Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Douglas here.
Steamboat Springs If you wander down to Citizens Hall in the near future to attend a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, you'll witness what happens when a city and nation drunk on out-of-control spending awaken to the migraine headache of a monumental fiscal hangover.
The imminent manifestation of that headache will be the council trying to stem a looming tide of red ink by tapping reserves, reducing services, reducing personnel - or all three. Steamboat's economic health is in doubt to the degree that if you ask any member of the council what the future portends, you'll most likely get a shrug of the shoulders, because no one knows.
Without a doubt, Steamboat - like all communities in Routt County and across the nation - now is sailing in uncharted economic waters. The only predictable reality is that we will continue to be buffeted by hurricane-force fiscal winds generated by the unintended consequences of the gamble a majority in Washington are playing with this nation's future.
President Barack Obama, following the sorry trail-blazed last fall by former President George W. Bush, has decided the answer to increasing fiscal calamity created by long-term deficit spending and unsound government-forced lending is to "nationalize" our economy while further increasing unsound lending and deficit spending to levels even John Maynard Keynes wouldn't have dared suggest.
In case your dictionary isn't up to date, "nationalize" is the current political term of art for "socialize." There was a time in the distant past - say, last July - that, had our national leaders suggested we convert to socialism, a second revolution would have been in the offing.
Evidently, it's official. We are socialists now, and it happened without a whimper of resistance.
Says Newsweek magazine.
The bold headline on the cover this past week screams "WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW" and is emblazoned over a handshake colored blue and red symbolizing the shared responsibility of Democrats and Republicans in moving this nation from capitalism to socialism.
Convincingly, editor Jon Meacham and reporter Evan Thomas declare that "the U.S. government already has - under a conservative Republican administration - effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art."
While making the sadly credible case that "the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state," and arguing - with unwarranted hope, I fear - that the change will be temporary, they again point to the responsibility and acquiescence of Republicans in the move toward socialism, stating:
"We remain a center-right nation in many ways - particularly culturally, and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism - but it was under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly. People on the right and the left want government to invest in alternative energies in order to break our addiction to foreign oil. And it is unlikely that even the reddest of states will decline federal money for infrastructural improvements."
And, in a statement that arguably sums up the sad paradox of this era in American history, they write: "Bush brought the Age of Reagan to a close; now Obama has gone further, reversing Bill Clinton's end of big government. The story, as always, is complicated. Polls show that Americans don't trust government and still don't want big government. They do, however, want what government delivers, like health care and national defense and, now, protections from banking and housing failure."
Which brings us full circle to Steamboat and the reality that many of our local citizenry suffer from the same paradox. They are perfectly willing to demand more and more of government with one caveat: The burden of paying for those services and benefits must be shifted to someone - anyone - else.
Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately if we care about the debt we as a nation are piling on future generations - Steamboat and our neighboring communities in the Yampa Valley can't just print money backed by staggering levels of IOU's to communist China. So, it will be the unenviable task of our local governments to find relief from local and national binge spending.