How to cut spending: Scalpel or machete?


I have always been amazed at the ability of various leftist theorists and policymakers to stare at economic devastations and terrible injustices of government regulation and propose to fix the problem with more of the same. One glaring example comes from the preface of Frederick Engels to the first German edition of The Poverty of Philosophy. In it, he attacks rival utopians for their lack of appreciation of the coordinating function of free market price signals without stopping to smell the rotten foundations of the Marxist model sponsored and popularized by him: "If now competition is to be forbidden to make the individual producers aware, by a rise or fall in prices, how the world market stands, then they are completely blindfolded."

As a student I asked my mentor, Southern Illinois University professor emeritus P. Bart Trescott, to help me solve the puzzle. He smiled and told me: "They all have one thing in common-none of them understands supply." Then he gave me a book that explains it well: Classical Economists, the second volume of Murray Rothbard's history of economic ideas.

I remembered recently this conversation on the irreconcilable contradictions of a leftist mind when I heard our president's proposal on how to cut spending and keep our welfare state intact. While he was trying to convince the electorate that we could have our cake and eat it too, Obama was selling himself as a skilful, responsible, and caring fiscal surgeon planning to use a scalpel on a 14-trillion pound overweight monstrosity.

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It sounded like the president intended to remove a bit of extra fat around the belly and hips (by taxing the rich and shrinking the army) and give our economy a long overdue nose job (pet projects like "green" energy and high-speed rail) so we can postpone the surrendering of the "Miss Universe" crown to the Chinese. He planted in the heads of the 2012 voters an image of his opponents as a bunch of Charlie Sheens waving machetes at America's widows and orphans, the sick and the elderly. Obama's "me-to-them" comparisons are unfortunately quite misleading. The sad truth is that, at a time when entitlement reforms require a chainsaw, the contestants are armed with baby nail clippers and butter knives.

Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.


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