Diary

Obama Loses Another Convert as Taylor Puts Down the Kool Aid

Stuart Taylor is one of America’s leading authorities on legal matters, and has been praised for his independence and his critical thinking. Taylor characterizes himself as a centrist; others seen him as a member of the center-right. He has spoken positively of Obama, saying for example that Obama has the potential to be ‘a transformative president.’ Taylor had this to say about Obama just a few weeks ago:

Like a great many other Americans at this singular moment in history, I have rarely been so alarmed about the state of the world — and have never been so hopeful about the promise of a new president…

No human being could possibly meet the soaring expectations that electrified those inaugural crowds. But our new president may have what it takes to uplift the country as much as any president could.

I worried in a pre-election column that Obama’s down-the-line liberal voting record and associations with some extremists did not give a centrist like me much confidence that he would “resist pressure from Democratic interest groups, ideologues, and congressional leaders to steer hard to the left.”

But since then he has done much to fulfill the hope expressed in that same column that he might prove to be “the pragmatic, consensus-building, inspirational Obama who has been on display during the general election campaign.”

How quickly things can change:

Having praised President Obama’s job performance in two recent columns, it is with regret that I now worry that he may be deepening what looks more and more like a depression and may engineer so much spending, debt, and government control of the economy as to leave most Americans permanently less prosperous and less free…

But with the nation already plunging deep into probably necessary debt to rescue the crippled financial system and stimulate the economy, Obama’s proposals for many hundreds of billions in additional spending on universal health care, universal postsecondary education, a massive overhaul of the energy economy, and other liberal programs seem grandiose and unaffordable.

With little in the way of offsetting savings likely to materialize, the Obama agenda would probably generate trillion-dollar deficits with no end in sight, or send middle-class taxes soaring to record levels, or both.

All this from a man who told the nation last week that he doesn’t “believe in bigger government” and who promised tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans…

Taylor also attacks Obama’s smoke and mirrors budget:

As for the budget’s $2 trillion in projected net “savings,” Obama’s budget director, Peter Orszag, admitted in testimony on Tuesday under questioning by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that $1.6 trillion comes from phantom cuts of the money that would be needed to sustain the troop surge in Iraq for another decade — money that nobody ever intended to spend.

Other supposed savings — especially from Medicare — seem unlikely to materialize absent benefit cuts, which Obama has not proposed. And the cost of any health care legislation — to be drafted largely by a Congress that is allergic to the kind of cost-cutting necessary to make universal care sustainable — is likely to be two or three times the $634 billion over 10 years that Obama has budgeted.

Meanwhile, “politics trumps economics” in Obama’s housing program, says Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson. It targets tax credits narrowly on first-time homebuyers with weak credit ratings while creating few incentives for the more affluent and credit-worthy people who have the collective buying power to revive the housing market. Obama also supports a “cram-down” proposal — authorizing bankruptcy judges to unilaterally cut distressed homeowners’ payments — that would be hopelessly unadministrable at best and might drive up mortgage rates…

I still hold out hope that Obama is not irrevocably “casting his lot with collectivists and statists,” as asserted by Peter Wehner, a former Bush aide and a leading conservative intellectual now with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in Commentary magazine’s blog Contentions.

And I hope that the president ponders well Margaret Thatcher’s wise warning against some collectivist conceits, in a 1980 speech quoted by Wehner: “The illusion that government can be a universal provider, and yet society still stay free and prosperous…. The illusion that every loss can be covered by a subsidy. The illusion that we can break the link between reward and effort, and still get the effort.”

Up until now, much of Taylor’s commentary about Obama has been a mix of optimism and pessimism. He has always noted Obama’s strong liberal voting record, while optimistically looking for moderation from a man who claims to be a moderate. Does that sound like someone else? If you answered David Brooks, Chris Buckley, Kathleen Parker, David Frum, or any of a dozen other self-described conservatives, you’d be right.

Taylor sees the handwriting on the wall: while Obama was saying and doing all the right things up until he was sworn in, Taylor recognizes that Obama’s plan is an unworkable attempt to bring prosperity through massive government. Credit him for realizing it’s impossible before many of the others.

Beyond that, Taylor’s piece ought to be required reading for all ‘conservatives for Obama.’ It’s time they realized the president they supported is leading us down a blind alley before it’s too late.