HH: It’s Thursday, that means we begin as we do on every Thursday when we are lucky with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com. Mark, the Senate Budget Committee today passed a plan that calls for a deficit of $1.2 trillion for 2010, and then crowed that it’ll be all the way down to $508 billion in 2014, which is more than double, it’s actually triple what George Bush’s 2007 budget deficit was. I guess elections have consequences.
MS: Yes, they do, and if you remember, the Democrats were scathing about Bush’s deficits, which arose, really, in the wake of September 11th, and the decision to prosecute a global war on terror. Obama has basically downgraded the war into whatever he’s calling it now, a global, an overseas contingency operation. And yet essentially, he’s now justifying the deficits for these huge, experimental, big government programs, that I think will prolong the recession, these figures are all hooey anyway. The deficit’s going to be a lot bigger than that, because they’re predicated on, frankly, quite absurd projections of economic growth.
HH: And it seems to me, if you were pressed to describe what the money is being spent on, how we go from $175 billion dollar deficit in 2007 to $1.2 trillion…it’s not TARP. That was last year.
HH: How would you describe where the money’s going, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, I think most of it is being, will be wasted. What it’s intended for is an expansion of government. Now it’s not a stimulus. Let’s throw that word out. There’s no stimulus. They haven’t got the manpower to direct the money to the stimulus. Basically, the Treasury Department is an empty building. It’s got Tim Geithner, who frankly is a pitiful figure these days, rattling around with some three dozen junior staff. He’s got no senior appointments. They’re finding it difficult to find people willing even to be considered for Treasury Department appointments. So basically, a half billion here, three billion there, twelve billion there, forty-seven billion there, it’s all being wasted. He doesn’t know where these sums are going. No single individual could.
HH: You know, Mark Steyn, if they had at least built a Navy out of this, I’d feel better, and we would know that something would be there at the end. But they’re also, they’re really going to come up against the Defense Department appropriation as well, because today it was announced to AP that in addition to the 17,000 fresh troops he’s committed to Afghanistan, an additional 4,000 military trainers will be going overseas to assist in the buildout of the Afghan Army. I applaud that, but there’s no budgeting for this sort of thing.
MS: No, and in fact, Barney Frank, who sometimes seems like the de facto prime minister of the United States from the amount of time he’s spending on TV laying down the law to the rest of us, Barney Frank has said that at some point, military budget cuts have to come into play, because all this other rubbish, all this health care, green energy, all this other big government expansion stuff he wants to do has to come out from somewhere, and there isn’t money for an Army and a Navy and an Air Force with it as well.
HH: What did you make of the President’s non-press conference, or non-news conference with the Jumbotron in the back of the room?
MS: I didn’t see the point of it, because there wasn’t any news. I mean, what is becoming clear is that he likes talking. He had some thing today, some cockamamie, you know, pseudo-town meeting, cyber town meeting on the internet. We know he can do that. He did it for a couple of years before last November. We know he can talk. Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal said it’s a time for leadership, not talkership, and that’s what we’re getting from him. Basically, he’s talked and talked and talked, meanwhile all his administration has done is vaporize American wealth now for two months. It’s destroying American wealth, it’s destroying American jobs, it’s destroying the global economy, and all he does is talk, talk, talk.
HH: So I gather you’re not impressed that the Senate voted today to triple the size of Americorps (laughing)
MS: No, and I’ve got no time for that, actually. I’m a bit sick of the government annexation of public spirit. Tocqueville, two hundred years ago, identified America’s great resource in the civic spirit of its citizenry, that they form what they call the little platoons of society, organizational groups. The minute the federal government federalizes volunteerism, it’s just a big bureaucratic boondoggle. I think Americorps should have been abolished. It’s some ludicrous, Clintonian gimmick. The idea that it’s a permanent feature of life now is ridiculous.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, one of the most interesting exchanges in the non-news conference was when Mike Allen of Politico asked about the charitable and mortgage interest deduction scaling back for people above $250,000 dollars of annual income, family-wise. And the President said, despite evidence to the contrary, that it would have no impact on giving. It seems extraordinary that one, he denies the obvious evidence. It would be about $4 billion dollars a year by every study, and number two, that he would want to do anything that would diminish in any way the incentive to give to the private sector, except that it’s consistent with an ever-expanding public sector.
MS: No, I think actually that is the plan. I think he wants to diminish private charity, because if you look, for example, at Europe, Continental Europe, the American individual is the most generous individual in the world. He gives more money to charity than any other Western nation. What happens in Europe is when the government annexes those activities, or makes them less attractive financially, its private charities shrivel. And the way to think about Obama, I’ve concluded, is that essentially he’s not, he doesn’t have a political philosophy or a geopolitical vision. He’s a social engineer. And so his priority is always to grow government at the expense of any rival sources of legitimacy, and that’s what this charitable deduction thing does for him.
HH: Let’s talk a little politics. I was emceeing a dinner on Monday night in D.C. Bobby Jindal spoke, Mike Pence was very enthusiastically received, John Boehner, the conservatives are sort of rising in Washington, D.C. And then today, Mark Levin’s brand new book is number one on Amazon.com. Do you see a sort of a consolidation and a reenergizing of the conservative movement, as Karl Rove sees, in this deficit and spending issue, Mark Steyn?
MS: Yeah, I think you can say that. I mean, there’s certainly a big movement here that feels the last thing we need at the moment is bigger government and more taxes. And it’s interesting to me that these tea parties, for example, that the media have not covered, if you put 20 ACORN activists on a bus and send them around the Connecticut addresses of AIG vice presidents, 45 camera crews will follow those 20 ACORN activists. But thousands and thousands of people turn out for these tea parties, and they’re not being covered. There’s a real grass roots movement that’s sort of getting here, and it just needs a kind of manifesto to coalesce around, I think ten basic points of why we don’t want to go in this horrible European socialist direction Obama’s taking us.
HH: Now in terms of where that’s going, does it matter that it’s outside of the Republican Party? Do you think it’s better that it be outside of the Republican Party at the beginning?
MS: Yes, I think so. My old friend, David Frum, said I think just after the election, that it was very important that the Senate should be the source of Republican renewal. And I fell off my seat laughing at that, because if you look at Republican Senators, they’re trimmers and compromisers. The idea that Arlen Specter and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and John McCain could be leaders of anything, I think, is absurd. The Republicans were, in effect, the Republican legislators will in effect be beneficiaries of a kind of grass roots dissatisfaction with Obama. But the idea, frankly, that there’s many of those Republicans in Washington who could lead this movement, I don’t think that’s true at all.
HH: Last question, Mark Steyn, Chicago Tribune reporting this afternoon that Rahm Emanuel picked up at least $320,000 dollars for his fourteen month stint at the Freddie Mac board that required little effort.
HH: Will this be of consequence? And what would happen if Karl Rove had done such a thing?
MS: No, it won’t be of consequence, because essentially, the Obama administration and Congress have pulled off this sort of misdirection that I said the other day, it’s like David Copperfield when he used to go on TV and make the Empire State Building levitate in the air. You know, essentially…or he’d make the Empire State Building disappear. I mean, these guys, Rahm Emanuel, Barney Frank, have persuaded people that it’s businessmen that’s the problem. It’s not. It’s these politicians like Emanuel and Frank who messed things up.