It's not uncommon for people to use family metaphors for the government's role in our lives. We have all heard of "Big Brother" and criticized the "Nanny State." If Bill Clinton's Welfare Reform was government as the stern but loving father, under President Barack Obama we may be looking at the open-handed Sugardaddy State.
The sugardaddy has the disposable income, or at least likes to give the appearance that he does, so supporting someone else is not much of a sacrifice. But by making another person completely dependent on him for their existence, he exterts a tremendous power over another human being. As with the other metaphors - Big Brother and the Nanny State - the Sugardaddy State has it's downside: it intrusive and addictive.
In eight years as President, George Bush went from being a stern father warning his children that the Era of Responsibility had begin to being more of a doting, rich, childless, uncle trying to liquidate his assets to shower gifts on his nieces and nephews on Wall Street. While Bush's successor has no qualms about opening up the pocketbook, like a Sugardaddy, when he showers gifts upon Detroit or the American public, there will be strings attached.
With America's auto industry on the brink of collapse - as Chrysler and General Motors executives carpool to Washington hat-in-hand - Obama has decided to use the car companies' bloodied balance sheets as leverage to impose new regulations on carmakers. Needless to say, the auto industry is in no position to afford compliance with the new regulations, but non-compliance is even more costly, as they would jeopardize Washington's willingness to continue bailing them out of their financial morass. On Wall Street, the government is using the bailout of the nation's banking system to insert themselves in internal decision-making processes like never before. No big bonuses for executives and no more corporate jets for Citi!
For States like California, whose unemployment insurance programs are on the brink of collapse, the federal government is to the rescue but - again - only with strings attached. And states hoping to take advantage of a Federal Economic Stimulus to balance their books in 2009 had better start thinking about what unseemly acts they will have to perform over the next twelve months to paper over the books in 2010.
With money comes power, and there seems to be only one source of money these days: the Department of the Treasury's printing presses. And President Obama seems eager to consolidate the federal government's power as he writes convenience checks against future generations' credit limits.
The problem with sugardaddies is that if you rely on one for too long, you forget how to make it on your own. This is the real danger of sugardaddies and the Sugardaddy State. In this relationship, there's no metaphorical sister's couch to sleep on should we decide to break the co-dependent sudardaddy cycle with the federal government. We will have to make it on our own, and should consider starting to do so now - while we still remember how.
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