Do you remember the classic film The Sting? Two men, one an old hand and the other an energetic young face, set up an elaborate con to strip a sap out of his money. Charles Krauthammer looks at Barack Obama’s latest pronouncement of the New Foundation, and sees a remake — starring Obama and Jimmy Carter:
Franklin Roosevelt gave us the New Deal. John Kennedy gave us the New Frontier. In a major domestic policy address at Georgetown University this week, Barack Obama promised — eight times — a “New Foundation.” For those too thick to have noticed this proclamation of a new era in American history, the White House Web site helpfully titled its speech excerpts “A New Foundation.”
As it happens, Obama is not the first to try this slogan. President Jimmy Carter peppered his 1979 State of the Union address with five “New Foundations” (and eight more just naked “foundations”). Like most of Carter’s endeavors, this one failed, perhaps because (as I recall it being said at the time) it sounded like the introduction of a new kind of undergarment.
In fact, Carter used it the same context. He declared, “we are building a new foundation for a peaceful and a prosperous world,” and repeated it three times (not four) during the course of the speech to describe national “strength”, international cooperation, and economic growth. Carter wound up leaving the US mired in economic stagnation, rocked backwards by Soviet aggression, and impotence in the Iranian hostage situation — all of which happened within a year of this speech.
We often asserted that Barack Obama was a Carter retread. We didn’t expect him to make it so obvious by lifting Carter’s speeches and nomenclature. Who wrote Obama’s speech anyway, Joe Biden?
As Krauthammer emphasizes, though, stealing themes is a short con. The long con takes more time but gives much greater rewards. It seems that Obama and Carter have paired up for a four-stage long con … and we’re the saps:
The Whopper: The boast that he had “identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade.” It takes audacity to repeat this after it had been so widely exposed as transparently phony. Most of this $2 trillion is conjured up by refraining from spending $180 billion a year for 10 more years of surges in Iraq. Hell, why not make the “deficit reductions” $10 trillion — the extra $8 trillion coming from refraining from repeating the $787 billion stimulus package annually through 2019.
The Puzzler: He further boasted of his frugality by saying that his budget would reduce domestic discretionary spending as a share of GDP to the lowest level ever recorded. Amazing. Squeezing discretionary domestic spending at a time of hugely expanding budgets is merely the baleful residue of out-of-control entitlements and debt service, which will increase astronomically under Obama. To claim these as achievements in fiscal responsibility is testament not to Obama’s frugality but to his brazenness.
The Non Sequitur: “To make sure such a crisis [as we have today] never happens again,” Obama proposes his radical health-care, energy and education reforms, the central pillars of his social democratic agenda. But Obama’s own words contradict this assertion. Notes The Post: “But as his admirable summation of recent history made clear, these pursuits have little to do with the economic crisis, and they are not the key to economic recovery.” Obama rarely fails to repeat this false connection. A crisis — and the public’s resulting pliability to liberal social engineering — is a terrible thing to waste.
The Swindle: The Obama administration is spending money like none other in peacetime history. Obama is smart. He knows this is fiscally unsustainable. He has let it be known privately and publicly that he intends to cure the imbalance with entitlement reform.
Unfortunately, though, Obama’s idea of entitlement reform is to expand entitlements to include everyone. He already proposes a $634 billion down payment on that plan, on top of the 2010 budget that already runs $3.5 trillion, on top of the $700 billion Porkulus, and on top of any additional TARP monies.
Robert Shaw was lucky to escape Paul Newman and Robert Redford in losing just a half-million dollars. This long con will cost us trillions.