Michael Barone: Cliff creates problems that don't faze Obama

BY MICHAEL BARONE Modified: December 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm •  Published: December 15, 2012
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And economic growth produces things Obama doesn't like. Some people — and not necessarily those with government subsidies — get very rich. Obama prefers a more equal income distribution. The Depression of the 1930s did a great job of increasing economic equality.

Obama seeks to direct the economy in certain politically correct channels. He delights in subsidizing “green jobs” making solar panels or electric cars. Not coincidentally, losers like Solyndra and Fisker had backing from Obama insiders.

The oil and natural gas boom ignited by hydraulic fracturing on private lands does not delight him so much. He sought credit for it on the campaign trail. But his regulators are itching to stamp it out.

One of the problems of prosperity, from this perspective, is that you can't predict what will happen next. People operating in free markets produce innovations that no one else anticipates.

Why risk a recession?

Sluggish growth and recession, in contrast, make things more predictable. Constituencies that enjoy political favor — UAW members at General Motors or Chrysler, for example — can be subsidized to remain in place.

The cost of such subsidies can be extracted from disfavored constituencies. This is called, in Obama's words to Joe the Plumber, “spreading the wealth around.”

Obama seeks to advance what Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America” called “soft despotism,” with “a network of small, complicated, painstaking rules” — think Obamacare — to “finally reduce ... each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd.”

Or so it seems to me. If so, why not risk a recession? It would keep the herd in need of shepherding.

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