Friday, October 31, 2008
I suspect, without any real evidence, that the McCain boomlet over the last few days has run its course, and that Barack Obama will be the next POTUS. I think this not because anything in particular has happened since yesterday, but because essentially nothing has. The polls are where they are, and I think they're more or less accurate. Though I still do expect a break toward McCain of about 3% from undecideds and weak Obama supporters on Election Day, it won't be enough, and Obama will win with a popular vote majority of 0-5%. (The usual caveats apply. In particular, 3 three days is a long time in a situation like this, and I reserve the right to change my mind.)
In any case, let's say I'm right, or stipulate that Obama is going to win in some scenario. What should center-right America do, in the next three days and the next three months before President Obama takes office?
Well, for starters let's try to get a straight story on the current economic crisis. And to acknowledge that it is in fact a crisis. And for the various interventions and bailouts that have occurred or are going to occur, they are done in the context of a crisis and with the intention of ameliorating the crisis. In an ideal world this ought to go without saying, but for all the uproar and debate in the genesis of the Paulson plans and their journey through Congress, it's not at all obvious to me that everybody expects this will happen.
People might not care about this now, but I suspect they should very soon. My gut feeling is that economically speaking, the crisis stage is going to be over soon but a severe cookie-cutter type recession is just starting. And God willing, we'll work our way out of this recession just like we've worked our way out of prior ones. But if this is in fact the case, the various bailouts aren't going to help and will probably make things worse. In fact, the best scholars of the Great Depression (in particular Amity Shlaes) think that New Deal did not end the Depression but instead prolonged it.
Moreover there's a simpler point to be made to anyone who's still listening. Most of our federal money is spent on programs that were started in the attempt to address a crisis. (Defense is an exception: that money is spent before the crisis). We (as mainstream conservatives) are willing to spend money to address a crisis, but we need to insist that when the crisis is over the money flow stops. Otherwise, the federal government doesn't have any money left over to pay for its response to the next crisis. That ought to be especially clear now, where the combination of ballooning entitlements, the bailouts, and the Iraq War have left the government straining near the end of its ability to borrow money, as enormous as that is. And right now, we have the chance to empahsize this while George W. Bush is President so that we have the opportunity to hold Barack Obama to it later.