SOMEONE PULLED THE CURTAIN BACK


In the Wizard of Oz, the visit to the Emerald City found Dorothy, her dog Toto, and other companions before the Mighty, All-Powerful Oz. The uncooperative little dog pulled back the curtain from near the huge stage to reveal an elderly man running the mechanical controls to create the illusion of the intimidating Oz.

Just days into office, the curtain seems to have been pulled on Barrack Obama. An unlikely candidate for President, with just 120 days in the US Senate as experience, thrust into an electoral lead by economic events caused by his own party (CRI and federal buy-ups of mortgage paper), Obama has made his first policy push to be the "stimulus package." This package largely came from Obama's party in Congress, eager to start public hand-outs to improve their own political fortunes with constituencies ready for more pork. To those that follow it, what was missing was a really detailed analysis of where stimulus might be effective in the short run and how much it would cost in the long-term. Democrats at all levels saw an opportunity to resurrect spending plans rejected ore postponed in the past by labeling them "stimuli."

To stand up to the Democrats' worst instincts and to work on a consensus to get Republican votes, Obama would have needed to display his hyped "post-partisanship" and to demonstrate that he could stand up to his own party loyalists. Since he has never done either thing in his entire, short career, it is not surprising that we failed to see this skill and determination "in the pinch." Americans instead have seen a "dandy" with no vision to solve the nation's problems other than some cliches and the vain belief in his own near-divinity.

The more the public learns of the stimulus package, the more opposition there is. If the vote is delayed longer, the support seems destined to erode into a island of hard-core big government support from the folks in big cities and their politicians, the last islands of Liberalism in America.

The truly unsettling part of these developments is that this problem was no surprise. It was not a sudden event that may have overtaken an Administration still getting organized. The economic crisis elected Obama and months have passed while he soothed voters with cliches, while apparently doing little behind the scenes to assess the problem or solutions. Two sectors obviously leading the downturn are housing and banking, which - of course- seemed to be ignored entirely in the "stimulus package."

Like Herbert Hoover, whose first reaction to the Depression was to dramatically increase public works spending, Barrack Obama decided that the solution was to unlease his Democratic colleagues "wish-list" for government pork and spending programs and wrap the package in a ribbon that said "economic stimulus." The result is not amenable to cure by amendment, like a lower fat diet of more government spending supported by unsustainable levels of public debt. Congress needs to start with the Republican bill and work out a compromise. Politically, this would require a skilled bipartisan leader experienced in legislative realities backed by a top team of experts with a handle on the solutions required. Unfortunately, neither element seems to be present in Washington right now.

Like the Wizard of Oz, Barrack Obama is getting exposed very early in office as the manipulative and artificial self-promoter that he is. Speeches filled with cliches, skillfully delivered via teleprompter, will not fix what ails us. The man that he pretended to be on television might have a chance, but we did not elect that guy...he does not really exist.

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