Ultra conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh got his own stimulus package recently, signing an eight-year radio deal worth a reported $400 million. That is pretty good for a syndicated talker who attracts millions of listeners five days a week. I admit I once listened to Rush, even found him humorous at times. Once in awhile he even made sense. You knew he was being funny, but you also knew he believed his basic points and made an occasionally decent argument.
Well Limbaugh should be happy that he has President Obama in the White House because now he has exactly what he needs to keep his show lively for another eight years, assuming Obama is re-elected in 2012. And President Obama gave Rush just what he needed, if the New York Post got it right, when he said to Republican leaders, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh." If he really said this one wonders why.
Limbaugh has already declared that he wants Obama to fail if he pushes his "socialist" solutions to the economic problems that we face. It seems Rush thinks almost everything President Obama wants is socialism. Some conservatives have even expressed great reservations about Rush but he has pressed on in insisting that most of what Obama desires is bad for the country.
Columnist Clarence Page, writing in the Thursday Chicago Tribune, said "Limbaugh sounds like he cares more about preserving conservative ideological purity than he cares about saving the economy, or the country." Strong words, but likely not far from the truth. The problem is that President Obama defies the typical labels and stereotypes and some conservatives already see this and applaud it. Call him a "pragmatic liberal" or a "progressive" of a new sort, he is not the liberal of the far left that we have known the past thirty years or so. Obama, adds Clarence Page, has less angst about conservatism than he does about strong ideology. (By the way, this was demonstrated by Obama's leadership of the Harvard Law Review.)
The truth is that the stimulus package the president sought this week had far more tax cuts in it than the Congress will likely give him. My fear is that an over-aggressive Congress, just dying to spend more money, will harm us much more than President Obama. What I do fear about the president is that he will sign what congress gives him even though he promised to cut pork and waste. Time will tell. I think the majority of Americans believe government has a role in solving this problem but many of us fear the government will make things worse by creating a much bigger debt that will potentially ruin those who make up the next generation.
Peter Roskam, my own congressman, wrote in a Thursday edition of our suburban newspaper: "The politics of change has come to Washington, rhetorically, but we have yet to see Democratic leaders in the House and Senate follow through on this promise. It's not too late but the clock is ticking." Peter Roskam is right. (By the way, Roskam and Obama like one another personally. They know each other from their days in the Illinois Senate!)
It is estimated that it will cost the taxpayers $235,000 per job to create new jobs under the stimulus proposal. The private sector could do this a lot better and thus would call this plan, adds Roskam, "a bad investment." I agree. "The government," concludes Congressman Roskam, "calls it business as usual."
I think President Obama may not be our primary problem in the coming years. I think the Democrats in the House and Senate may use these years to spend money in ways that will in-debt us beyond repair. I hope I am wrong. But I am not about to support Rush Limbaugh's approach for how to address the problem. I much prefer the insights and political good sense of thinkers like George Will, David Brooks, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes to the silliness of people like Rush Limbaugh. Rush makes a serious argument look clownish and the end result is not one that helps the civil and social well-being of our nation. We can do much better in mounting serious alternatives to gross over-spending.