romantic middle class goes $1 trillion into debt for their high-interest student loans.

Never has it been so good to be invested in a vastly expanding federal government -- either to distribute or receive federal subsidies. Never has it been so lucrative to work in banking or on Wall Street. And never has it been so bad to try to find a decent job making something real.

To paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, where we have made a desert of the middle class, we call it a recovery.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.