The president of the United States came to Osawatomie, Kan., last week to deliver a speech of such fascinating awfulness archeologists of the future sifting through the rubble of our civilization will surely doubt whether it could really have been delivered by the chief executive of the global superpower in the year 2011.
“This isn’t about class warfare,” declared President Obama. Really? As his fellow Democrat Dale Bumpers testified at the Clinton impeachment trial, “When you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex,’ it’s about sex.” The president understands that “Wall Street,” “banks,” “fat cats,” etc. remain the most inviting target and he figures that he can ride the twin steeds of Resentment and Envy to reelection and four more years of even bigger Big Government. His opponents, he told us, “want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess . . . . And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules . . . . It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” He blamed our present fix on “this brand of ‘you’re on your own’ economics.”
This is a deliciously perverse analysis of the situation confronting America and a fin de civilisation West. In what area of life are Americans now “on their own”? By 2008, Fannie and Freddie had a piece of over half the mortgages in this country; the “subprime” mortgage was an invention of government. America’s collective trillion dollars of college debt has been ramped up by government distortion of the student-loan market. Likewise, health care, where Americans labor under the misapprehension that they have a “private” system rather than one whose inflationary pressures and byzantine bureaucracy are both driven largely by remorseless incremental government annexation. Americans are ever less “on their own” in housing, education, health, and most other areas of life — and the present moribund slough is the direct consequence.
It would be truer to say that the present situation reflects the total failure of “you’re not on your own” economics — the delusion of statists that government can insulate millions of people from the vicissitudes of life. Europeans have assured their citizens of cradle-to-grave welfare since the end of the Second World War. This may or may not be an admirable notion, but, both economically and demographically, the bill has come due. Greece is being bailed out by Germany in order to save the eurozone but to do so requires the help of the IMF, which is principally funded by the United States. The entire Western world resembles the English parlor game “Pass the Parcel,” in which a gift wrapped in multiple layers of gaudy paper is passed around until the music stops and a lucky child removes the final wrapping from the shrunken gift to discover his small gift. Except that, in this case, underneath all the bulky layers, there is no there there: Broke nations are being bailed out by a broke transnational organization bankrolled by a broke superpower in order to save a broke currency. Good luck with that.
The political class looted the future to bribe the present, confident that tomorrow could be endlessly postponed. Hey, why not? “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” says Macbeth. “To borrow, and to borrow, and to borrow,” said the political class, like Macbeth with a heavy cold (to reprise a rare joke from Mrs. Thatcher). And they failed to anticipate that the petty pace would accelerate and overwhelm them. On Thursday, Jon Corzine, former United States senator, former governor of New Jersey, former Goldman Sachs golden boy, and the man who embodies the malign nexus between Big Government and a financial-services sector tap-dancing on derivatives of derivatives, came to Congress to try to explain how the now-bankrupt entity he ran, MF Global, had managed to misplace $1.2 billion. The man once tipped to be Obama’s Treasury secretary and whom Vice President Biden described as the fellow who’s always “the smartest guy in the room” explained his affairs thus: “I simply do not know where the money is.” Does that apply only to his private business or to his years in the Senate, too?