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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can I Get an Amen? (The Thinkin’ About a Tea Party Edition)

Via Instapundit, I find this site that hits me as saying precisely what I want to say:

Today’s economic crisis impacts all Americans, not just those who are behind on their mortgages.  Everyone shares concerns over health care, job loss, and the decimation of their retirement savings.  All Americans have made sacrifices over the past year.  The American taxpayer is already on the hook for mismanaged banks, incompetently run auto companies and extravagent stimulus packages.  We don’t need the additional burden of paying for our neighbor’s mortgage.  The bottom line - we believe that being current on one’s mortgage should not be grounds for being put at a financial disadvantage.

That is wildly deserving of an amen.

I find myself wondering how conservatives who bought into the rhetoric of hope and change, who believed that Obama would be governing from a moderate’s position, and who ended up voting Democrat in the elections are feeling about their decision right now? I’m feeling more and more that I voted the right direction: McCain.

Now, the current economic crisis isn’t Obama’s fault. There are a lot of names and administrations that can share the blame for bad regulations, overspending, and refusal to deal with the American economy as something built on money that doesn’t come from the Free Money Fairy. And then there are the people--that is, “we, the people"--who helped by demanding more government services and less fiscal sanity. In fact, we, the people, made it downright difficult for a person to be elected if they threatened our slice of the pie, a fact that has made blue hairs such an important voting block and rational conversation about the future of Social Security such a political hazard.

So, no, it’s not Obama’s fault.

But I remember watching one of the televised debates and hearing McCain promise a spending freeze followed by deep cuts in the budget coupled with a belief that raising taxes on any Americans right now would be foolish and irresponsible. Obama, in contrast, spoke breezily about cutting the budget, but thought that a spending freeze was a bad idea and an increase in taxes on the wealthy (whatever “wealthy” might mean) was a brilliant idea.

I remember thinking that this was one of only two defining issues for me (the other being continued resolution to maintain the most powerful military in the world--surprisingly, continued prosecution of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was down the list a ways for reasons best discussed in another post on another day). Obama might indeed have intended to govern from the center, but even that night he couldn’t get away from a knee-jerk need by the left to increase taxes (on the right people) and massively increase spending (to the right people).

If the Republicans hadn’t lost the moral high ground on the economy over the last eight years, I imagine that we would be talking about President McCain and his obstructionist tendencies right now.

McCain may have had a hard time leading, given the state of the GOP in both House and Senate, but I think he would have gleefully used his veto pen to kill off this stimulus package and would have forced the Democrats into a fight. Instead, the left pretends at compromise with the complicity of a couple turncoat Republicans and then bulls ahead with whatever the hell it is that they wanted to do in the first place.

Because they won.

I don’t think that trend will last, though, because Americans are already starting to worry about how this latest stimulus package is actually going to help create jobs, foster economic stability, or do much other than run up well over a trillion in new debt. Bush has been criticized, rightly, for the debt that he ran up during his terms in office; a month into Obama’s administration and it’s become apparent that he not only intends to continue down that path, but, indeed, he’ll be upping the ante.

That’s a phrase--"upping the ante"--that I use very specifically. There is an element of the bad gambler to the way our government is handling the crisis, and Obama is cheering on the bad behavior. If you’ve ever seen a guy losing big at the craps tables, you’ll know what I mean.

That guy probably started with relatively conservative bets. He played the come and the pass lines and didn’t place any of the hard ways or other high risk bets. But he was losing--every few rolls of the dice set him back a little bit more until he realized he was down quite a bit. So instead of walking away, he believed the thing that every bad gambler believes: his luck’s going to turn. There were so many bad rolls that a good roll is just bound to be right around the corner.

And when he believes that, the bets get bigger because, when his luck turns, he believes the payout will pull him right out of the hole that he’s dug himself. So he starts betting bigger and he starts betting the high risk/high reward bets. There is luck involved, of course, and he’ll win some rolls. More than that, though, there is simple math: even when he wins a roll or two, he’s dug that hole so deep that he’s still deep down in the dark and he has to keep playing to try to break even.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s already lost. The money is gone and he needs to be smart enough to step away from the table, go home, and figure out how to rebuild what is already gone.

Our government is that guy: the stimulus plans are getting bigger, the hole is getting deeper, and they believe that one more stimulus bill could hit it big and make those losses go away. Meanwhile, the deficit gets bigger and someone else is going to end up paying the bill because our government has gone way the hell and gone beyond the money that they brought to the table. They’ve borrowed from everyone they know, they’ve maxed the credit cards, they’ve taken out mortgages on our futures--and they’re using it all to place a bad bet that will only take us closer to financial ruin.

And Obama is the one leading us down that path, cheerfully telling us that this is the bet that will make it all better. I don’t believe him.

McCain wasn’t the guy who sent a thrill up my leg.  He wasn’t my perfect candidate and he didn’t mesh with my beliefs on a number of issues. I have a hard time imagining that he would have travelled this particular path, though, and I believe that this path is one that could ruin our nation.

Republicans, libertarians, and all nature of fiscal conservatives will be fighting at a disadvantage for the next few years (at least), but anyone who believes that our salvation is to be found in fiscal responsibility need to start pushing back now. We’re losing the battles right now, but we can’t afford to lose the war.

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