Washington Overreach – Chasing the Next Big Thing

Washington Overreach – Chasing the Next Big ThingJim Gilchrist, MMP Exclusive – It never ceases to amaze how politicians in Washington, once elected, suddenly think they have all the solutions that will finally set the Nation right. They speak with solid assurance, unbridled confidence, and unassailable authority that if we just go along with their latest scheme, there will be good times ahead for all of us.

Just one problem – they are usually wrong, especially with big things.

Remember NAFTA? This big thing was supposed to open new markets for American goods, create jobs, and launch us into unprecedented levels of prosperity long into the future. It all sounded so logical that if you objected… well, you were just a nut case whose opinions didn’t matter anyway. Then NAFTA wiped out our manufacturing capacity, saddled us with record trade deficits, and consigned the American middle class to compete with third-world wages in a race to the bottom. The trauma wrought by NAFTA prolongs today’s economic recovery. We simply do not have the manufacturing capacity and market demand for our goods that once helped us recuperate quickly from recessions.

Remember Iraq? Our leaders posited WMDs as the next big thing that had to be dealt with. Intelligence was gathered, proofs offered, witnesses examined, testimony taken, troops mobilized. If you disagreed… well, you were just unpatriotic and not worth listening to anyway. The results: thousands of Americans killed, injured or maimed for life, about 500,000 Iraqis killed on the ground and 2.2 million displaced. Then a big whoops – no WMDs.

The next big thing was Afghanistan. Bin Laden was there. We had to get him. Plus, we could teach the Taliban a lesson or two about messing with a superpower. No wait… We had to make Afghanistan safe for democracy, but first we should stabilize the government. No, no… this can’t be done right unless girls go to school. But there are no schools for girls or roads to get to schools, or buses to take them there… Or police to protect them if they ever arrived!

You would have thought by now that our leaders would have learned about the cost and consequences of overreaching in pursuit of the next big thing. But you’d be wrong…

Next on the “big thing” list was to expand home ownership to people who couldn’t really afford it. They spoke tearfully about how more people should share in realizing the American Dream and glowingly predicted how great this would be for the rest of us. The whole home loan infrastructure was changed to make this accommodation. Then the fraud, theft and corruption engendered by the new scheme wiped away trillions in savings and investment worldwide.

Not to worry… Washington saved the day with a big fix for the big problem created by the next big thing.

Since the richest Wall Street firms got burned in the process of packaging bogus securities based on high risk mortgages, they deserved a taxpayer-financed bailout so they could regain liquidity and refocus their activities on lending money to businesses, which would be great for the economy. The rest of us would revel in anything that trickled our way. As it turned out, this scheme worked wonders for Wall Street, but further exposed Main Street to the vagaries of a sputtering economy: stagnant wages, high unemployment, prolonged underemployment, and torpid job mobility.

Feeling slightly bruised on the domestic scene, our leaders turned their gaze elsewhere in pursuit of the next big thing, perhaps something easier to fix. That would be the Middle East.

This powder keg has needed a makeover for quite some time, but now we had just the right tools. All we had to do was recruit some rebellious youth and teach them how to use the Internet and social media to foment regime change. We would gain new friends and help them through the transition to democracy, equip them with a template for a constitution that protected human rights, and teach them the value of diplomacy in making the region more tranquil for business and investment. This would create jobs and make their economies thrive, and would help eliminate the region as a safe haven for terrorists. Peace at last.

Unexpectedly, out of nowhere, comes news that blowback is brewing in Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the region. There is now more turmoil, more exposure to terrorism, more tyranny for local populations and – who would’ve guessed – more tax money needed for our own security.

Okay, forget about all that… Here’s a new big thing that will surely get the Nation back on track and make us feel better – comprehensive immigration reform.

This big thing comes with dreams of amnesty and path to citizenship for all those here illegally. Makes sense doesn’t it? This is not only the fair and just thing to do, but it will turn people who toil for us in the shadows into full-fledged taxpayers who will be able to live here openly without threat of deportation and enable them to bring all their relatives here too. This will boost the economy, reignite innovation, save Social Security, bring together broken families… In fact, there are so many benefits for the rest of us, proponents assure us, what could possibly go wrong by embracing the opportunity?