Barack Obama Channels His Inner Gerry Ford

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Do you remember a program launched by the hapless Gerald Ford back in 1974 called "Whip Inflation Now (WIN)? In a futile effort to show that his administration was doing something about the most significant economic problem of the times, his cabinet and staff took to wearing WIN buttons, jawboning Americans to show more discipline in their spending habits. Nevermind that the Federal Reserve went on printing money like there was no tomorrow.

Ford became a laughingstock and an unknown from Georgia grabbed the crown, promising change. While Jimmy Carter inherited a bad inflation problem, exacerbated by years of Congressional overspending, he proceeded to make things worse. Lest young people forget, my first home mortgage was at 18%. Anyone foolish enough to have saved for retirement was wiped out. Investors paid taxes on illusory gains as assets lost real value. Blessedly Carter only served one term, although he did go on to win the Nobel Prize for bringing peace to Israel, North Korea, and Haiti. Gotta love those cheery Scandinavians.

Breaking the back of inflation ultimately took determined action by a president who defied pollsters, academics, Washington insiders, unions, and jeering media pundits. Short term pain was required but by addressing fundamentals the groundwork was laid for two decades of prosperity. You would think this would serve as a lesson to presidents thinking about tackling mammoth problems by making stupid useless gestures.

Apparently not. In the face of runaway spending that would make Lyndon Johnson blush, President Obama boldly announced his Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, or as some have begun calling it, Reduns. Go give the text of this bizarre proposal a quick read, it's as brief as it is humorous. Apparently, pollsters in the White House think their boss can win points by establishing a formal process by which the president will regularly beg Congress for permission to rescind selected spending programs that "do not have a legitimate and worthy public purpose," to quote directly from the President's words.

Wow, how's that for clarity? Eat your heart out, Gerry.

Does Reduns do a thing to restructure the entitlement programs demographically destined to bankrupt the country? Nope, the proposal specifically exempts entitlements. Does Reduns dig Fannie Mae out from under the growing mountain of bad mortgages now backed by the full faith and credit of the US government? Nope, Washington has closed its eyes hoping willful denial will make Fannie disappear along with Barney Frank's old YouTube videos. Does Reduns shelve the next $100 Billion porkulus bill currently making its way into law? Nope, the last stimulus bill did such a swell job reducing unemployment they're going to feed us another one. Does Reduns alleviate unfunded spending mandates loaded onto the states? Cut farm subsidies? Close down military bases in foreign countries that should be paying for their own defense? Stop Congress from buying jet engines that the Pentagon doesn't even want? Nope, nope, nope and nope.

Surround a man with fawning sycophants that tell him he is the answer to prophecy, that his touch can heal the sick, and that his smile infuses enemies' hearts with love and sooner or later he will start believing them. There is no other explanation because only a president utterly disconnected from reality could publish a proposal like Reduns at a time like this. Judging by the deafening silence even the liberal media must be embarrassed.

The United States of America is heading for a fiscal precipice and everybody knows it. Uncle Sam will never default because, unlike Greece, the Fed can print as much money as it pleases to pay back bondholders. Inflating away the national debt, along with the trillions in unfunded liabilities that underlie middle class entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and now Obamacare, is the path that gives the largest number of Congressmen the collective ability to dodge responsibility while blaming others. Yes, this leaves the last president holding the bag but it does allow the telegenic fella currently in office to propose ridiculous programs like Reduns.

But shocked silence isn't the appropriate response. Laughter is. Good, hard, you must be kidding me laughter. Bumbling fool, Gerry Ford, bring on the next act laughter. In your face, burst the illusion, how could we have been such idiots to believe you know what you are doing laughter. They did it to Gerry, who rightly deserved it. In the end put-on-your sweater Jimmy got it too, although the laughter turned to crying by the time his presidency degenerated into a complete shambles.

Laugh these clowns out of office and if we get lucky maybe the president who comes next might understand that growing out of debt is far preferable to inflating it away. The means to do so is a matter of studying history. What's missing is the will.

Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a Boston-based venture capitalist. You can find all of his columns, TV, and radio interviews here.  If you would like to have his weekly columns delivered to you by e-mail, click here or follow him on Twitter @BillFrezza.

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