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America Beyond the Point of No Return?

September 29, 2008

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
- George Bernard Shaw

A half century ago, Russian-born writer Ayn Rand warned about the creeping socialism she saw in America even then. In her thousand-page tome, "Atlas Shrugged," Rand told the story of John Galt, a shadowy figure who is so fed up with high taxes, burdensome regulations and interference from government, he secretly recruits the best and brightest of American capitalism - the captains of industry - to withdraw from society to the mountains of Colorado, leaving the growing welfare state without any visible means of support.

Imagine what Ayn Rand would say about the federal government coughing up quantities of cash even career bureaucrats didn't talk about in the 1950s; all to bail out quasi-government entities whose overseers were complicit in the failures of those very institutions.

Republicans and Democrats alike share the blame for this mess. It was largely created out of a misguided need (mostly by Democrats) to feel as though America was actually doing something to help the poor own their own homes. This may be a worthwhile goal, but when people who have absolutely no hope of paying back loans are approved to buy a home, one has to ask, "Who is going to pick up the tab for all this?" Answer: You are, to the tune of at least a trillion dollars, a sum most of us cannot even fathom.

Over the last decade, Democrats like U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CN, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, have insisted that these ridiculous loans be made. Former Attorney General Janet Reno, carrying out the wishes of her boss, threatened legal action against any institution that discriminated or "redlined." I was very disappointed to hear John McCain say on CBS's "60 Minutes" that he admired New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and would consider him to head up the Securities and Exchange Commission. As Bill Clinton's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Cuomo was up to his eyeballs pushing the sub-prime mortgages that started these dominoes tipping in the first place.

And where were Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in the 1990s when Clinton and his cronies were building this house of cards? The GOP held the House and the Senate during most of Clinton's tenure. After 2000, they also held the White House. Why did this situation continue?

The rule in Washington seems to be this: If you squander your money and fail to provide for yourself, the government will take care of you. If you save, invest wisely and prepare for your retirement, you will be penalized in order to pay for those who did not. A perfect example was the tax increase passed by Clinton and the Democrats who still controlled Congress during the first two years of his administration. Seniors who had saved and invested for retirement, and who made more than $34,000 ($44,000 per couple) received a tax increase under that plan.

The frightening thing about the trillion dollar bailout is that everyone seems so willing to go along with it. It is as though we have finally accepted the idea that government is the one entity that has the resources to pull off such a plan. Well, guess what. Government doesn't have a nickel. Government is in the hole to the tune of ten trillion dollars. (Put that number in your pipe and fathom it!) But government has two things no one else has. Government has the power to print money and the power to raise taxes.

Alternatives may yet see the light of day in Congress. Perhaps in this hour of crisis, our representatives will see that the private sector could probably pull itself out of this with some very favorable tax policy. At least try repealing the capital gains tax to see if private firms wouldn't consider buying up these companies.

Or better yet, how about the Fair Tax, so that the billions in offshore accounts can come flooding back into the economy without fear of being sacked by the feds?

Those who for years have predicted America's slide into the cesspool of collectivism have been vindicated by the taxpayer-financed bailout of the mortgage and insurance industry. In essence and in fact, the United States government has nationalized these industries. Hugo Chavez no doubt is amused.

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Copyright ©2008 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.