Barack Obama, who has yet to see any nook or cranny in American life that would not benefit from his cramming it full of taxpayer dollars, has an oh-so-ingenious plan to serve the economy — improved governmental efficiency.
Maybe you’re swooning over the news, and I would be, too, if I believed it. But understand that it’s not really patriotism that’s the last refuge of scoundrels. It’s the futile pledge of virtually every president in recent history and most members of Congress to end waste while adding to it. It’s the political gambit of promising this glorious end without laying out the specifics.
It’s not as if there’s no waste out there. A few weeks back, I chatted with former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, R-Colo., who insisted the great majority of federal programs could be eliminated tomorrow with no ill consequence and multiple benefits. Many, he said, are redundant and even then do nothing useful, and some contradict each other. The problem, he said, is that all these programs have constituencies, and finding a politician who will yank goodies from them and bear the brunt of their anger is rare.
Obama certainly isn’t among these scarce fiscal warriors. If he were, he wouldn’t just make vacuous promises about cutting spending on contractors or offer meaningless words about using technology to streamline operations. Understanding that in the non-competitive, tenure-assured, bureaucratic world of government that significant efficiencies of that kind are seldom to be had, he would instead provide a list of the several hundred programs he would most like to whack to smithereens.
He won’t, of course, because his record in the U.S. Senate and his proposals as a candidate are the exact opposite of that. He’s a billion-dollar player in the earmark game, someone who has sought that much pork for his home state since he entered the Senate three and a half years ago, actually coming through last year alone with $100 million. That’s peanuts, though, compared to his support of the $307 billion farm bill that dished out subsides to the super-rich and others in agribusiness who were no doubt grateful for this pointless largess, maybe even to the point of voting for Obama in primaries.
There’s much more of that — give the senator a spending measure to get behind, and unless he’s on the campaign trail, he’s soon in the front of the line. But let’s move on to his won’t-budge desire as a presidential candidate to give us the most spendthrift, ever-expanding federal colossus anyone ever dreamed of, even now in the face of a potentially devastating Wall Street bailout.
This fact was brought painfully home not long ago when he talked on national TV about community service. Understand that there is no nation in the world in which citizens volunteer their time to the extent that American citizens do, and then consider that Obama wants federal intervention. His aim is to spend several billion dollars to expand service programs and launch new ones that pay "volunteers" through some device or the other, making us still more like European welfare states where people are loathe to step forward to help anyone out on their own because they count on their ultra-costly governments to do it all.
Obama shies from any serious proposal to tackle the most fiscally frightening part of our government, the huge entitlements programs, preferring to put out a TV ad scaring people to death with cheap, gutter lies about what John McCain’s Social Security proposal would do. That’s a business-as-usual kind of demagoguery that has long prevented reform, and might be slightly more tolerable if the candidate did not preach change and was not proposing additional entitlement programs that could end up crushing us.
This candidate is all words and no do, as opposed to McCain, who has valiantly tried to rain on the earmark parade, and voted against the farm subsidy bill and taken political risks within his own party by talking about GOP wastefulness.
Obama mocks this man — even his war-inflicted inability to type on computers — and jokes about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin not being as earmark-adverse as advertised. He should look at her record as Alaska governor, which, as a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece informs us, includes the slashing "of more local projects than any other governor in the state’s history," and tell us what he has done that is comparable.
Nothing, that’s what.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)