Conservatives are used to having their intelligence insulted by the mainstream media. I’m therefore grateful to liberal columnist Jonathan Alter for having the magnanimity to insult the intelligence not only of conservatives, but of the entire electorate.
Alter’s recent column, in which he cheerleads President Obama to give Republicans hell with a “bold” new jobs plan, reveals profound contempt for the average American. It also showcases the intellectual bankruptcy of modern liberal economics, whose adherents have no idea how to revive an economy that has surpassed its capacity for massive Keynesian deficit spending.
This condescension to average voters is something to behold. While insisting that Obama’s plan to create a federal infrastructure bank is “a good idea,” Alter calls it “tone deaf politically” because “many voters don’t really know what infrastructure means.” Is this how America looks from the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
Alter applauds Obama’s desire for more stimulus, but warns him not to actually use the word “stimulus.” That word, he says, has become “stigmatized” (presumably by the colossal failure of the first stimulus). Better to call the new stimulus something else, Alter suggests, like the “Jobs First” agenda.
Yeah, that’s the ticket. Changing the brand-name will instantly allay the concerns of voters who fear that we’re borrowing and spending ourselves into oblivion.
Some voters might be insulted by the suggestion that a little creative relabeling will fool them into embracing policies they would otherwise reject. To paraphrase my grandmother, we voters may be dumb but we’re not stupid.
President Obama has revealed himself to be a Keynesian one-trick pony. Since his first stimulus succeeded only in running up our debt, it is politically impossible to repeat that trick.
Now that another massive new dose of deficit spending is no longer possible, the rigid Keynesian mind can only conceive of one alternative: a smaller dose of deficit spending. But to the Keynesian mind, a small dose of deficit spending will have a tiny impact compared to a massive dose of deficit spending. Obama can’t possibly have his heart in the “mini-stimulus” he’s likely to propose; he probably believes it’s doomed to failure because it’s too small.
Alter rattles off proposals that he expects to form the heart of an Obama mini-stimulus: extending the payroll-tax holiday (which would deprive funding to our fiscally unsound Social Security program), increasing public-works spending (which would increase the deficit), reforming the patent process (fine, but very minor), ratifying trade deals (which the Obama Administration has held up so far) and extending unemployment insurance (which, according to some studies, would increase unemployment). “Mini-stimulus” is an apt name for this uninspired grab bag; any stimulative effect it would have on our economy would be decidedly “mini.”
It is difficult to imagine that this program could inspire the fiery “give ‘em hell, Barry” campaign against Republicans that Obama’s base so desperately wants. Obama’s supporters want him to channel Harry Truman in his triumphant whistle-stop train tour across America. If the recent “Made in Canada” bus tour through Middle America is any indication, Obama is no Harry Truman.