Ah, the St. Patrick's Day season is upon us. It couldn't come soon enough.
Our markets are rattled. Our new leaders don't appear to know what to do to fix the financial system, but they sure are clear about their plans to explode the government and raise taxes.
Their approach is spooking Wall Street, which reminds me of the Irish laborer who fell off a roof at a construction site: "Were you hurt by the fall?" said his supervisor.
"The fall didn't hurt me," said the Irishman. "It was the sudden stop."
During the 1930s Depression, humorist Will Rogers said, "If stupidity got us into this mess, then stupidity can get us out of it." That would appear to be the strategy of the "smart" people now running our government. They want to "invest" money they don't have -- they're borrowing billions from our children, who will repay it when they are adults -- in giant, new government programs. By letting the tax cuts passed under Bush expire, they aren't "increasing taxes." They're "generating savings."
And by not spending money on the war in Iraq -- money we weren't going to spend anymore anyhow -- they're generating more "savings." These clever fellows remind me of the time Paddy was being tried for robbing a bank. Paddy was so surprised that the jury declared him "not guilty" he rushed to the judge and said, "Does that mean I get to keep the money?"
Our economy, some fear, is on the brink of a depression. I certainly hoped and expected that President Obama would devote his time to repairing that sizable problem first-- not worry about longer-term challenges that we can debate once things stabilize. But that isn't what he's doing. He's trying to unleash a barrage of old, big-government programs -- the Democrats have a clever strategy to put America on the road to nationalized health care, for instance -- that just don't work.
Their propensity to push more of the same reminds me of the Irishman who finds a teakettle in the woods. When he rubs it, a genie pops out and grants him three wishes. The Irishman wishes for a bottle of whiskey; it appears in his hands. When he drinks it, the bottle automatically replenishes itself. He drinks it again, and it replenishes again.
"What's that?" the Irishman said.
"That's the bottle of infinity," said the genie. "Every time you empty it, it will automatically refill. Now, you have two more wishes. What do you want?"
"I'll have two more bottles!" said the Irishman.
Commentator Fred Barnes, on the tube the other day, shared an interesting statistic. Since the Reagan tax cuts and pro-growth policies were implemented in the early '80s, America has created 40 million new jobs. During this same period, the high-tax countries in Europe have stayed even. Nonetheless, President Obama is eager to raise taxes. He wants to lift the ceiling on Social Security and Medicare taxes, which would amount to massive tax increases for higher-income earners, which will shift much-needed capital away from private investments and into government coffers.
Onerous taxation will cause the most productive citizens to invest less, work less or do everything they can to shield their income. That reminds me of the time an IRS auditor called Father O'Malley: "Father, do you know Ted Houlihan?" said the auditor.
"Aye," said the priest. "He's one of my parishioners."
"Did he donate $10,000 to the church?"
"He will," said Father O'Malley.
It's early yet and I certainly hope Obama and his people come to their senses. I hope they ratchet back their plans to increase taxes and explode the government -- not steer America toward European-style socialism. I hope they focus all their energies on staving off a depression and getting our financial markets to function. Because if they keep spending as they are, I fear that the Chinese, and others who buy our debt, will stop lending us money. They'll view us as Irish leprechauns, as illustrated by this Irish riddle:
Question: Why don't leprechauns pay back their loans?
Answer: Because they're always a little short.
Tom is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.