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Any Minute Now, We'll Hear the Bugles

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Terrific speech, huh?

Yes indeed. As we learned in the campaign, Barack Obama is a rhetorical class act. He knows how to perform a compelling speech. Give him an A.

Optimistic about economic recovery. And proactive on the economy -- at last. Is this a great country, or what?

It is of course a great country -- the best ever. The question is whether, with this bunch, it can remain so. What's worrisome was the speech's content and lack of it, the things Obama said and didn't say. He gave us the (leftist) ideological rope-a-dope -- and Congress cheered. At every applause line, Nancy Pelosi -- sitting behind him -- jumped up and down like a madly clapping jack-in-the-box.

Still, you've got to be pleased -- or at least pleasantly surprised.

No. The first month of the Obama administration has brought us -- well, let's review . . .

In a continuing culture of corruption, lobbyists, tax-cheats and the ethically challenged elevated to high administration posts. A 70-year-old political hack confirmed as head of the CIA. Russia reverting to its old games and Iran rolling the nuclear dice. Terrorist killers released from Guantanamo. The Census politicized (removed from Commerce to White House oversight). Bipartisanship trashed.

But the economy is stabilizing. Fed chief Ben Bernanke said so Tuesday. Obama confirmed in his speech to Congress the same night that recovery is on its way, with the federal cavalry riding to the rescue. You can almost hear the bugles . . .

Really? With the Dow at a 12-year low (down 50 percent from its October 2007 high, including a drop of 19 percent since Jan. 1), unemployment soaring, and the feds moving with a vengeance into banking and the car business -- and into private lives? With the economy in free-fall, jobs and houses lost, nest-eggs crushed, and retirements savaged?

Obama and the Democratic Congress have given us a "stimulus" measure that practically doubles the deficit and sanctions the spending of $36 billion for every day since Obama's swearing-in. Now Congress is considering a $410 billion omnibus spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year that includes about 9,000 earmarks. (In this ballyhooed post-partisan hour, aren't we supposed to have grown beyond pork-barrel spending?)

Next up is Obama's budget -- rumored to include tax cuts (in essence, welfare checks) for a lot of people not paying any taxes, tax hikes for those with incomes over $250,000, and proposals for halving the deficit, expanding the federal role in education, instituting universal health care (and consequent health-care rationing), and moving into alternative energy (also known as hot air). Oh, and cutting defense spending -- that's cutting defense spending.

Wait a minute. In his speech to Congress Tuesday night, Obama said, "I don't believe in bigger government," adding he wants to "catalyze" rather than "supplant" private enterprise. He said insistently, "Slowly but surely confidence will return," "we will rebuild," "the economy will recover," and "we will take responsibility for our future once more."

Despair and pessimism accomplish nothing good and can be self-fulfilling. Any successful leader must be optimistic. It's crucial -- just as this particular leader, in the presidency, epitomizes America's abiding promise. Still, we're in a depression. Consumer confidence stands at a 41-year low. The only things Americans seem to be clamoring to buy is gold. Obama proposes, and a rubber-stamping Congress likely will approve.

Doubling federal spending within a year, making millions more Americans dependent on the federal government, and rewarding bad behavior with mortgage bailout plans -- and fueling resentment on a massive scale by penalizing those paying their mortgages regularly and on time. And cutting (that's cutting ) defense spending -- hardly surprising in an administration that just a month into governance has effectively expunged the words "islamofascist" and "terror" from the lexicon.

So you don't think the stimulus and other measures will work?

Federal spending didn't work for FDR and the New Deal. It prolonged the agony. Things briefly improved, then plunged even more. Only ramping up for World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression. By the way, if Obama wants to spend, why doesn't he keep F-22 jet fighter production lines open? Why doesn't he promote nuclear energy instead of dubious alternative-energy schemes?

Further, there's this -- from Washington Post economist/columnist Robert Samuelson: "Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are using the (stimulus) legislation to advance many political priorities instead of just spurring the economy. . . . Here, partisan politics ran roughshod over pragmatic economic policy."

Anything else about Obama and Congress and the economy -- and where we are?

We're not in a good place. Obama says he will let most of the temporary Bush tax cuts expire. Despite his nods to heightened responsibility -- spending and regulation and higher taxes do not likely comprise the right way out.

Then you disagree with Newsweek's Feb. 16 cover story declaring, "We Are All Socialists Now"?

Disagree vigorously. At last check, this was neither a cradle-to-grave Scandinavian country nor a banana republic. The Newsweek declaration does apply with precision, though, to too many of those currently set in authority over us. And Obama hardly has begun to spend.

But wait. Listen closely. There, in the distance, you can hear the bugles. The federal cavalry is on its way.

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