Barack Obama is proposing that the U.S. alter the relationship between the national government and private sector that was put in place by Ronald Reagan and largely continued by the presidencies of Bill Clinton and the Bushes. Then, the private sector led the economy. Now Washington will chart its course. . . It’s becoming clear that the private sector is going to be demoted into a secondary role in the U.S. system. This isn’t socialism, but it is not the system we’ve had since the early 1980s. It would be a reordered economic system, its direction chosen and guided by Mr. Obama and his inner circle.
Will Obama succeed in this audacious endeavor? Well, for starters, the economy might have something to “say” about all of this. The slides in markets and consumer-confidence ratings, to some extent, reflect the collective “thumbs down” on the administration’s course of action. The potential that the recovery will be stalled by a regime of more government spending, regulation, and taxation has not been lost on those who must invest, hire, and plan their expenditures. Will that flashing red light then be recognized as a dire warning in Washington and serve to upset the administration’s plans for even more anti-free market policies? Perhaps.
Then there is the matter of the public. They don’t like the bailouts. They don’t like big government — which is why the president had to offer the untruth that he doesn’t like big government either. It is possible that the public’s aversion to a scheme this huge might deter Congress or moderate their designs.
There is also the math problem: There isn’t remotely enough revenue to pay for what the Obama team wants to do. And the size of the additional debt to be run up would severely test the Chinese (and other investors’) appetite for our Treasury paper.
And of course there are elections in 2010, which — if all the damage isn’t done by then — may afford the public an opportunity to weigh in on the most radical redesign of government since. . . well, since ever.
But I do disagree on one point with Henninger. He declares: “Unless the GOP can discover a radical message of its own to distinguish it from the president’s, it should prepare to live under Mr. Obama’s radicalism for at least a generation.” Actually, I think the Republicans should leave the radicalism to the Democrats. Instead, the GOP would be well advised to construct an appeal to this center-right country that a far left agenda is not one we should embrace. Radical? No. Clear and urgent? Definitely.