President Obama made good on his reputation for giving excellent speeches. He seemed calm and confident. It’s no wonder that instant polls show that most viewers liked it.
That reaction is all part of the guiding strategy of this administration: using a crisis atmosphere to amass more money and power in Washington. There’s a long history of government growth in times of crisis such as wars, natural disasters, or economic shocks. Think of FDR’s revolutionary “first 100 days” or LBJ’s driving through his Great Society programs in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
George W. Bush did it, too, with both the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq after the shock of 9/11. And in so doing, he left his successor both a presidency and a federal government with unprecedented powers, ready to be employed for a different agenda.
The difference between the Bush and Obama administration is that the latter openly proclaims its use of the “shock doctrine.” As Rahm Emanuel says, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And this crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”
And that’s the strategy behind the sweeping agenda that President Obama laid out. The president called his budget “a blueprint for our future,” and as my colleague John Samples notes, “A blueprint is a plan for the society as a whole just as a real blueprint is a plan for a building…. [This is] a plan for the remaking of America. The metaphor reveals a habit of mind at odds with a free society.” Obama promised that the federal government would impose comprehensive redesigns on energy, health care, and education. But the success of America has always been rooted in individual enterprise and free markets. Obama blames free markets for our problems, when it was cheap money from the Fed and misguided federal incentives that caused the mortgage debacle.
Voters respond enthusiastically to determined leadership at the moment of crisis. But laws made in a crisis atmosphere, from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to Nixon’s wage and price controls to the TARP legislation, usually turn out badly. Democrats want to use this crisis to ram through government takeovers that they couldn’t achieve in any other period. We should slow down, take a deep breath, and carefully consider whether we want a clumsy, always-behind-the-times bureaucracy to take charge of our health, our access to energy, and our educational future.
[ Cross-posted from The Hill’s Congress Blog ]