A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Poor House Posted By Roger Kimball

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Two-point-four trillion dollars:


Take a minute to visualize it. You can’t, you know: it’s simply too big a number. But take a minute to try.

Dazzled yet? You should be. Two-point-four trillion dollars: It’s the largest hike [1] of the debt-ceiling in history, but, hey, that’s no reason for the House not to celebrate [2] and cheer. They passed the buck. President Obama, too, can breath a sigh of release: he doesn’t have to think about raising the “debt-ceiling” until 2013, after the next election. (Query: what does the word “ceiling” add to the word “debt”? Intrinsically, nothing; but by adding a neutral word to a negative you accomplish an important psychological feat: you soften, mellow, calm people who might otherwise concentrate exclusively on the nasty word “debt.”)

As I’ve had occasion to observe before in this space, Alfred E. Neuman is in the driver’s seat [3]. That philosopher furnished the perfect motto for our spendthrift Masters in Washington: “What me worry?”

Last week I wrote here about how “phony cuts [4]” were matched by “real taxes.” I should have added that the phony cuts, of which there are aplenty in that “deal” the House just passed, are also matched by real increases in our country’s indebtedness.

Why is John Boehner smiling? I know why Barack Obama is smiling: he just got a fat check: $2.4 trillion is a lot of stimulus to throw around to your union friends, anti-American despots, and government bureaucracies. You can do a lot of harm with $2.4 trillion.

You can also make it even harder for Americans ever to get out of the hole George W. Bush started but Barack Hussein Obama has been excavating with power machinery for two and a half years.

But John Boehner? He’s a smart guy. He must know that he has just signed off on one of the biggest con-jobs of modern times.

Fourteen-point-three trillion dollars in federal debt, soon to be sixteen-point-seven.

And for what? Anyone who looks at the math knows that the United States had plenty of revenues to meet our debt obligations. This is not (not yet) a Greece-Portugal-Italy situation. If we did the responsible thing and refused to dig the debt hole deeper (forget the ceiling metaphor: its a big, black hole we’re talking about here), what would have happend? The people who got us into this fix would have had to reconsider some of the unaffordable programs they have foisted upon the taxpayer.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

But forget about it. Right on cure, the White House made its desire for more money sound like a national emergency. It was déjà-vu all over again. But what short memories we have!

Think back: A couple of years ago Obama said: “I need $800 billion right now, today — or else! (Sotto voce: The unions are waiting! Hurry up!”) We believed him, saps that we were, and we shoveled over the dough. Where did it go? Where?

Take your time.

It was $800 billion then. Now it’s $2.4 trillion. Where does it end?

“Ok,” you say, “If you’re so smart, what would you do?” First, let me quote Rick Santelli again [5]: “Stop spending, stop spending, stop spending!” Then I’d dismantle the EPA, HUD, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, get rid of the regiments of people fondling children and grannies in airport security lines, raise the eligibility age for social security, and itnroduce something like Paul Ryan’s voucher plan for Medicare.

That would be on Monday. I’m still filling in the rest of the week.

I know now, though, that it won’t happen — at least not until the next election, and who knows how that will go.

But here’s a question: What are these people we elected to serve us doing? Why are they laughing? It’s like that old Sondheim musical. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum got an anemic reception when it first appeared. Then they added the opening number [6], sung at the beginning by Pseudolus, a name that seems brutally appropriate today: “Tragedy Tomorrow,/ Comedy Tonight!” Ha, ha, ha.

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[1] largest hike:

[2] celebrate:

[3] Alfred E. Neuman is in the driver’s seat:’s-seat/

[4] phony cuts:

[5] Rick Santelli again:

[6] opening number:

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