Let’s discuss the conservative viewpoint of the populist nightmare. Listen to any stump speech by your local, state and national politicians who are running for office and count the number of times he or she makes a promise to deliver something of value to you.
What should be the role of the federal government – or any government agency – be when it comes to ‘driving’ the economy? The preamble of the Constitution tasks government with promoting the general welfare, not providing the general welfare. Pull out a dictionary and look up the difference.
Andrew Sumereau over at American Thinker has a piece entitled Pledging Allegiance to ‘the Economy’ where he reminds us that the U.S. Constitution limits the power of the federal government.
The idea of federal (or any) politicians “fixing”or “leading” or “making” the economy “move forward” is nothing new, but it runs concurrent with the infantile idea that the federal government exists to fix “problems” of all kinds. Listening to presidential election talk would lead an honest observer, new to the experience, to consider that the election involved some supernatural deities, ready to bring about utopia, if only they get elected, rather than the mediocre executives we get in reality.
This year we have more of the same, only worse. Obama speaks proudly of how he will move “the economy” to a brighter tomorrow. McCain, with equal fatuousness, admits his one weakness is “the economy.” Now amidst the breathless excitement of the election we have a massive “problem” that needs immediate and drastic action to fix. So forget constitutional limits, delegated authority, propriety and law, get it done now and work out the details later.
Nothing new indeed, and the “government has to do something” mentality exists at every level in government. Sumereau notes the current economic situation and the bailout-palooza is new, but growing exponentially. My emphasis added.
The fallacy that all things are permissible if they can be attached to defending a strong “economy” is something relatively new. Recessions and Depressions have a long history in our Republic and many times, it is true, the actions of our political rulers have been the traceable causes. Thomas Jefferson left office greatly unpopular due to the deep financial depression brought about by his embargo on American shipping. Andrew Jackson fought the Bank of the United States as an emblem of economic privilege and a long period of recession followed. Grover Cleveland returned to office in 1892 facing a severe depression and swiftly repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, maintaining the Treasury’s gold reserve. But he still remained the constitutionalist with regard to “bailouts”, refusing to distribute seed to suffering farmers: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.”
Even the Chrysler bailout in 1979 really did not work. You might say that history has put lipstick on that particular pig. Here’s a link to an article by James Hickle back in 1983 – just before Chrysler so proudly “paid off” their government funded loans – on the Heritage Foundation Web site.
In short, the government did get their money back, but creditors at the time only got about 30 cents on the dollar towards $600 million in debts and the total Chrysler workforce was cut in half.
This all ties back to the populist trend. Grover Cleveland was right. If there is no risk involved with our investments – be them financial or sweat – we will take leave of our common sense as we grow to always depend on the government to bail us out.