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Happiness or misery?

Opinion | Will the economic stimulus plan lead to the end of prosperity, individual initiative, personal dreams, and a complete transformation of America, as we have known it?

In Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield, Wilkins Micawber delivers an economics lesson to young David that has been lost on most congressional Democrats, the president, and many of us. "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

The so-called "stimulus plan" cooked up mostly by House Democrats is, in reality, a plan to stimulate government and make it an even greater presence (and burden) in our lives. The appeal to speed and urgency by President Obama is an invitation to overlook details of the bill, which would accelerate the transformation of America from a capitalistic system that exalts the individual to a socialistic system that exalts the state.

Notice that in none of the apocalyptic rhetoric from the president and congressional leaders do we hear anything about the power of people to overcome the recession and restore the economy to health. There is no call for us to help ourselves first, with the aid of family and neighbors, and to employ vision, persistence, and risk in climbing out of the recessionary hole. No, only government can save us, when, in fact, it is government (along with our greed) that has caused our predicament.

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Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, has studied the House bill. He finds it to be a resurrection of the welfare state, which many believe died during the Clinton administration with considerable assistance from the then-Republican Congress.

Rector notes that in the first year following enactment of the stimulus bill, "federal welfare spending will explode upward by more than 20 percent, rising from $491 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $601 billion in FY 2009." That would be the largest expansion of welfare in the nation's history. But it is only the beginning of Obama's pledge to "Joe the Plumber" to "spread the wealth around."

"Once the hidden welfare spending in the bill is counted," writes Rector, "the total 10-year fiscal burden (added to the national debt) will not be $816 billion, as claimed, but $1.34 trillion. This amounts to $17,400 for each household paying income tax in the U.S."

Under this legislation, according to Rector, the federal government for the first time "will give significant cash to able-bodied adults without dependent children." Even though these people may have little apparent need of help, they'll get a check just because government can send one.

Rector says that the House and Senate bills "use the idea of economic stimulus as a Trojan horse to conceal massive, permanent increases in the U.S. welfare system. The goal of the bills is 'spreading the wealth,' not reviving the economy."

It will add to the growing number of people dependent on government and, thus, politicians, who will never show them the way out of poverty, but give them only enough money to sustain them in poverty and then tell them if they don't vote for Democrats, those nasty Republicans will take their checks away.

How many have been duped by Obama's personality and good looks? Don't they understand that a socialist economy means the end of prosperity, individual initiative, personal dreams, and a complete transformation of America, as we have known it? After the "stimulus bill" will come health care "reform." Watch Obama declare an emergency in his pursuit of socialized medicine. Then there's Social Security and Medicare, which must be reformed to alleviate pressure from the retirement of massive numbers of baby boomers. Debt will mount on top of debt.

Part of this is our problem. We have believed the marketers who have convinced us that more is better and still more buys happiness. Politicians promise to help, but in fact hurt by hurtling toward a collectivism in which individuality will be subsumed to the will of the state.

Who will sound the alarm? Who will stand in the gap? This isn't "change we can believe in." This is a nightmare from which we'll never escape. There's still time, but not much. The choice is clear: happiness or misery.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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