Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is on TV explaining the (at this point the congregation shall fall to its knees and prostrate itself) "stimulus." "How," asks the lady from CBS, "does $335 million in STD prevention stimulate the economy?"
"I'll tell you how," says Speaker Pelosi. "I'm a big believer in prevention. And we have, er… there is a part of the bill on the House side that is about prevention. It's about it being less expensive to the states to do these measures."
Makes a lot of sense. If we have more STD prevention, it will be safer for loose women to go into bars and pick up feckless men, thus stimulating the critical beer and nuts and jukebox industries. To do this, we need trillion-dollar deficits, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay off, but, with sufficient investment in prevention measures, there won't be any children or grandchildren, so there's that problem solved.
The more interviews Speaker Pelosi gives explaining how vital the STD industry is to restarting the U.S. economy, the more I find myself hearing "syphilis" every time she says "stimulus." In late September, America was showing the first signs of "primary stimulus" – a few billion lesions popping up on the rarely glimpsed naughty bits of the economy: the subprime mortgage racket, the leverage kings. Now, the condition has metastasized in a mere four months into the advanced stages of "tertiary stimulus," with trillions of hideous, ever more inflamed pustules sprouting in every nook and cranny as the central nervous system of the body politic crumbles into total insanity – until it seems entirely normal for the second in line of presidential succession to be on TV gibbering away about how vital the federalization of condom distribution is to economic recovery.
The rules in this new "post-partisan" era are pretty simple: If the Democratic Party wants it, it's "stimulus." If the Republican Party opposes it, it's "politics" – as in headlines like this: "Obama Urges GOP To Keep Politics To A Minimum On Stimulus." These are serious times: As the president says, it's the worst economic crisis since the Thirties. So politicians need to put politics behind them and immediately lavish $4.19 billion on his community-organizing pals at the highly inventive "voter registration" group ACORN for "neighborhood stabilization activities."
"Neighborhood stabilization activities." That sounds like a line item from the Baath Party budget when Saddam sends the lads in to gas the Kurds. What does it mean in a nontotalitarian sense? Do you need a federally subsidized condom to do it? If so, will a pathetic $4.19 billion be enough?
"Stimulus" comes from the verb "stimulare," which is Latin for "transfer massive sums of money from what remains of the dynamic sector of the economy to the special interests of the Democratic Party." No, hang on, my mistake. "Stimulare" means "to goad." And, on that front, the Democrats are doing an excellent job. They've managed to goad 58 percent of the American people into opposing the "stimulus" package. They've managed to goad all 117 Republicans in the House into unpacking their mothballed cojones and voting against the bill. And they've managed to goad the rest of the world into ending the Obama honeymoon in nothing flat. Headline from the London Daily Telegraph:
"U.S.-EU Trade War Looms As Barack Obama Bill Urges 'Buy American.'"
That would be the provision in the Senate bill prohibiting any foreign-made goods from being used in "stimulus" projects. So, if you own a rubber plantation in Malaysia, and you're hoping for a piece of Nancy Pelosi's condom action, forget it. The EU Trade Commissioner is outraged at the swaggering cowboy Obama shooting from the hip and unilaterally banning European goods from American soil. But so are American companies such as General Electric. Bill Lane, an executive honcho with Caterpillar (the 10th-biggest U.S. investor in the United Kingdom), says, "We are students of history. A major reason a very deep recession turned into the Great Depression was the fact that countries turned inward." Ah, yes. The Buy American Act of 1933. How'd that work out?
Even without Speaker Pelosi talking STDs on the evening news, there is danger here for the new administration. Setting aside the more messianic effusions ("We needed him. And out of that great need," gushed Maya Angelou, "Barack Obama came") as unbecoming to the freeborn citizens of a constitutional republic, it seems clear that large numbers of people voted for this president because they wanted something different, something other than "politics as usual." Not just something pseudo-different like the dreary maverickiness of John McCain "reaching across the aisle" (one of those dead phrases no one outside the Beltway gives a hoot about), but something really different. But the "stimulus" package is just politics as usual with a few extra zeros on the end. Will you notice anything? No. Don't get your hopes up. If you're broke now, you'll be broke in October. The Congressional Budget Office estimates only 25 percent of it will be spent by early next year. The other 75 percent is as stimulating as the gal in the Nancy Pelosi Pussycat Lounge telling you she had such a good time she's penciled in a second date for spring 2010. A third of all the spending won't come until after 2011.
In a media age, politics is a battle of language, and "stimulus" is too good a word to cede to porked-up statist hacks. "Stimulus" has to stimulate – i.e., it's short-term, like, say, an immediate cut in payroll taxes that will put real actual money in your pocket in next month's paycheck. That way, you don't need to wait for ACORN: You can start "stabilizing" your own "neighborhood" right now.
But, if this fraudulent "stimulus" does pass, it will, in fact, destimulate, and much more than the disastrous protectionist measures of the Thirties did: Back then, America was dealing with a far less globalized economy, and with far fewer competitors. "In the long run, we are all dead," Lord Keynes, the newly fashionable economist, famously said. But, if this bill passes, in the medium term we're all dead. It's a massive expansion of the state in the same direction that has brought sclerosis to Europe. A report issued last week in London found that government spending now accounts for 49 percent of the UK economy – and in the Celtic corners of the kingdom the state's share of the economy is way higher, from 71.6 percent in Wales to 77.6 percent in Northern Ireland. In the Western world, countries that were once the crucible of freedom are slipping remorselessly into a thinly disguised serfdom in which an ever higher proportion of your assets are annexed by the state as superlandlord. Big government is where nations go to die – not in Keynes' "long run," but sooner than you think.
Mark Steyn: Stimulated right into being another Europe
Plan also could trigger protectionist backlash, just like during the Depression.
- MARK STEYN