On April 6, 20-year-old Ty MacDowell led a march in Portland, Maine, designed to raise awareness of sexism. She did this by walking bare-breasted down the street with two dozen fellow women. MacDowell was shocked to learn that far from decreasing sexism, revealing her bosom drew hundreds of men with cameras. “I’m really upset by the men,” she moped, “watching it like it’s a parade.”
This is called the law of unintended consequences. Anyone with half a brain could foresee the consequences of MacDowell’s march – there’s a reason men spend years of their lives perusing the Internet for booby shots.
There are other applications of the law of unintended consequences, however, that are less obvious.
In the 1960s, liberals dramatically expanded the welfare state under the banner of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society. Johnson and his liberal allies created Welfare, the Job Corps, the Model Cities Program, Head Start, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare, Medicaid and many other governmental make-work, pay-the-poor programs. Johnson referred to these programs as a “beautiful woman.” (Johnson was a serial womanizer, so that was his dearest metaphor.)
At the same time, Johnson was escalating spending in Vietnam; from 1965 to 1968, Johnson augmented the military budget by 25 percent. This frightened Johnson to no end. According to historian Robert D. Hormats, “Johnson frequently remarked to his assistant Joseph Califano that the massive financial demands of World War II had killed the New Deal and the increase in funding for the Korean War had killed Truman’s Fair Deal, and he was concerned a similar fate would befall the Great Society.” Vietnam was, in Johnson’s word, a “bitch.”
The beautiful woman and the bitch were fighting over the same tax dollars. Eventually, LBJ was forced to raise taxes dramatically to curtail the budget crisis that was destroying the dollar. In 1968, the same man who had created the massive social safety nets, comprising a huge portion of the federal budget, suddenly called for “fiscal restraint” and “responsible fiscal policy.” Not coincidentally, in that same speech, LBJ announced he would not run for re-election. Only a few years later, Democrats in Congress refused to fund the Vietnam War, instead choosing to continue funding the social programs LBJ had instituted.
In short, LBJ’s Great Society had two major short-term unintended consequences: First, the Great Society weakened us on the home front by foisting tax hikes and unsustainable debts on the American people; second, the Great Society weakened us abroad by sucking up cash needed to win the Vietnam War. The Great Society forced a choice between guns and butter, and the Democrats chose increasingly expensive butter, paid for by productive Americans.
LBJ could honestly claim that he had no idea his programs would do such immediate damage to the financial and military status of the country. After all, LBJ bought the Keynesian myth that FDR’s programs had spurred the economy and made us stronger on the military front.
President Obama knows better.
Obama’s decision to incur unthinkable new debts via gargantuan entitlement programs, to raise taxes in the midst of a depression, to intensify inflation to catastrophic proportions, is specifically calculated to effect the exact same two consequences as LBJ’s Great Society program. First, Obama wants to weaken us on the home front by “spreading the wealth around” in the name of equality. Second, Obama wants to use that aggravated economic weakness to undermine America’s foreign-policy standing around the world.
First, Obama’s real domestic agenda. He doesn’t care about economic expansion – this week, even as economic reports intensified general gloom, his economic hit man, Paul Volcker, talked about instituting European-type “value-added tax” (VAT). VATs are merely a long-winded way of dramatically exacerbating sales taxes, which would raise prices. Basic supply and demand dictates that raising prices will lower demand, leading to yet another economic spiral. That’s Obama’s goal – as Rahm Emanuel put it so succinctly, Obama is not one to let a good crisis go to waste.
Second, Obama wants to use our economic weakness to undermine our military status in the world. Obama believes the greatest threat to international security is American brutishness. He seeks to alleviate that brutishness by unilaterally cutting our nuclear arsenal, removing honest phrasing like “Islamic radicalism” from our national security documents, and setting egg timers for troop surges.
President Obama does not want a greater, more powerful America; he wants a smaller, more humble America. And he knows how to achieve it. He is not acting out the law of unintended consequences – he strives for the consequences. Unlike LBJ, Obama acts not out of ignorance, but insidiousness. Like LBJ in 1968, he must be made to pay the price.