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'Stimulus': In the Long Run, We're All Broke

by Mytheos Holt, published

The final draft of the by-this-point infamous economic stimulus bill has been released to the public, and as even the infamously liberal New York Times concedes, it's a mess. Reading more like the poorly written term paper of a drunken college student than an actual bill, the bill has been reportedly marked repeatedly with under-the-radar last-minute changes, all written in the untidy scrawl of overzealous legislators.

Unfortunately, unlike a marked-up essay, some of these untidy scrawls will end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars and adding even more unnecessary debt onto the bloated bill, which will already cost each individual American family thousands of dollars.

Of course, all of this is due to the attempts by an overreaching president to capitalize on the panic of the American people. And the worst part is that, in the president's rush to call the ghost of John Maynard Keynes back from the ninth circle of Stagflation, he has willfully ignored economic evidence which could save the American people countless dollars, and could provide simpler, but less politically convenient, restitution for the economy.

As Joseph Welch once said to Senator Joe McCarthy, "At long last, have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Granted, the Republican party hasn't done much to stop this sort of thing -- in fact, given the legacy of the past eight years, one might almost characterize the current political climate as a sort of NASCAR race down the Road to Serfdom. Indeed, some commentators have already characterized the stimulus package as the Democratic version of the PATRIOT Act, and the comparison is an apt one. Whatever one thinks of the USA PATRIOT Act, one can't deny that absent panic, nothing nearly so drastic could have even gotten past a committee in Congress.

However, unlike the PATRIOT Act, whose provisions arguably cast too wide a net, but had at least some relation to the problem of terrorism, the current stimulus bill contains provisions that have nothing to do with stimulating the economy and everything to do with subjugating the American wallet. Even The New York Times bemoaned the Trojan horse style of politics that created the act, writing that the stimulus package "is also a tool for rewriting the social contract with the poor, the uninsured and the unemployed, in ways they have long yearned to do."

And how is this social contract to be rewritten, one might ask? With nothing less than a full-throated condemnation of the needy to enjoy a life of indentured servitude to the almighty government dole. Among the bill's more juicy effects, the Times notes that it "would allow states to provide Medicaid to an entirely new group: those who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, their spouses and children under 19." In other words, the government is permitting itself to swallow whole sectors of the private economy, effectively stripping those who depend upon those sectors of any feeling of self-reliance. Those who would be effected by this policy would now effectively have a de facto mandate to vote for Democratic politicians, if only to keep themselves from dying of illness, and indeed, politicians like President Obama would have no trouble exploiting this.

And then, of course, there is the issue of the president's rhetorical inconsistencies. What happened to "Yes, we can"? If "we can," then why do we need a stimulus package that puts our grandchildren in debt, and why do we need to extend statist excuses for failure to those currently in hard times.

President Obama's supposed inspiration, John Maynard Keynes, once wrote that "in the long run, we are all dead." If only Keynes could be alive today to see the fruit of his labors. As economist Daniel Mitchell points out, he'd probably be horrified, and rightly so. The only things that are certain in life are death and taxes, and as such, in the long run we are not only all dead, but thanks to "hope" and "change," in the long run, we will all be broke.

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