President Obama is under the impression that history owes him $1 trillion right now to spend on whatever he wants. His language is strident and full of irritation that anyone would question his right to live out his personal dream of being Franklin Roosevelt to George Bush’s Hoover. This, he says, is what the election was all about.
The arrogance reminds me of George Bush after 9-11, who similarly believed that history owed him a gargantuan war in the tradition of FDR. And look how that arrogance led to disgrace and loss, as he unwittingly presided over the destruction of American prosperity while searching for bugbears abroad.
It just goes to show you that the presidency is something like a drug. It makes people lose all connection to reality. Part of the reality that Obama needs to recognize is that the New Deal was a calamity far worse than the initial market downturn that began it. He needs to stop basing his policies on dumbed-down civics texts versions of events and consider the economic logic.
With his rhetoric and policies, he has decided to demonize private enterprise, just as FDR did, as a way to present government as the great savior. Now, think about this. If there is a way out of the recession, it will have to be provided by private enterprise. It will come by new businesses, business expansions, entrepreneurship, new technology, and this will be the source of lasting jobs and prosperity.
You cannot make a country rich by looting taxpayers and paying people to pound nails into siding at public schools! These activities amount to capital consumption. They are not sources of investment. You can say that they are stupid tasks or wonderful tasks, but it is not a matter of ideology as to whether such public projects will make us all wealthier. They will not. They drain the sources of wealth from society. They represent a cost, not a blessing.
That was also true of Bush’s dumb stimulus program. He was only bailing out his friends at our expense. The effect was to give a little longer life to institutions that were failing anyway. It’s pathetic that the Republicans ever went along with it. You will notice that the scheme didn’t actually work.
Well, Obama is doing the same thing, though rewarding a different set of friends. This is not wealth production. This is wealth consumption. Do enough of this nonsense and you can destroy the livelihoods of an entire generation.
Americans are proud of their system of government, but consider what it has given us this time around. We had an outgoing president who thought it was his right to grab as much as he could while leaving. Now we have a new president who thinks that the election entitled him to grab as much as he can, right from the beginning. We get looted by the state coming and going. It all amounts to one massive war on prosperity and freedom.
Particularly culpable here are the official historians who have for generations heralded FDR as the great savior. It is a case study in how a civic lie can appear and fester for decades. The fact is that the New Deal did not work. It prolonged what might have been a troubling two-year downturn into a horrifying blow to world prosperity that ended up in a war that killed countless millions. It was one of the greatest acts of wreckage in world history.
I’m not so cynical about human affairs that I believe that errors must be endlessly repeated. Obama can put a stop to his madness. He needs to know — someone must tell him frankly and openly — that his current path is going to lead not to recovery, but to an extension of suffering, and untold amounts of it.
The biggest threat facing the American economy right now is rarely even discussed. It is the massive buildup of paper bank reserves in the last quarter of 2008. This was Bush’s doing. He ordered the Fed to print like mad. Fortunately for us, the banks are still holding on to these reserves. When they start lending again, the result could be hyperinflation of Confederate dollar proportions.
Hence the priority of the Obama administration should be to first do no evil, and second to find some means for withdrawing those reserves from the banking system before they wash through the economic structure and destroy the dollar. There is still time. He must act. Yes, that will lead to bank failures. That’s good! It will lead to business failures. That’s good and essential too.
There simply is no choice. If he acts now, he could find that recovery will come before his second term. This is precisely what happened with Reagan. He was fortunate to have advisers who insisted that he let the liquidation happen rather than attempt to fix the recession of 1981—82 with huge new government spending programs.
In any case, the hardest work to do here is intellectual. Obama’s head is filled with myths and lies, not only about FDR and the New Deal, but also about the government’s power to repair the existing economic problems. With this model in his head, he can only do evil. This must change.
Nothing is inevitable. He can turn on a dime. The main message: do not repeat the actions of FDR, lest you destroy what is left of American liberty and prosperity.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is founder and president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author, most recently, of The Left, The Right, and The State.