"I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816
A passel of Nevada politicians tripped over each other in the mad dash to chastise President Barack Obama for yet another cheap shot at the presumed profligacy of a Vegas vacation. But did anyone really listen to the content of his "Father Knows Best" lecture?
"Responsible families don't do their budgets the way the federal government does. Right?" Obama preached in that speech in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday. "When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same."
It is time for your government to do the same, but on Monday, Obama outlined his budget, which calls for plopping down a double-or-nothing Keynesian wager that more federal deficit spending just might somehow, maybe defibrillate a comatose economy. He covered this bet with a multitrillion-dollar IOU from our great-grandchildren's college funds, lunch money, mortgage payments, utility bills and walking around money.
It was the audacity of hypocrisy.
Only a couple of days before that, in the State of the Union address, Obama proposed throwing more of our money at someone else's higher education, seemingly so no one would ever need to bother to save for college.
"In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job," he proclaimed in his usual teleprompter voice, drowned out by the congressional audience led by the jack-in-the-box Pelosi puppet over his left shoulder.
"To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause against those evil bank profits.) Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause for redistributing the wealth.) And let's tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years -- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service. (Applause for reneging on debts.)"
Now, exactly what kind of education "guarantees a good job" when no business can afford to hire -- even with all those promised tax breaks for hiring the unemployed? A tax break is of no consequence when the balance sheets are written in red. And what in the world is "public service"? I take it that is not dropping out of college to start a computer company called Microsoft and creating hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs while producing time-saving tools for home and office.
By the way, Microsoft has laid off more than 5,000 of those employees in the past year.
In his budget speech, Obama declared, "We also continue to lay a new foundation for lasting growth, which is essential as well. Just as it would be a terrible mistake to borrow against our children's future to pay our way today, it would be equally wrong to neglect their future by failing to invest in areas that will determine our economic success in this new century. ... (Talk about having it both ways.)
"We simply cannot continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences; as if waste doesn't matter; as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money; as if we can ignore this challenge for another generation. We can't."
But he does. He proposed a $1.6 trillion deficit this fiscal year alone, the highest since World War II.
Contrast this with Thomas Jefferson's first State of the Union address, in which he implored "that it never may be seen here that after leaving to labor the smallest portion of its earnings on which it can subsist, Government shall itself consume the whole residue of what it was instituted to guard."
At least when you gamble in Las Vegas, you have a slight chance of winning.
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press and access to public information. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.