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Money suddenly not so evil to liberals

 By GEORGE F. WILL Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON - The many jaundiced assessments of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the fifth anniversary of its enactment were understandable, given that the sluggish recovery, now drowsing through the second half of its fifth year, is historically anemic. Still, bleak judgments about the stimulus spending miss the main point of it, which was to funnel a substantial share of its money to unionized, dues-paying, Democratic-voting government employees. Hence the stimulus succeeded. So there.

This illustrates why it is so sublime to be a liberal nowadays. Viewed through the proper prism, most liberal policies succeed because they can hardly fail. Each achieves one or both of two objectives - making liberals feel good about themselves and being good to liberal candidates.

Consider Barack Obama's renewed anxiety about global warming, increasingly called "climate change" during the approximately 15 years warming has become annoyingly difficult to detect. Secretary of State John Kerry, our knight of the mournful countenance, was especially apocalyptic recently when warning that climate change is a "weapon of mass destruction." Like Iraq's?

Blogger Steven Hayward notes that Kerry, he of the multiple mansions and luxury yacht, issued this warning in Indonesia, where the average annual income ($3,420) suggests little latitude for people to reduce their carbon footprints. Never mind. Obama says "the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact."

Climate alarmism validates the progressive impulse to micromanage others' lives - their light bulbs, showerheads, toilets, appliances, automobiles, etc. Although this is a nuisance, it distracts liberals from more serious mischief. And conservatives incensed about Obama's proposed $1 billion "climate resilience fund" should welcome an Obama brainstorm that costs only a single billion.

Besides, the "resilience" fund will succeed. It will enhance liberals' self-esteem and will energize the climate-alarmist portion of the Democratic base for this November's elections.

Concerning that portion, there will now be a somewhat awkward pause in the chorus of liberal lamentations about there being "too much money" in politics because of wealthy conservatives. During this intermission, the chorus will segue into hosannas of praise for liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. The New York Times says he plans to solicit $50 million from similarly situated liberals, and to match this with $50 million of his own, and to spend the pile to "pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers." The Times says Steyer's organization, NextGen Climate Action, is "among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch."

Conservatives should be serene about people exercising their constitutional right to spend their own money to disseminate political speech, including the speech of people who associate in corporate forms for political advocacy. The Supreme Court's excellent 2010 Citizens United ruling, the mention of which sends liberals to their fainting couches, affirmed this right.

Still, there is a semantic puzzle: What are such "outside groups" outside of? Not the political process - unless the process is the private preserve of the political parties. Liberal campaign finance scolds seem to think so. Applying their mantra that "money is not speech," they have written laws restricting contributions to parties, with the predicted effect of driving money into "outside groups." This is redundant evidence of why the Law of Unintended Consequences might better be called the Law of Unending Liberal Regrets.

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