A Clunker of a Year

By Will, George F. | Newsweek, January 11, 2010 | Go to article overview

A Clunker of a Year


Will, George F., Newsweek


Byline: George F. Will

But not for a book from 1957.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, was on a business trip in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later he was back home in Nagasaki. He also survived 2009. Common sense did not. In Black History Month, a.k.a. February, pupils at a Burlington, N.J., public elementary school sang, "Hello Mr. President/We honor you today/For all your great accomplishments/We all do say 'Hooray!'a" So did a smitten Nobel committee.

For peace, not economics. For $3 billion, Cash for Clunkers moved many car sales from September to August. By law, the clunkers had to be junked, which boosted used-car prices, penalizing low-income people. Having used stimulus money to give raises to its 317 employees, Head Start in Augusta, Ga., reported 317 jobs created. A Georgia nonprofit multiplied the percentage of raises (1.84) it gave by the number of employees receiving them (508) and reported the stimulus had saved 935 jobs. What was stimulated, aside from bookkeeping nonsense, was demand for Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, a hymn to unfettered capitalism. Sales exceeded 400,000, double the total in any of the 52 years since it was published.

America's most portentous domestic event of 2009 was California's deepening crisis, which may prefigure the nation's trajectory. Abroad, Montblanc, the Swiss penmaker, with its eye on the potential buyers in India, commemorated Mahatma Gandhi with a $23,000 pen engraved with the ascetic's image. In the mall beneath the Louvre, culture mavens now can dine at a McDonald's. Brown University's faculty voted to rename Columbus Day "Fall Weekend," presumably to punish the explorer for spoiling the Western Hemisphere paradise where human sacrifices were still happening when he arrived. The Empire State Building was bathed in red and yellow light to honor the 60th anniversary of China's regime, which is responsible for more deaths than Hitler and Stalin combined.

In 2009 the two most important unelected policymakers in Washington were put in their offices by George W. Bush: Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In December there were more U.S. troops deployed in the two wars than there were in January. Iran, threatened with economic sanctions, announced plans to sharply increase its uranium enrichment. …

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