"How high's the water, mama? Two feet high and risin'..."
That old Johnny Cash song is a useful metaphor for an approaching disaster should the Obama administration's "flood" of new programs - and spending on old ones - continue.
Obama and his economic team predicted that if Congress failed to pass their "stimulus package," the unemployment rate, at 7.2 percent in the weeks before the president took office, would rise above 8 percent this year and peak at 9 percent in 2010. If Congress passed the stimulus, they said, unemployment would not be as high.
Last week, the Federal Reserve raised its unemployment forecast to a "higher than expected" 10.1 percent and forecast it to remain high through 2011.
The Department of Labor reports that unemployment topped 10 percent in 16 states last month and that Michigan surpassed 15 percent, the first time since 1984 any state has crossed that threshold.
"Three feet high and risin'."
The administration and Congress received more bad news from the Congressional Budget Office. In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said: "In the (health care reform) legislation that has been reported, we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs." Elmendorf added, "...the federal budget is on an unsustainable path, because federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run ... under any plausible scenario..."
He predicted continuing high debt would "cause substantial harm to the economy."
Utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer proposes a way to save money. In an essay for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Singer, who has said that "killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person" and that euthanizing people whose minds are judged inadequate would allow families to "move on," proposes putting a price tag on lives. Under such a proposal, bureaucrats could deny a kidney or new heart to someone because it costs too much and would not sustain "meaningful" life beyond a certain period.
In an environment that values human life above all other living things, such decisions could be made in ways that sustain that value. But in an increasingly anti-life culture in which babies can be aborted for any reason and as pressure increases for health cost reductions, we'll start with the extreme cases and once the precedent of euthanasia has been established (it will be called something else, of course), then "mercy killing" will proceed, whether it is for the ostensible purpose of ending physical suffering or monetary suffering.
"Four feet high and risin'."
The Obama administration, whose leaders have never run a business or met a payroll, plan to pay for this - and not even most of it - by taxing "the rich." Unfortunately, the rich have only so much money and so much patience with having the fruits of their labor taken from them. Investors Business Daily (July 17) debunks the claim of a health care "crisis," noting that 20 million of the 47 million uninsured can afford to buy insurance. "Most of the other 27 million are single and under 35, with as many as a third illegal aliens."
Conservative congressional Democrats, many of whom represent formerly Republican districts, are nervous about more spending and higher taxes. Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, reports that Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, opposes the health care reform bill in its current form and that he and other Blue Dog Democrats, and dissatisfied Republicans, have the votes to kill it.
"Well, the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back till the water comes down,
Five feet high and risin'."