Wednesday, January 20, 2010

E.J. Dionne's Hackery

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne likes to cultivate the image of a patient professor, doling out soft-spoken doses of received wisdom to the unenlightened masses. Dionne's reality, though, is that of a pure party hack.

Have a look at Dionne's Monday column (January 18, 2010) for an example. Dionne first relates an anecdote about a smirking Republican "financier" (unidentified, of course) who'd allegedly called the period of the current fiscal crisis, "an excellent time for the Democrats to take power."

Dionne leaves the clear impression here that this evil character--one can readily picture the Monopoly Man twirling his monocle and reaching for the caviar--was reveling in the thought of a downturn engineered by the "malefactors of great wealth" being left in the lap of Dionne's beloved Democratic Party. And no doubt Dionne believes precisely this.

But being a hack, Dionne can't bring himself to mention the actual factors that led to last year's financial collapse. If he'd had the intellectual honesty to do so, Dionne would have had to note the looming shadows of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the behemoth quasi-governmental agencies which bought up and effectively guaranteed vast numbers of mortgages given to bad credit risks.

Even if Democratic politicians and "community activists" hadn't been pushing commercial banks to make as many of those loans as possible--and both were--Fan and Fred still offered a vast backstop of taxpayer-funded guarantees for questionable-at-best loans. When those loans started defaulting in large numbers last year, they took a fair chunk of the U.S. economy with them, and left the taxpayers on the hook.

Worse still for Dionne (and here's a fact you'll never see him own up to), the awful, hated, laissez-faire monster known as George W. Bush tried in 2003 to initiate reasonable oversight on Fannie and Freddie, only to see those regulations shouted down in a cloud of demagoguery by the likes of Barney Frank and Maxine Waters. How different would our economy be today if Fannie and Freddie hadn't been hijacked by Democratic appointees and activists? We'll never know, thanks to Dionne's partisan pals.

Continuing, Dionne attempts to spin the then-looming special election in Massachusetts into a clash of competing narratives—what he calls “the conservatives’ focus on ideology” versus the noble but embattled Obama Administration—as opposed to voters actually looking at the current government’s actions and not liking what they see.

Dionne gives a brief rundown of what he will allow are his opponents’ critiques: “Conservatives blame ‘liberalism’ -- big government, big deficits, an overly ambitious health-care plan, a stimulus that spent too much and other supposedly left-leaning sins of the Obama regime,” but then proceeds right back to excuse-making for the Obami and the familiar “blame Bush for everything” mantras that make up most of The One’s rhetoric these days.

What Dionne can’t bring himself to do is run through those real-world criticisms and evaluate their impacts on the electorate. Take the deficit, for example.

Dionne (and Obama) are fond of pointing at the receding shadow of Bush and shouting, “He made me do it!” when confronted with complaints about the deficit, but they never get around to acknowledging the massive increase in Federal spending under Obama unrelated to either the fiscal crisis or “overseas contingency operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s term in office began with the unfinished business of the 2009 Federal Budget. The Democratic congress never bothered to complete work on that budget in 2008, preferring to pass continuing resolutions during ’08 and wait until after Obama’s inauguration to send a final spending plan to the White House. The result was a pork-bloated $410 billion monstrosity that even left-leaning media criticized as “earmark-laden.”

Things only got worse when the 2010 budget process geared up. With Obama’s implicit approval, congressional Democrats forced through the largest peacetime increase in Federal spending since the New Deal, jacking up the budget baseline by nearly 25%--and that’s not counting a dime of the deeply unpopular TARP bailouts.

Mind you, all that additional spending—all of it borrowed, enough to increase the deficit by a cool trillion over this decade—doesn’t even take into account the proposed costs of Obamacare. That’s yet another couple of trillion a decade if fully implemented. And that doesn’t touch on the ugly and entirely partisan nature of Obamacare: with 60 senate votes, the Democrats decided early on that they were free to completely exclude Republican ideas from the process and shove through anything they wanted.

The sheer cost numbers also don’t capture the corrupt deal making carried out by Obama and his congressional minions: the $300 million Louisiana Purchase of Mary Landrieu’s vote, the Cornhusker Kickback to Ben Nelson, or perhaps most egregiously, last week’s revolting giveaway to the Democrats’ top campaign contributors in Big Labor at the expense of the rest of the citizenry. Dionne never notes this outbreak of “Chicago Way” politics as being a factor in his party’s Tuesday defeat.

As Jonah Goldberg astutely noted, in Dionne’s world, “It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that liberals did the damage themselves, because liberalism is never wrong.”

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