Obama the Big Spender: Who Knew?

Christopher Buckley, who announced to great fanfare last October that he was voting for Obama, took to the same forum yesterday to announce his misgivings about Obama’s spending.

Government is getting bigger and will stay bigger. Just remember the apothegm that a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.And remember what de Tocqueville told us about a bureaucracy that grows so profuse that not even the most original mind can penetrate it.

If this is what the American people want, so be it, but they ought to have no illusions about the perils of this approach. Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely was whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.

Andrew Sullivan, one of Obama’s earliest and most enthusiastic non-Democratic Party cheerleaders, says, “I’m with Buckley.”

These are two highly intelligent people who make an excellent living writing about politics.  Did they really not see this coming?

Photo from Getty Images

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben says:

    I’m almost positive that Buckley and Sullivan voiced their various misgivings about Obama’s more liberal tendencies, including spending.

    It’s great that they’re willing to break with Obama when they disagree with him. Why is that snark worthy?

  2. James Joyner says:

    It’s great that they’re willing to break with Obama when they disagree with him. Why is that snark worthy?

    This isn’t merely disagreeing with him, it’s fundamental opposition to the principle policy thrust of the candidate they supported.

  3. sam says:

    And remember what de Tocqueville told us about a bureaucracy that grows so profuse that not even the most original mind can penetrate it.

    Too bad he didn’t see this coming re the banking system (see, Credit Default Swap and Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street).

  4. Ben says:

    But your snark implies that they’re shocked(!) Obama is a Big Spending Liberal, and that they’re a couple of idiots for not seeing it coming. When in fact, neither (or at least Andrew) has ever been comfortable with liberal economics, and had several more important (to him anyway, obviously) reasons for supporting Obama regardless.

  5. odograph says:

    I respect Buckely and enjoyed the article, but at the same time found it over-headlined and a little unbalanced (in the tippy sense, not the fairness sense).

    Buckley is grappling with what we all should be, the difficult rational question: if stimulus is sometimes justified is it now, and how much?

    He correctly brings in that too much economics is bunk, and we don’t know the future, but that shouldn’t really let us off the hook. We don’t elect Presidents to say “I can’t deal with this” and then go off to their retreats.

    We need decision making in the face of uncertainty, even if it is (as I suspect this stimulus is) an arbitrary attempt to split the difference.

    That’s the harsh truth. Between the demands of the Krugmans and the implacability of the Mankiws, we split the difference. Now we’ll see how that works.

  6. Neil1030 says:

    Just WHAT did these people expect? Seriously. Their endorsement of Obama was absurd to begin with and anyone could have told them that last fall. Now they are surprised? Give me a break. They should be as surprised by the reality as much as all the pro life people who voted for Obama thinking he was some kind of great healer and uniter who would find “common ground” on abortion. Now they have the wretched Gov. Sebelius as HHS secretary. And when that execrable FOCA is being pushed, I suppose pro lifers for Obama will pretend to be shocked then too.

  7. James,

    Give poor Andrew a break. He’s too busy trying to figure out who Trig Palin’s Mommy is. 😉

    Cheers,

    Bill

  8. odograph says:

    Here’s a question, who is bundling stimulus with continuing spending, and why?

    Is it really Obama? Are his “proposals” along those lines going into law?

    Or is it just his critics, who so badly want to make “spending” arguments that they flatly ignore the state of the economy? (And stolidly pretend that there is no such thing as stimulus.)

  9. Boyd says:

    Odo, let me offer a modification to one of your statements:

    We need decision making in the face of uncertainty, even if it is a decision to keep his hands off of forces he, like everyone else, doesn’t understand.

    The financial world is a huge mess. Forced, gross manipulation of that world can only have unintended effects, since no one understands it. My experience has been that unintended effects are rarely good, but YMMV.

    And no, I don’t think very highly of economists as a class. How could you tell?

  10. Pete Burgess says:

    Economists tend to be empirical thinkers. Try Jude Wanniski for common sense economic thinking.

  11. Our Paul says:

    Said it before, will say it again. If you do not recognize the problem, you cannot provide solutions. If ideology rules the mind, potential solutions are severely constrained. Thus James, pick a problem, and find a plausible solution. For example:

    Rising unemployment has lead to depletion of state run unemployment insurance (compensation) programs to the point where they are on the brink of failure. Individual who have lost a job, and their families, depend on these funds to tide them over while they scramble to re-orient their lives.

    So tell me James, what is your solution to this problem? Or do you plan to join the Mark Sanford of the world whose ideological purity is being violated by the stimulus plan?

    So here is the deal, name what discrete part of the stimulus plan you disagree with, and then we can have a reasonable discussion in the resulting thread. If you flatly state you are against the stimulus plan, do not preach ideology, present reasonable alternatives to the current financial crisis. Surely by now you must appreciate what our friend Rick Moran is unable to comprehend. Ideology is a very thin gruel to feed the hungry.

  12. odograph says:

    How far would you back off, Boyd? No Fed? Some people go that far.

    If it is just “no fiscal policy” that’s a little less extreme but it risks the throwing up of hands.

  13. I started to leave a brief comment, but it ballooned into a full post.

    Short version: I don’t read either Buckley or Sullivan as registering surprise here, just reservation about the policies. I can’t imagine that they didn’t foresee disagreement with an Obama administration, especially on the topic of spending.

    Surely at the end of the day, there are moments when even partisans, when faced with only two choices, find themselves so disenchanted with what would be their normal choice that they feel compelled to choose the other? (Even if they know they will be critiquing that candidate once he is in office?)

  14. Steve Plunk says:

    In both cases their sense of self importance was their downfall. They trusted Obama to be reasonable in policy and now that he is more radical they feel betrayed. Their endorsement should have tempered him somehow. They expected him to reciprocate moderation for bipartisan support. Fools both.

    Remember, he won and won’t forget it.

  15. Drew says:

    This is such faulty logic, Steven-

    “Surely at the end of the day, there are moments when even partisans, when faced with only two choices, find themselves so disenchanted with what would be their normal choice that they feel compelled to choose the other?”

    Let’s see. I can take this butcher knife and stab my abdomen. Ewe!! That’s gonna suck. Or I can take this .357 and put it to my head and pull the trigger……….aw, what the hell, I’m “disenchanted”….gimme the .357.

    Bizarre.