That's what you get these days for proposing to raise federal spending 4 percent on top of 8 percent increases in the last two years. Most folks would be relatively happy these days with a 4 percent raise, which is well ahead of expected inflation, but not the current crop of Democratic leaders. They appear to be following what can only be called the Streisand strategy for dealing with the Bush administration.
Barbra Streisand, you may recall, issued a political manifesto last week titled "Nice Guys Finish Last or Where Do We Go From Here: A Case for the Democrats." She accused her fellow Democrats of seeming "paralyzed, demoralized and depressed" in the wake of the election. She urged them to put aside their back-biting over the Bill Clinton disasters with Rose Kennedy's consoling thought about her son Jack: "Great men have great flaws." And she urged them to fight "against the Republican revolution that is now sweeping all branches of government."
Streisand, who raises gobs of money for Democrats, concludes with the argument that the public "is being fooled" by Bush. "They are not sufficiently informed to protect their own interests," she claims.
There you have it: Despite a yearlong campaign in which all the issues were debated at length, the public just doesn't know what's good for it. The average citizen is too dumb, or too blind, to fend for herself (as Barbra might put it). After all, if the truth is so clear to a Hollywood intellectual like Funny Girl, then some conspiracy must be afoot that prevents everybody else from comprehending what should be plain.
Just what gives conservative presidents this uncanny power is never quite explained. Barbra insists that "We have a President who stole the presidency through family ties, arrogance and intimidation," though all of those charges have now been refuted.
But maybe it has more to do with the fact that liberals like Streisand who raised a record $5 million for Gore-Lieberman in one fund-raiser last fall have turned their backs on their own heritage. It was precisely the insight of classical liberalism, after all, that individuals could be trusted to mind their own affairs, if only they were sufficiently liberated from the restrictions and burdens of repressive government. Now the left seems to think individuals can't achieve much of anything without help from the government.
Beginning with Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, conservatives began to argue that reducing the size of government would empower the individual. So if anything was stolen in the elections of 1980 and 2000, it was the old liberal message of hope and trust in the people.
All the Streisand strategy has to offer is silly scare talk about how the oceans will rise, water will be poisoned and workers subjected to carpal tunnel syndrome if the dreaded Republicans are allowed to control government. Yet Democratic leaders seem to be buying it. In words of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the president's tax plan, "which gives the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans over 50 percent of the tax breaks, will lead to destructive cuts in services."
Put aside Levin's questionable statistics or the fact that the wealthy also pay most of the income taxes in this country. His plain meaning is that people can't be trusted with a little more of the money they themselves earned and that a 4 percent increase in government spending would somehow be "destructive." If Democrats really believe that message, they have been spending too much time at old Streisand movies.
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