The “What, Me Worry?” Administration

Vice President Joe Biden was sounding quite bullish during his remarks at the White House on Monday, going so far as to say that Americans are no longer worried about the economy or “America’s ability to be in position to lead the world in the 21st Century.”
He was obviously making an overstatement, as proved by our own incessant worrying about these matters, but we suppose that vice presidents are obligated to engage in such hyperbole. There’s something troubling about it in this case, though, and for a couple of reasons.
One is the frightening possibility that he’s right, and Americans actually have stopped worrying about the economy. Not all Americans, as the many millions of unemployed and the millions more struggling to get by on their more highly taxed wages are no doubt as worried as ever, but at least enough of them to keep the pressure off the administration to do something about it. Anyone still feeling secure in a well-paid job who gets his information from the usual news sources could easily believe that the economy no longer requires worry, as the usual news sources now mostly concern themselves with sequesters and pointless gun control proposals and an illegal immigration problem that has largely gone away due to the lousy economy. The average news consumer has likely also gleaned a general impression that to whatever extent the economy is still struggling it is because of those darned Republicans and their bizarre fetish about the national debt, a view that might even be especially common among the unemployed and the working poor.
Even more frightening is the possibility that Biden and his boss also believe there is nothing to worry about, which would neatly explain the Obama administration’s economic program. Obama’s main preoccupation seems to be punitive tax rates on the rich, which is always couched in terms of “fairness” and never in terms of economic growth or job creation. Whatever arguments one might make for the “fairness” of the administration’s signature legislation, derisively known as “Obamacare,” it unquestionably provides hugely expensive disincentives for every business to hire no more than 49 employees or any new workers at more than 29 hours a week. The ever-expansive regulatory state that Obama seeks might also provide some benefit, but no one is arguing that it will cause an economic boom any time soon. There are still the occasional calls for more stimulus spending, even as the president poses as a fiscally sober sort, but at this point it seems rather perfunctory.
Everything on the Obama agenda seems to be sorts of things that liberals want to do when the economy is churning along, confident that the great engine of free enterprises will withstand a few tweaks, but it’s not all the sort of thing that one does during times of economic contraction. Biden might be offering the obligatory pep talk, but the scarier possibility is that he’s being sincere.

— Bud Norman

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