By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, February 6, 2009; A17
"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe."
-- President Obama, Feb. 4.
Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.
And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn't understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.
The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As Michael Kinsley once observed, in Washington the real scandal isn't what's illegal, but what's legal. Not paying taxes is one thing. But what made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years.
He'd been getting $1 million per year from a law firm. But he's not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don't get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.
At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal's private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he'd come to Washington to upend.
And yet more damaging to Obama's image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama's name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.
It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.
It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.
Not just to abolish but to create something new -- a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the "fierce urgency of now" includes $150 million for livestock (and honeybee and farm-raised fish) insurance.
The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington. By the time the stimulus bill reached the Senate, reports the Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical and high-tech companies were lobbying furiously for a new plan to repatriate overseas profits that would yield major tax savings. California wine growers and Florida citrus producers were fighting to change a single phrase in one provision. Substituting "planted" for "ready to market" would mean a windfall garnered from a new "bonus depreciation" incentive.
After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone.
I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.
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Well, the old conservative ways have not worked. This might just...
Rush Limbaugh is also trying to get his followers to have the bill defeated.
They are upset that big business interests will not get more tax breaks so they can rip people off more.
These people are upset about the election and will try and do anything to make any plans by Obama not work.
That's exactly right. And their position is completely hypocritical, since the GOP was known for political kickbacks and corruption when they were in power.
Krauthammer is a bit of a disgraced neocon, anyway. He's a terrific writer, but his logic and ideas stink.
Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot. Absolutely right.
The conservatives need to completely reinvent themselves if they hope to come to power anytime soon.
Did somebody miss the facts in this article?
It sounds like the Dems aren't doing so good in their own reinvention.
And I still didn't see enough working together for the benefit of the people... but the senate is still out as of this evening...can we "hope" for the best or just watch them lie down with the rest!
Government...what a waste of our money!
For once, we agree. I am not sure why you choose to pick such partisan lines though. You are all over the "conservative side" and all against the "liberal."
Personally I don't see one whit of difference between the two as far as economic policies go. The one thing Obama might be able to do is reduce the stupid amount of money your country spends on paying people to kill other people. But this will simply be a matter of expediency because you can't afford it any more.
The interesting thing to me is I live in France and have lived in England many years. And both of these countries have managed to get to exactly the same position as the US. i.e. top heavy government with what amounts to less than 50% of the population supporting the rest who work for the government in one way or another. But they look to have completely different approaches to government. Yet the same.
The current issues facing the world are the same. The banks are too big to let collapse. The government is too big to have any interest in the man in the street. The car makers are too big to allow to go to the wall. The oil is in the "wrong" place and we are too reliant on it. The central banks have a vested interest in increasing the money supply to the point we have a large asset bubble, which promotes "growth." But no one actually creates anything.
No matter Mr Obama's rhetoric (which is very good I must admit) take a look at the major shareholders of the largest US banks and see just how many of the are from middle eastern oil producing nations. Who do you think has more clout? An American citizen or the guy who owns 20% of Citibank's stock?
You seem to have been sucked into this political BS about one side vs the other and have decided that the "conservatives" will provide what you want and the "liberals" are the bad guys. The sooner you realise they are on the same side, the sooner you can just lump them together as "lying politicians looking after their own interests."
The parties are close together on many issues, especially on the tendency to use our military to solve "problems" that don't lend themselves to military solutions--Eisenhower's famed "military industrial complex." However, there are quite significant differences between the two parties wrt taxation, Social Security reform, health care reform and other social issues such as maintaining separation of church and state, abortion, stem cell research, protection of the environment, doing something about global warming, etc.
Clinton Gave a bigger tax cut to the Rich than Bush. I read the Book Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston the Pulitzer Prize winning notoriously liberal New York Times writer the one you posted an article referencing the other day. I have to admit he does more to undue the liberal myths than anyone else I have ever read. More importantly he makes it very clear there is only one party in Washington the Party of Money.
Again Clinton endorsed the biggest Borrow from Social Security ever done. Forever insuring we can never shore up the program.
Health Care See Again Clinton used government to assist friends in the transformation of medical service from non profit status to profit.
I believe I saw Both Clinton and Obama stumping the Churches particularly the Black Southern Type!!
Neither Clinton nor Gore was big on the Environment until they had bought large shares of stock in companies that stood to gain a fortune by their endorsements and political access. Big Bill earned 10 million his first year out of office of that little venture.
None of them on either side have the Balls to really tackle abortion that is why for all the talk you have never seen a bill even introduced that made it past the first committee.
So I agree with Mark there is no difference in any real respect between one Politician to the next. So I say we take the French approach and roll out the guillotine.
One must always consider the source when reading.
There were no facts in the article, only opinions for one of the worst GOP poison pen artists.
What kind of person would call herself "sparkling jewel" anyway? This Jewel is a zircon.
MakeM--How anybody can legitimately listen to that man, I will never understand. He's just an unethical, immoral, big mouthed meanie.
Lita the last time I seen him in a video online he was interviewing Anne Coulter. Imagine that pair together.
I always find it interesting how people get off topic
Just like in any group, there are many and most who don't fit a particular prescribed characterization. I like "my turtleman" (Krauthammer)...he is definitely not Rush Limbaugh ( I don't indulge in talk radio)... can't stand him or Ann Culter...they both give conservatism, Christians and Christianity a bad name.
What's really sad is that they are "tainting" the next generations with their "gut wrenching" perspectives. I had such high hopes for the next generations coming back around to a "real Jesus" perspective...oh well, i won't give up on them (the next generations I mean).
So, if you all don't like "my turtleman"...what about David Brooks? you know, of Shields and Brooks?
Just so no one is confused I think book burning bible thumpers have to get in line behind politicains.
I don't see many of the next generation being too concerned with Rush Limbaugh. He's kind of a conservative has-been neo-con, as Make Money noted. Old message, old hype... All he does is insult and spread lies in a bellicose fashion.
If you are talking about those in their teens and early 20's--I'd say they are either apolitical or left-leaning, from what I've seen.
I don't like so-called 'talk' radio, either. Even the 'liberal' talk radio (and there is a station like that here in AZ--in Phoenix). Just sensationalized garbage. Of course--then there is NPR--my 'talk' radio of choice. LOL. Well known to lean left--and also, INTERESTING. You need more than your amygdala to process what they are talking about--what I prefer.
Yes Loud Mouth Hate Mongers(Left or Right or In-between hate is hate) Line up after Book Burning Bible Thumpers.
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