From the link above:
Youâ€™d think the well-heeled and enlightened eggheads at the Aspen Ideas Festivalâ€”which is running all week in this fashionable resort town with heady panel discussions and earnest disquisitions involving all manner of deep thinkers and do-goodersâ€”would be receptive to an intellectually ambitious president with big ideas of his own.
In a way, the folks attending this cerebral conclave pairing the Aspen Institute think tank with the Atlantic Monthly magazine might even be seen as President Obamaâ€™s natural base.
Apparently not so much.
Obamaâ€™s top economic adviser, Larry Summers, and his departing budget director,Peter Orszag, can expect heavy weather when they land in Aspen later this week to make their case to this civic-minded clique of wealthy skeptics.
â€œIf youâ€™re asking if the United States is about to become a socialist state, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s actually about to become a European state, with the expansiveness of the welfare system and the progressive tax system like what weâ€™ve already experienced in Western Europe,â€ Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson declared during Mondayâ€™s kickoff session, offering a withering critique of Obamaâ€™s economic policies, which he claimed were encouraging laziness.
â€œThe curse of longterm unemployment is that if you pay people to do nothing, theyâ€™ll find themselves doing nothing for very long periods of time,â€ Ferguson said. â€œLong-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy.â€
Ferguson was joined in his harsh attack by billionaire real estate mogul and New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. Both lambasted Obamaâ€™s trillion-dollar deficit spending programâ€”in the name of economic stimulus to cushion the impact of the 2008 financial meltdownâ€”as fiscally ruinous, potentially turning America into a second-rate power.
â€œWe are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,â€ Zuckerman said. â€œThe real problem we haveâ€¦are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.â€
Zuckerman added that he detects in the Obama White House â€œhostility to the very kinds of [business] culture that have made this the great country that it is and was. I think we have to find some way of dealing with that or else we will do great damage to this country with a public policy that could ruin everything.â€
Ferguson added: â€œThe critical point is if your policy says youâ€™re going run a trillion-dollar deficit for the rest of time, youâ€™re riding for a fallâ€¦Then it really is goodbye.â€ A dashing Brit, Ferguson added: â€œCan I say that, having grown up in a declining empire, I do not recommend it. Itâ€™s just not a lot of fun actuallyâ€”decline.â€
Ferguson called for what he called â€œradicalâ€ measures. â€œI canâ€™t emphasize strongly enough the need for radical fiscal reform to restore the incentives for work and remove the incentives for idleness.â€ He praised â€œreally radical reform of the sort that, for example, Paul Ryan [the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee] has outlined in his wonderful â€˜Roadmapâ€™ for radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement systemâ€ and â€œunleash entrepreneurial innovation.â€ Otherwise, Ferguson warned: â€œDo you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? Iâ€™d advise you against it.â€
This was greeted by hearty applause from a crowd that included Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin. â€œDepressing, but fantastic,â€ Streisand told me afterward, rendering her verdict on the session. â€œSo exciting. Wonderful!â€
Brolinâ€™s assessment: â€œMind-blowing.â€
You know this president isn't doing well when Barbara Streisand realizes his economic policies stink.
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