In Joseph Conrad’s classic novella Heart of Darkness, his main character, Kurtz, goes into the African jungle.
There, Kurtz dies. But his last words have carried on.
Kurtz concludes his life and the book with the cry: “The horror.”
The words and story have undergone constant reinterpretation ever since Conrad wrote them. There has never been conclusive agreement as to what Kurtz meant, until now.
If Conrad had written his seminal work in our time, it would be undeniably apparent that Kurtz was referring to the budget proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden and his band of progressive purveyors.
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania a number of years ago developed a comprehensive and substantive platform for evaluating the federal budget.
This model was built so that those who govern and those who are governed could have an accurate and reasonably unbiased analysis of federal fiscal activities.
It is one of the most useful and effective tools around for figuring out just what the federal government and the various players who lead it in the Democratic and Republican parties are really up to.
The conclusion, after reviewing the opening bids put forward by Biden and his people, creates a rather desperate picture that could best described as horrible, if not “the horror.”
The most disconcerting shift in the Biden budget is its radical expansion of the size of the federal government as a percentage of national economic activity.
For the first time in our history, other than during the Second World War, the federal government will absorb almost 25 percent of our nation’s wealth under the Biden budget.
If you add in the activities of states and cities, government spending will easily exceed a quarter of the country’s economic output.
And this is only the opening gambit.
Approximately $5.4 trillion of spending on new programs or expanded federal social programs is proposed in the Biden budget over ten years.
A trillion dollars seems to have become the new billion dollars when it comes to federal spending sprees.
Recall that since the pandemic started, the Congress, president and Federal Reserve have reacted to it with incomprehensible expansions in fiscal and monetary largesse.
Approximately $11 trillion of new money, unsupported by any off-set, is being thrown into the economy.
On top of this, Biden and his merry band plan to add another $5.4 trillion.
It should be noted that it is the intent of the Biden team to also add $3.4 trillion in new taxes.
Of course, as was noted in a prior article in The Hill, this type of tax increase on top of a slowing economy is a recipe for recession, which will lead to even lower revenues.
This is a point the Biden budget ignores because it is simply not good news.
Their budget is built on the fantasy that human nature and real world economics do not affect, and should not limit, liberal economic initiatives like massive spending or tax increases.
In addition to a proclaimed desire to tax the wealthy with things like a de facto doubling of their capital gains tax, the Biden plan introduces a new concept of fleecing the pharmaceutical industry of $1 trillion by reducing drug prices.
It is ironic that in the middle of a pandemic, when everyone has turned to the pharmaceutical companies as the best hope against the coronavirus, Biden’s policy should be to eviscerate these companies.
Biden’s proposal will choke off the sources of capital the pharmaceutical developers need to undertake the very expensive research required to produce new drugs.
It should not be surprising that a group of intellectuals who have hidden in the halls of academia for years would not understand the simple but obvious drivers of making new drugs.
New medicines do not fall from trees.
They come about because people are willing to risk their time, resources and money to invest in their production. It usually takes approximate twelve years and a billion dollars to bring a new drug to fruition.
Biden’s people are proposing that those who produce breakthrough drugs and give people a better chance at beating diseases like cancer will get only marginal returns for the heavy investment of capital it takes to accomplish these results.
The practical result of such policies in the name of social good is that the capital needed to underwrite the development of new life-saving drugs will go somewhere else.
These essential funds will end up being invested where the returns are more lucrative, such as in technology companies or maybe highly subsidized green companies, rather than in pharmaceutical companies.
One of the legacies of the Biden budget will definitely be fewer breakthrough drugs and more political posturing about who is responsible for deteriorating medical outcomes for ill Americans.
The real horror of the Biden budget, however, is the fact that the people who are proposing it, including the former vice president, have no concerns with expanding the size of the federal government in such an extraordinary way.
There is a disconnect here.
Progressives genuinely seem to believe that government produces economic growth and thus increases the wealth of a nation.
They need to show those of us who disagree an example of a nation that has pursued this course — and where it has enhanced rather than eroded the standard of living for its citizens.
It is true that government largesse generates constituencies who support the electoral needs of those who are the distributors, the elected elites.
It is also true that government does have a serious and important role in promoting the greater prosperity and opportunity of those who may be at the bottom of the economic latter. It has a legitimate role to play in many other causes too, such as national defense, education, better healthcare and support for seniors in need, among other things.
However, at some point if the government gets too large it actually undermines the ability of a society to grow its economy. This in turns increases rather than decreases economic trauma and loss. The society that the government is supposed to be assisting becomes the victim of the whims of the few who govern.
This, of course, is the line that the Biden budget leaps over.
The Biden progressives are proposing the philosophy that all government is good government, and much bigger government is much better government.
The only folks who are guaranteed to benefit from this massive expansion are those who distribute the money. It is a road to power for a few who claim to have a special understanding of the needs of the many. Power is what the effort is really about.
It is a rather cynical calling that the Biden budget pursues.
Joseph Conrad seems to have seen this coming — or at least Kurtz did.
When the Biden budget is instituted, and a massive blob of government smothers the nation’s economic capacity to grow, we can recall Kurtz’s final words — and say with some certainty that they were an understatement.