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Americans are in a panic. Crowds throng gun shows and shops. Blue-chip companies fast-forward 2013’s dividends to 2012. Investors cash out profits, estate planners report a rush of people trying to beat higher inheritance taxes and lobbyists line up for favors.
What these people share is the goal of avoiding or benefitting from government actions. More than ever, the “invisible hand” of free markets is being replaced by the visible hand of bureaucrats. The political class is the new master of the universe.
If this were being staged in a theater, the national epidemic of expectation would be called “Waiting for Government.” It would be as absurd as “Waiting for Godot,” but not at all meaningless.
That’s because the tax-and-spending drama in Washington, as pathetic and infuriating as it is, threatens real-world consequences for every American. How could it be otherwise when Big Government is getting bigger?
Much, much bigger.
The frantic run-up to the fiscal cliff, including wild swings in the stock market, provided an ominous snapshot of the new reality. Barack Obama’s reelection was the big story of 2012, but the real impact of his statist policies will be felt in the new year and for many years to come.
Obama’s victory secures first-term government expansions, such as ObamaCare, which carries expensive mandates and who knows how many unintended consequences. No matter how the fiscal talks are resolved, the IRS will be taking a fatter share of the fruits of national labor. At stake is how much fatter, whose ox gets gored and whose gets spared.
Some statistics, such as housing prices, say the economy is growing, but it’s all relative. The unemployment rate is falling largely because millions have stopped looking for work. Ordinary wages are stagnant or falling.
But it is boom time for the government. Spending continues to rise, hiring is up and the Federal Reserve’s printing presses are running overtime.
The Obama administration is happy to keep borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, or nearly $4 billion a day, seven days a week. Each day brings plans for added regulations and new ways to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The combination creates a huge cloud hanging over every family and business. Debts and inflation exact penalties, perhaps for generations, and already are stifling innovation and job creation. Ours has become the world’s largest debtor nation and still needs more lenders.
The certain result will be an economic pie that doesn’t grow fast enough, which will lead to new demands for more redistribution under the guise of “fairness.” Always, the government redistributes by taking the first bite for itself.
The most disheartening aspect of this gloomy vision is that Americans voted for it. Obama was upfront about wanting to raise taxes and expand government and the debt. The reach and cost of Washington grew dramatically in the last four years, and he was rewarded with four more.
It is naive to think he will change course. His rejection of any serious reforms of entitlements shows that he is emboldened. Woe to the man who dares declare that the government already is too big and powerful. He will be denounced as cruel and caricatured as wanting no government at all.
This being the season for predictions, mine is that millions upon millions of Americans who voted for Obama will be disappointed in 2013. But most will not blame him. They will agree with him that the solution is to double the dose of Washington power.
Never mind that the patient is dying. The Obama operation is a great success. Just ask him.
To continue reading Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post on other topics including Benghazi, click here.