“Mah fellow Americans, inflayshun is ow-uh friend…”
If you can pronounce the phonetic wording above – and if it sounds vaguely familiar – then for better or worse you probably grew up watching “Saturday Night Live” like I did. The line comes from a late 1970’s skit wherein funny guy Dan Aykroyd was impersonating President Jimmy Carter.
During his one term as President, Carter addressed the nation numerous times to try and quell people’s fears about inflation, the economic malady that defined the era. During those years, Carter announced several anti-inflation policy measures. He urged Americans to “tighten their belts” and consume less, in an effort to decrease the demand for goods and services and, therefore, to get prices to decline (consumption, by the way, was actually quite stagnant even as prices rose – hence the problem of “stagflation”). And as he got closer to his re-election date he looked increasingly anxious, as though he was trying to convince Americans that he was doing as well as any President could.
In the midst of this, “Saturday Night Live” delivered the definitive presidential satire. With his impeccable imitation of the President’s “southern gentlemen” accent, Aykroyd – as President Carter – addressed the nation one fine Saturday night and told Americans that “our economy is screwed, blued, and tattooed,” but noted that we could stop fighting the battle against inflation- because “inflation is our friend.”
Aykroyd was hilarious because his character’s statements were absurd - no adult in their right mind and certainly no U.S. President would “embrace inflation” or regard it as a “friend.” President Carter was desperately trying to assure us that he was ending inflation, and Aykroyd’s routine illustrated just how desperately the President was trying to remain in our good favor.
But that was in the 1970’s. Today, just three weeks away from 2013, there is reason to believe that our President and his Administration – and perhaps his party, as a whole – is “embracing” recession, as though it is an appropriate means to a necessary end.
Ron Scherer, Staff Writer at the Christian Science Monitor, was one of the first to catch-on. He noted in a November 30th news story that in the midst of the “fiscal cliff” tax rate negotiations, President Obama had begun to speak on the campaign trail about another $255 billion stimulus package. Scherer surmised that the President was proposing more stimulus spending as a means of “offsetting” the impact of his own proposed tax hikes.
But what, precisely, would need to be “offset,” if President Obama’s agenda prevails? He just completed a successful re-election campaign claiming that raising taxes on “rich people” would be good for the economy, yet it now appears that he wants more stimulus spending as a means of saving our economy from his own economic policies. This would seem to be, at the very least, a tacit admission from the President that raising taxes on individual people – even those awful “rich people” among us – does, indeed cause a slowdown in economic activity, and may very well bring about a recession.
Shortly after the President began his new stimulus push, former Democratic National Committee Chairman (and former presidential candidate) Howard Dean made some extraordinary remarks of his own about the economy. In an interview at MSNBC, Dean stated that he wants the across-the-board income tax increases entailed in the “fiscal cliff” scenario, and welcomed the resulting outcome. “Will it cause a problem?” he asked rhetorically. “Yes. There will be a short recession, and it will be painful.” Yet despite the “painful recession” that will ensue, Dean expressed exuberance for the higher tax rates and the cuts in military spending that will result as well.
In a recession, individuals and families often lose. They often lose jobs, careers, and homes, and sometimes families are torn apart. Governments that truly prioritize the wellbeing of the citizenry, usually try to avoid recessions - for these, and other reasons.
But when governmental leaders prioritize their own power and agenda over and above the wellbeing of the citizens they serve, a “painful recession” is an acceptable means to an end. You and I may lose our home or job in an upcoming Obama recession, but that is of little concern. The President and his party have made it clear that their goal is to control more private wealth, spend that wealth as they see fit, and make the citizenry more dependent on government services.
When I was a kid, it was laughable to think that even the inept President Jimmy Carter was regarding inflation as “our friend.” Today, all Americans should be sobered by the reality that our President may be quite intentionally sending us in to recession, as an acceptable means of accomplishing his objectives.