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Wag the Dog

December 31, 2009
Robert L. Hale

In 1997, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman starred in a film titled “Wag the Dog.” The film portrayed a sex scandal involving the President shortly before the election. De Niro, a Washington spin doctor, was brought in to distract the electorate and save the election. He hired Hoffman, a Hollywood movie producer, to help fake a war to distract attention from the scandal.

The president’s advisors expressed initial skepticism, arguing that the plan was too absurd and the public would not fall for it. De Niro and Hoffman assured them the public would, saying “they always do.” Sure enough, the president was reelected.

Today, we see the reality of “Wag the Dog” being played out in Washington on a daily basis. The spin doctor’s assurance the public will “fall for it” seems to be holding. Global warming, health care, cap and trade, bank bailouts, a $14-trillion debt, and “we can spend our way out of the recession” are all promoted as necessary. The public is repeatedly told that if these issues are not immediately addressed and action taken, catastrophe is sure to follow.

On December 13, 2009, Larry Summers, the President’s top economic advisor, informed the nation, “Everybody agrees that the recession is over.” Although time will tell, this assertion does not match the conclusion of most private economists.

These pronouncements are certainly reminiscent of the scenario of the movie. Yet, another tail-wagging-the-dog scenario is being played by our federal and local governments, possibly an even more troublesome one.

The story continues …..

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