President Obama appeared to me in a shocking dream the other night. Borrowing a phrase from Ronald Reagan, he declared that, “Government is the problem.” Then he proceeded to rant about the Dodd-Frank bill that’s supposed to regulate the financial sector so as to prevent another economic debacle.
“The popular culprit for the financial meltdown has been Wall Street greed,” he cried. “But what about the role of government? It took government policies to feed the beast! It was government that required financial institutions to make shaky loans with little or no down payments to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back! It was Federal Reserve policy that flooded the market with cheap money, which encouraged financial institutions to take excessive risks, along with the perception that the government would bail them out if the risks turned bad!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Had the order of the cosmos been overturned?
The president said he’d tried to read the Dodd-Frank bill and couldn’t make sense out of it. It was just another bureaucratic labyrinth that was too complex to understand or implement. It would increase the cost of doing business and do nothing to prevent another collapse.
“We don’t need more regulations,” he proclaimed. “We have laws to punish financial crimes. What we need is for government to get out of the housing business and return to the simple rules for sound mortgage loans. Without a government backstop, lenders will become more prudent with their loans. And people won’t be tempted to buy homes they can’t afford.”
I was dumbfounded. Had Vladimir Putin had slipped the president a mickey? Was it a crafty political trick? I tried to wake up, but the president must have cast some kind of spell on me. I remained imprisoned in my dream.
“Since the Great Recession, Americans have acted responsibly and rationally, living within their means, tightening their belts,” he said. “But government has kept on spending. The problem is that it’s easy to spend other people’s money.” He told me that his epiphany had come when he saw the bill for gassing up Air Force One in preparation for another of his cross country speech-making jaunts.
Next, the president turned his wrath on the bureaucracy.
“Bureaucrats spend most of their time compiling files and covering their rear ends,” he roared. “Bureaucracies have no incentive to watch nickels and dimes, to shop for bargains, to live within their means. Many of them are redundant and too big to manage. The biological imperative of bureaucracies is to grow.” It occurred to me that if public service unions heard this tirade, they would go on strike.
The president confessed that he’d come to the office as a believer in government, but that on-the-job experience had convinced him that government has expanded beyond its competence and intruded into many fields where it does more harm than good.
“We’ve succeeded in making everyone from Wall Street to Skid Row dependent on government,” he said. He admitted that he’d once thought of business as “the enemy” and had nursed a negative attitude towards capitalism. “But we don’t really have capitalism any more. Government and business are in bed together. Government coddles business with subsidies and loopholes. It protects business from competition. Government rather than the market place picks winners and losers. Mistrust of government was the fundamental principle that inspired the Founding Fathers. I’m beginning to understand why.”
There will be riots in “blue” states if it gets out that the president had made favorable mention of the market, I thought. An epidemic of fainting spells would sweep through the halls of academia. But the president wasn’t through. Next he vented a screed against elected officials. Elected officials have one set of rules for themselves and their staffs another set of rules for everyone else, he said. He laughed at the fear of a “brain drain” if these prima donnas had to give up some of their privileges and live like the rest of the country lives.
“People have called me an ideologue, but they’re wrong,” he said. “I’m not interested in the triumph of my ideology. It’s not a victory if you cram your ideas down other peoples’ throats. I’m interested in what works. And, by that, I mean, what works for the general welfare and not just for individual interest groups. I want to leave office with the sense that the country — all of it — is better off than when I started.”
At last I did wake up. It was just a dream. I noted that no member of the Loyal Opposition had appeared in that dream to admit that Republicans have been just as responsible as Democrats for the promiscuous growth of government. Only in dreams will you hear a politician admit that he might have been wrong, I thought – unless he’s been caught in some tawdry sex scandal, of course.