Here is the quote of the week and maybe of the year. It comes from the invaluable Weekly Standard:
"One of the ironies of welfare-state policymaking is that governments often feel obliged to create programs to offset the ill effects of other programs. Lotteries, for instance, lead to public-service campaigns warning people about the addiction to gambling fostered by lotteries. The U.S. government spends money on public television children's programs that air alongside public service messages that discourage kids from spending too much time in front of the television. If government programs encourage unhealthy behavior, wouldn't it be wiser and easier just to get rid of the programs?"
Or would that be unacceptably simple? The answer to that rhetorical question is a decided Yes in this age of the administrative state. And it applies universally. The present mercurial chief executive of this country slaps tariffs on soybeans, rice and other American exports, so still Communist China retaliates in kind and a trade war is on, and could yet lead to another shooting kind. Hubris, as usual, has led to a self-defeating cycle.
Nothing invites disaster like a sense of one's own invincibility to the slings and arrows of fickle fortune. Even the greatest of us, often the greatest by our own immodest appraisal, underestimate the power of our opponents. And so the road is opened to mutual disaster. Americans, like other people, tend to forget that adversaries--whether ideological, military or economic--also have aims to pursue, and will do just that as soon as challenged.
When will our leaders ever learn? Perhaps only after they've led these not always United States of America to the brink of disaster or perhaps beyond. It's happened before and could happen again. See the arrogance of the Southern planter class that led it to assume its own insulation from the laws of history. As it turned out, our planters were not immune to historical fate after all.
In this triumphant moment for Trumpian economic theory, with everything coming up roses and good times back again, jobs are going begging as workers find themselves in demand. But instead of acknowledging that the country is just at the height of an economic cycle, self-promoting pols eagerly take credit for creating it. They've mastered not economics but only the lingo of politics, making themselves sound like economists when they are only opportunists.
Our state treasurer, the insufferable Dennis Milligan, claimed these good times for the state treasury were all his doing. He brings to mind the rooster who, crowing at the dawn, believes he's caused the sun to rise.
To quote Treasurer Milligan, "I realize interest rates are a driving force of any investment activity, but I fully believe that our active management style is helping us make the most of market conditions, while certainly helping us meet our primary objective, which is liquidity. We really have taken the treasury from what I would term as reactionary toward a pro-active management style ..." Yadda, yadda, yadda. Words without meaning, shade without sunshine. It's all entertaining but scarcely enlightening.
Treasurer Milligan is so busy patting himself on the back it's a wonder he doesn't break an arm. His is a bipartisan style, and can be practiced by a Republican president just as well as by a lower-down on the state level. Each has great ambition. If only both in this election cycle had accomplishments to match their oratory.
Paul Greenberg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Editorial on 08/19/2018
Print Headline: Economics 101