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Christopher Buckley’s Reasonable Warning

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I think it’s fair that people are nervous about Obama’s plans. I am too.

But what I don’t think is fair are comments from folks claiming that they’re certain he’ll destroy the economy, that he’s declaring genocide against entrepreneurs and other assorted nonsense.

That brings me to Christopher Buckley, whose father was the late, great conservative thinker William F. Buckley.

In a post at The Daily Beast, Buckley lays out what I consider to be a reasonable caveat emptor.

But first, it’s important to note that he doesn’t want Obama to fail…

Now let me say: Unlike Rush Limbaugh, I want President Obama to succeed. I honestly do. We are all in this leaky boat together—did I say “leaky”? I meant “sieve-like”—and it would be counterproductive, if not downright suicidal, to want it to go down just to prove a conservative critique of Keynesian economics.

Isn’t it refreshing to see a conservative who isn’t so tied to his economic ideology that he isn’t willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, the Friedman way of doing things isn’t the only way? Of course he isn’t the only one, but they’re certainly few and far between these days.

Still, he’s nervous…

If this is what the American people want, so be it, but they ought to have no illusions about the perils of this approach. Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely was whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.

He tells us that all this is going to work because the economy is going to be growing by 3.2 percent a year from now. Do you believe that? Would you take out a loan based on that? And in the three years following, he predicts that our economy will grow by 4 percent a year.

This is nothing if not audacious hope. If he’s right, then looking back, March 2009 will be the dawn of the Age of Stimulation, or whatever elegant phrase Niall Ferguson comes up with. If he turns out to be wrong, then it will look very different, the entrance ramp to the Road to Serfdom, perhaps, and he will reap the whirlwind that follows, along with the rest of us.

Again, I understand the nervousness. We’re in territory we haven’t seen for nearly 70 years. But I think it’s been well established that during periods where consumers aren’t spending and lending is frozen up that government is the spender and lender of last resort. So since our economy is predicated on spending, the pump must be primed so people can get back to work, which will get consumers spending, which will help businesses recover, which will lead to more jobs, which will get people back to work, which will get consumers spending, which will help businesses…well, you get the point.

And yes, I’ve seen the studies that suggest the New Deal didn’t work, so let’s not debate that, but is there any doubt that WWII finally pulled us out of the Great Depression? Even Buckley admits as much. And what was that if not a massive spending program that put millions of people to work for the government and eventually lead to unprecedented private sector innovation and the biggest expansion of the middle class in our nation’s history?

So let’s try this and let’s see if it works. Because I can’t believe that a massive investment in the people and innovation of America is a bad thing. After all, history has proven that it’s paid off every single time we’ve done it.