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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama could be reaching too far too quickly

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

In just a month, President Barack Obama has saved the banking, financial services and housing industries, changed the way that Washington does business, bailed out the auto industry, settled the Republican hash and saved the economy with the largest spending bill ever passed. In record time.

This week he goes on to save health care, tame entitlements, balance the budget and map the way to energy independence. At least that's all that's scheduled. Maybe he'll throw in a bonus, like curing cancer.

No disrespect intended, but it makes me think of the late comic genius Andy Kaufman, standing next to a phonograph on bare stage and lip-syncing to the Mighty Mouse song.

Obama's schedule this week includes a White House fiscal policy summit Monday, a speech to Congress on Tuesday and the unveiling of his budget Thursday.

Potomac decipherers describe this as Obama's breakaway week, in which he completes the onerous task of dealing with the mess he inherited and begins his own far-reaching agenda. Of course, the inherited mess includes finishing work on this fiscal year's budget, which—ahem—the Democratic Congress failed to pass even though we're five months into the fiscal year. My question is: When does Obama have the time to go over the budget "line by line" like he promised?

Obviously, he doesn't, but we won't count that as a broken campaign promise because, well, we'd get trashed by the White House for questioning the wisdom of this frenzy. Much as Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs racked Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter in Chicago's futures pits, over the coals for audaciously saying what many Americans are: How fair is it when the irresponsible get rewarded by the government and the 90 percent of us who pay our mortgages on time don't? What kind of example does it set for a nation that has gone from an instant-gratification culture to one that demands instant and foolproof protection from all risk? You'll have to excuse the Chicago commodities and futures traders for raising the question, since they make their living by facing down pure risk. You would have thought the current White House would understand where the traders are coming from since the financial/investment sector was among Obama's biggest campaign contributors, according to

There is something about this manic rush to set straight everything in America that bespeaks an incredible conceit, the same kind of hubris that argues that government policy can stabilize the global climate. While I detect a certain pride in the Obama administration at having "accomplished" more in a single month than Franklin Roosevelt did in an entire term, there's also the possibility that Obama may have done more damage in the opening week of his administration than President George W. Bush allegedly did in two terms.

In this feverish rush to solve everything, wouldn't it be prudent to pause a moment to appreciate the fact that no one, even by the administration's acknowledgment, knows whether the economic upheaval we've set in motion, including a change in the basic relationship between the American citizen and his government, will work? Much of what Obama and the Democrats have done already is irreversible, giving some of us the feeling that we're speeding down a dark highway at midnight with no headlights on.

Again and again, we hear that our only choice is not just to do something, but to do this something—a truly false dichotomy. But the question remains: What if we're wrong? What if we've spawned a monster—the kind of stagflation that gripped us in the early 1980s? What if the unprecedented debt we are creating is so huge that our children will have to spend so much of their wealth servicing it that they'll be denied the indulgences that this generation takes as its right. Or worse, what if the debt servicing consumes so much of the nation's wealth that future generations will be unable to afford the safety nets and government social spending that the left


rjv said...

We elected Barack Obama as president, not you. I think the problems we have require aggressive action, not sitting on one's hands as you and other negativists propose.

BT said...

Mr. Byrne, could you please do us all a favor, and simply rename your column to "It's all the Democrats Fault"? It would save us all a lot of time. Clearly you are able to apply that reasoning to virtually anything that happens.

Oh, and I'm certain that if Obama had done less in his first month, there is NO way you would write a column complaining about his inaction.

Anonymous said...

Last night, Obama promised that we would cure cancer in this generation.
I hope he's right on that one.

Anonymous said...


Keep writing and ignore the naysayers. You are so right! I was at the Chicago Tea Party and most right-thinking people know that the Left had all these bills just waiting for this moment. Obama continues to pour on the "crisis" talk and the market continues to tank with every spending bill that is rushed through Congress with no public imput. God and some Leftists only know what is buried in the fine print.

I can only hope that conservatives begin to use the Supreme Court, before Obama fills it with young radicals, to protect enough of our freedoms that we can undo the results of this election in 2010.