Short Term Gain For Long Term Pain

Commentary, Role of Government, Frontier Centre

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. George Bernard Shaw


What did Obama mean when he promised change? He did say it was “Change you can believe in”, but that doesn’t clarify anything. You can believe in change but not understand or agree.

Many understood or at least hoped he meant a change to something completely new. Most were more limited and partisan wanting anything but Bush; a view reinforced by Obama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail. Politicians using words or phrases in vague ways that appear full of conviction, but are actually quite hollow, fuel the confusion. I heard an economist recently describe Obama as 100 yards wide and six inches deep. It is rather cruel, but seems supported when you look beyond the rhetoric at the actual policies.

Understanding is not helped by the many different definitions or usages of change.

Change is the most overused, misused, and exploited idea in the last fifty years. There are two distinct concepts of change creating the confusion in this case, one in the scientific world with climate change and the other in Obama’s promise of change in the political world. Confusion is amplified by his blending the two in policies that can’t work or are unnecessary. Bertrand Russell identified the difference between the two. “Change is scientific, progress is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy.” In other words change identified by science is unquestionable, whereas change in the Obama concept is progress, which may not be an improvement.

Climate change is presented as something new when it is normally significant in short time spans. People were then incorrectly told change is occurring more rapidly then ever before. Most were easily misled because the view of the natural world in western science is still based on the philosophy of uniformitarianism, which holds that change is gradual over long periods of time. This made it easy to identify natural change as unnatural. Now climate change, especially in the form of warming is something to stop; a direct measure of the lack of understanding.

Obama presents change as progress, but what is the reality? Genuine progress is not just discarding old ideas and practices. It is not resurrecting old ideas and presenting them as new. It involves producing and implementing something original and innovative. If this is happening, then the sacrifice and turmoil is tolerable. He has managed to invert the old adage that to become fit and healthy exercise involves short-term pain for long-term gain. His approach and policies are creating short-term gain for long-term pain.

It Failed Before

Nothing Obama has suggested is original or innovative. Worse, it was all tried before and failed. The first sign of change that was not change was the extensive involvement of people from the Clinton era. Then came the completely illogical fiscal policy of getting out of debt by going much further into debt. Similar attempts by Roosevelt in the US, Japan and more recently Britain have all failed.

It was frightening when Vladimir Putin warned the US and the UK about going down the path of Marxism as he did at the world economic forum in Davos. Who would recognize the signs better than those who have recently escaped from the effects?

Communist Chinese students provided the most damning comment of the Obama financial policies by laughing at Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s claim that “Chinese assets are very safe” invested in the US.

Then there is the damming view of liberal commentator Paul Krugman who summarizes it all with, “What an awful mess.”

Much broader condemnations come from a wide variety of sources. Even if you only agree with fifty percent of items on the list it is a damning list of failures and fiascos.

There is a serious problem when countries with experience are telling you not to do what they did.

You Can’t Solve a Non-existent Problem

Everyone agrees the US is facing massive debt for a very long time. History shows tax reductions are the best way to stimulate the economy and generate increased revenue to pay down the debt. Obama plans to deal with climate and energy issues through more taxes with Cap and Trade, and additional costs with expansion of alternative energy. Cap and Trade will provide revenue, but increase the cost of doing business. This will make the US economy less competitive and inhibit growth. Cap and Trade is exactly the wrong policy for two reasons. It assumes CO2 (carbon) is a problem and it will ensure a reduced economy and prolonged debt. Even James Hansen, ardent promoter of human caused global warming, calls Cap and Trade the ‘Temple of Doom’.

Alternative energies are another part of Obama’s plans. He expects they will reduce CO2 levels, produce jobs and make the US independent of foreign oil. This will require considerable changes from the current situation since alternatives provide only 7 percent of US energy.

Other countries have learned the limitations of alternative energies, especially wind power. Richard Courtney provides a good summary of the problems with all of them. His conclusion about wind power; ”Windfarms are expensive, polluting, environmentally damaging bird swatters that produce no useful electricity and make no significant reduction to emissions but threaten electricity cuts.”

As Jon Basil Utley says, “It is only a matter of time before President Barack Obama’s vast popularity runs aground on his energy policies.” See also.

Even the left wing Guardian newspaper is running stories about the failure of the British energy policy that Obama seeks to emulate. Despite this both countries are blindly pushing for energy policies that will reduce CO2 while ignoring the fact it is unnecessary and will have no effect on global warming.

Many countries and regions are facing energy shortages created by abandoning traditional energies before fully assessing the costs and limitations of alternative energies. Now accurate assessment is almost impossible because of government subsidies at all stages. We’ve already witnessed devastating effects of subsidized biofuels leading to hunger and starvation. Meanwhile closures of biofuel and ethanol plants don’t make the mainstream media.

When the Party is Over

The party is still in progress following the justified euphoria of the first African American President. However, Obama clearly rushed to judgment using the euphoria and exaggeration of the financial situation to establish his ideas of change. Many thought he meant real change while others gave him the benefit of the doubt. The problem is the hangover is yet to come. The changes were not new. Worse, they were changes that had failed everywhere they were tried. Countries and leaders with the experience from those failures quickly spoke out, but their warnings appear unheeded.

President Obama is now famous for his teleprompter from which he reads wonderful rhetoric. One dictionary defines rhetoric as, “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.” Maybe Vice President Joe Biden was revealing more than he realized when he said, “What am I going to tell the president when I tell him his teleprompter is broken. What will he do then?”

We do not know what he will do. We do know beyond the rhetoric his changes are not real and his chosen policies have failed every time they were tried. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So, in another twist on an old saying, Obama is repeating doomed history.