Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Faith-Based Economics

They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. If that's the case, Michael Gerson's definitely not on the side of the angels:
A sitting president normally must accept the boring constraints of real-world choices. Campaigns can inhabit the utopia of their own ambitions.

But it is President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, by proposing the massive government purchase of bad debt, who have assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is John McCain and Barack Obama who are playing the role of Roosevelt's more timid, forgotten foils, "Martin, Barton and Fish."
He hearkens to His Master's Voice, but the best defense he can come up with is, "Bush is the new FDR"? That's the sort of comparison a wag might drop on a Bush supporter right as he takes a sip of his cocktail, with the hope of seeing it spray from his nose. I actually think Gerson is being sincere in this comparison, perhaps because he sees the Great Society programs as compassionate conservatism in action. But is there any rational basis for this parallel, other than "This is potentially a really big, really bad financial crisis?"

Gerson's argument boils down to, "Bush has an idea! Yet McCain wants to step back and see the big picture before acting, and Obama is being cautious." Is Bush's proposal any good? Well, it's from Bush and it's "massive", and apparently that's all Gerson needs to know. (What would Gerson say to those who argue that FDR's fiscal policy was unwise and prolonged the depression?)

We might ask Gerson, "How have things worked out when we blindly followed Bush's other 'big ideas'", but I suspect Gerson would actually tell us, "Everything turned out great!" So of course we should turn over almost a trillion dollars, forbid any judicial or legislative oversight, and... hope things turned out as well as they did in hunting down Bin Laden... Iraq... New Orleans... (Or is it that he wants us to "double down" on the assumption that no President can have a losing streak this long without eventually getting something right, with this being Bush's last card.)

1 comment:

  1. An RCA Victor reference? You dating yourself.


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