The longest wish-list ever

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted January 31, 2000

President Clinton has "never been known for the brevity of his remarks," a CBS correspondent wryly observed, and indeed the president set a new record with his 89-minute State of the Union address Thursday evening, presenting in now-standard fashion a laundry list of 101 bold new initiatives to eliminate hunger, poverty, risk, and unhappiness -- everything from "consolidating the confusing violence ratings" on video games and TV shows to a new federal initiative to collect more money from deadbeat dads -- a proposal which the president illustrated in typical show-and-tell fashion by requesting a round of applause for one Carlos Rosas ("Stand up, Carlos"), apparently for making child support payments as required by law to the mother of his child, to whom he remains unmarried.

Yay! ... I guess.

(As for the "violence rating system" -- an area where the Constitutional mandate for federal involvement remains obscure at best -- note that the president thanked the industry for adapting such a system voluntarily, as had been requested by him and the first lady. Their reward for complying voluntarily? The government will now impose on them a better, federal system. See how it pays to cooperate?)

What made this annual stemwinder all the more surreal is that the president began the evening by proudly proclaiming everyone in America is now rich and happy, which (except for the millions killed or imprisoned for violating pointless edicts that didn't even exist 70 years ago) is very nearly true.

So why was it so unthinkable that the president might proceed to merely solicit a round of applause for all the bureaucrats who have done so wonderfully in achieving all the goals Lyndon Johnson set for them back in 1964 -- whereupon he could break the good news that they'll all be going home next week, all the federal ant farms shutting down, last one out please douse the lights?

Instead, determined to "spend" the sleight-of-hand "budget surplus" whose existence no one now questions (in fact, vast long-term commitments remain unfunded, and the federal government continues to sell debt instruments as fast as it can print them -- this outfit has been actuarially bankrupt for at least 60 years), the president blithely ticked off so many new and recycled billion-dollar proposals that Republicans tallied the cost at $343 billion in new spending -- more than the amount of money which the government can actually print. (Government presses currently spew out only $693 million worth of currency a day.)

Up the street, the Libertarian Party tallied this year's welfare-state opium dream in a different fashion, pointing out that during Mr. Clinton's 89-minute "promise-a-thon" he proposed new or increased federal spending to the tune of $743 billion ($400 billion for Medicare; $343 billion for other programs), leading to the mathematical finding that Mr. Clinton managed to propose new spending at a rate of $139 million every second he spoke.

How are we to make sense of such a tangled mass of fiduciary flotsam?

The president said he favors $350 billion in "tax cuts" over 10 years, but most of those actually turn out to be "targeted tax deductions."

What's the difference?

George McGovern was laughed out of town when he proposed a "reverse income tax" 28 years ago. But there it was, buried in the fine print: a $21 billion expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, including expanded child care subsidies which the president would "make refundable for low income families" -- a "refundable credit" being a euphemism for the very reverse income tax of socialist fable and song.

Yet meantime, all these so-called "tax cuts" would be tied to $100 billion in new tax hikes, which the president characterized as merely "closing tax loopholes and shelters."

Tax "hikes" on those who actually pay taxes; tax "cuts" which take the form of government payments to those who don't pay taxes. Get it?

And that's before we even get to initiatives like $280 million for "the largest national gun enforcement program ever" - rewarding the BATF for their fine work at Waco by funding 500 new BATF agents, along with an unspecified new system to trace "every gun and every bullet used in a crime."


Any requirement to put serial numbers on bullets would multiply the price of ammunition 20-fold; would make felons overnight of hobbyists who cast their own bullets; and would effectively outlaw the sale or private possession of surplus military ammunition, the cheapest source of cartridges for the weekend plinker.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of any such scheme assumes criminals will be stupid enough to go into gun shops and buy ammo under their own names. The town of Pomona, Calif. already has a municipal requirement that all ammunition buyers fill out a form with their name and address. I have seen ammo purchases successfully conducted in Pomona under the names "Helen O. Troy" and "Marquis D. Sade." Dealers say local police don't even bother to come around and pick up the thousands of forms after the weekend gun shows.

Also buried in the president's 90-minute wish list was a paltry $1.6 billion over two years to get America deeper into the civil war against "narco-terrorists" in Colombia.

Oh, what fun.

The president said he would "go after their money," which would presumably require imposing American-style "anti-money-laundering" laws throughout the Caribbean, crippling local economies as the newly-wealthy exporters of Latin America's most popular agricultural commodities would merely shift their funds elsewhere.

Then, later in the evening, the president promised Americans "new protections for the privacy of bank and credit card records."

Don't you love it?

Afterwards, the television talking heads were full of praise for "New Democrat" Clinton, who (we were told) "realizes that government can't solve all our problems; it can only serve as an enabler ... an instigator ... a facilitator."

Oh. So government isn't going to solve all my problems. It's only going to "facilitate" my solving of my own problems. And for that it only wants an additional $300 billion to $700 billion?

What a deal.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His new book, "Send in the Waco Killers", is available at 1-800-244-2224.

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