Toothpick Economics

Watching President Obama’s address Tuesday night to congress and then picking through his new budget, I thought that there is no turning back now. The war on private enterprise is on. For complete victory, we need only print more money, pass more laws, consume more goods, bailout more banks, prevent more bankruptcies, regulate more business, waste more resources, tax more wealth, and borrow more yuans.

Unfortunately for us, the feds know they can print these funny money notes at will. I can remember when playing card games, toothpicks were the wager of choice in my family. Only state-run gambling is legal, after all. Inevitably, whoever was short of toothpicks after a few rounds would begin playing silly and unpredictably hands to make up for their deficit. The longer the odds, the bigger the bets, and almost without exception, the faster the loses. Soon enough, the game broke down into chaos. Why would this happen? Because there was no cost for losing. If I squandered my stash of toothpicks, no biggie. There are a thousand more in the cupboard.

In government, the same premise is in effect. Most insulting, each new setback is greeted with expanded powers, higher notoriety and, if you can keep seated when the music stops, greater job security.

After all, if the same people who were completely blindsided by this turmoil are now in charge of correcting it, how surprising is it that they would take these actions? Of course they are seeking more power and refusing to let this opportunity go to waste, as White House Chief of Staff Romh Emanuel said. Statists in every hall of government have spent their careers taking credit for economic growth, job creation, and our generally pleasant standard of living. Now that the tide is turning against their favor, they can’t very well say they don’t have the answer, that we have achieved this limited prosperity in spite of their sabotage, not because of it. One of the president’s early standing ovations came when outlining his recovery plan that will, as he said, “not only revive this economy but build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” How arrogant? Must he not then have some supernatural omniscience, let alone constitutional powers, to plan an economy of 300 million people in order to make such a claim? By extension, he already claims the foresight and benevolence to restructure the “foundation” of the economy in a manner that he approves.

Instead, I offer this grim truth. It is impossible to loot resources, by way of taxation, from productive capacities to less productive capacities and hope to grow an economy. Yet that is exactly what the president proposes. He hopes to invest, his word not mine, billions of dollars into cleaner sources of energy. Why are they less productive? The market has already shown that consumers do not prefer these more expensive energies, else investors would take note of that demand and expand capacity in seeking greater profits. So either the president and his advisers are not economically literate (which is a real possibility), he’s some secret Muslim wishing ill will on the United States (get real), or he sees this crisis as an opportunity to advance his own personal agenda. No matter what conclusion you pick, just know that the president does not have your best interest at heart.

It is true that at some time in the future, these new sources of energy may pay off. At that time, these investments will benefit us. That may be five years from now. That may be after we are all be dead. Who knows? I do know that time it is not today. And if someone has the motivation to invest in these technologies, that is great. They should do it with their own money.

On the bright side, the statists don’t have much left in their economic playbook. Unfortunately, that won’t stop them. They could burden taxpayers even more. And they will. The middle class is all tapped out though. They will soak the rich, jettisoning private capital that much more quickly.

They could regulate more heavily. And they will, as if the 90,000 pages in Federal Registry weren’t crushing enough. Of course, there is the old standby of just inflating the currency. And you can bet your devaluating dollar that they will.

And with every new hand, the odds these officials gamble will get longer and longer. The loses will mount, giving incentive to make bigger bets on slimmer odds. Take evidence in the 70 percent expansion of the money supply in the past six months, the eight trillion dollars of new asset guarantees, or the $1.5 trillion in new spending.

None of these programs have shown any success. No fear. They will press on. Maybe it is no coincidence the Washington Monument is one big toothpick.

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