Do you recall the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy’s small dog Toto pulls back the curtain? Do you recall that the Wizard was revealed to be merely a man shouting into a megaphone, while creating sound effects of thunder to impress his audience?
The Great and Powerful Oz protested, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” But it was too late. Dorothy and her companions could see that the Wizard was only a charlatan.
Nevertheless, the Wizard went on to give Dorothy’s companions what they thought they needed. To the Scarecrow, who had no brain, he gave a diploma. To the Tin Woodsman, who had no heart, he gave a paper heart. To the Cowardly Lion he gave a medal.
The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion were no better off, but they thought they were − and were grateful to the Wizard. They were content with symbols, so they stopped seeking what they really needed. This is the essence of false wizardry: Satisfying unwary people with appearance instead of reality.
We cannot depend on phony wizards to give us what we need. We cannot depend on charlatans to get us home again. We must rely on ourselves.
But we have not learned that lesson. We still depend on self-proclaimed wizards with self-anointed powers and self-described knowledge. We still depend on self-appointed “experts” to get us out of trouble, although the trouble was probably caused by the “experts” themselves. In fact, the more trouble they cause, the more they tell us we need them to rescue us from it.
So let us bring “The Wizard of Oz” up to date.
These dwarves seemed to be friendly. They offered to help Dorothy by pointing the way to the Emerald City, where she would find The Great and Powerful Oz. But the Wizard proved to be a fake. In reality, the Munchkins were no help at all.
First we had Alan Greenspan, whose academic credentials were impressive. He could boast of having studied with Ayn Rand. You can’t beat that for capitalism and individualism. Greenspan was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1987 by President Reagan. You can’t beat that for conservatism. He served until 2006, and was reappointed by Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43. How’s that for bipartisanship?
Greenspan raised interest rates, which may have precipitated the bursting of the dot-com bubble, then lowered the rates dramatically, which surely enabled the housing bubble. Oddly, Greenspan’s doctoral dissertation anticipated a bursting housing bubble.
Greenspan was succeeded as chairman of the Fed by Ben Bernanke, whose credentials were equally impressive. One of his first speeches was titled, “Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here.” By keeping interest rates close to zero, Bernanke did his best to keep this vow. But as a result, savings accounts pay next to nothing, making things difficult for the middle class – especially retirees.
And now we have Janet Yellen as Fed chair. Not only are her credentials impressive; her husband is a Nobel Prize-winning economist. But all that does little for the middle class – especially retirees.
Don’t forget former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner., who was in charge of the massive outflow of bailout funds. Prior to this assignment, he served as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, where he oversaw Wall Street and watched the massive outflow of cash into dubious derivatives, especially those related to the housing bubble. Massive outflows seem to be his specialty, though one might wish that, just occasionally, money might flow in.
Finally we must mention former Representative Barney Frank, who served in Congress for 32 years. He achieved notoriety by pushing financial institutions to make home loans to people unlikely to be able to pay them back. Then he gained more notoriety for criticizing the same institutions for having followed his advice and bringing about the collapsed housing bubble. And then he gained even more notoriety for urging them to follow his advice again. Consistency is not a virtue if one is consistently wrong.
Yes, the Munchkins seemed to be helpful. But in the end, they were no help at all. They made a mess of the economy, which is their field of interest. Now they want to take over health care, of which they know little. File this under “H” for hubris.
Just as The Great and Powerful Oz dwelt in the palace in the Emerald City, The Great and Powerful Obama dwells in the White House in Washington.
Just as the Wizard spoke into a megaphone to amplify his voice, Obama speaks incessantly on TV and displays his photo on magazine covers and newspaper front pages. In one record-breaking week, he appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Univision, and Dave Letterman. He makes the Wizard look humble.
Just as the Wizard shook a piece of sheet metal to simulate the sound of thunder as he spoke, Obama utilizes teleprompters, prepared questions, and staged settings (including handing out white coats) to magnify his speeches.
Just as the Wizard declaimed on subjects about which he knew little, Obama lectures on topics he never studied, including economics, military science, and medicine. He has lectured on tonsillectomy in children, amputations in diabetics, hip replacement, and pacemaker implantation. And then there is terminal care, for which Obama seems to have a special affinity.
Just as the Wizard raised false hopes he could not fulfill, Obama promises better health care for all at less cost. But he imposed new taxes on medical-device manufacturers. This surely will slow development of new technologies that could save lives worldwide, thereby providing worse care at higher cost.
Just as the Wizard used trickery to amplify his image, Obama uses undeserved awards to amplify his. If the Nobel Peace Prize can be awarded for expressing a wish that nuclear weapons be eliminated, what further awards will be forthcoming? Obama was called “the one,” or was it “the One” – a virtual messiah.
The Great and Powerful Oz never went that far. He pretended to be a wizard, but he never deceived himself that he actually was one. He never ran up huge deficits, thereby soaking up credit that businesses could have used to finance a recovery. He never sought to make life-and-death decisions for all the people of Oz. He was an amusing charlatan with little power, not a boundless narcissist with great power.
Perhaps someday we will be mature enough not to seek wizards to solve our problems − especially the problems they had a hand in causing. Perhaps someday we will no longer place our economy in the hands of Munchkins, who seem to be helpful but offer no real help. Perhaps someday we will no longer seek The Great and Powerful Oz, but instead will take charge of our own destiny.
We have difficulty handling our own finances and our own health care. How can we expect anyone to be brilliant enough to be able to handle these vital functions for all 322 million Americans?
Now, if only Toto would pull back the curtain, we could see who was pulling the strings. But there would be a downside. In the movie, we saw actor Frank Morgan’s kindly face as he portrayed the Wizard. In reality, we would see the considerably less kindly faces of George Soros and his colleagues, which might be too painful to bear.
“The Wizard of Oz” is a charming children’s story, but it has lessons for all of us. Let us have no more wizards. Let us have elected officials with only the powers enumerated in the Constitution. Let us have officials responsible to the informed citizens who elected them − and who can replace them if they fail to do the job we assigned them.
Dorothy got home to Kansas, but only after she discovered that The Great and Powerful Oz was not a wizard but just an ordinary man with no special powers. Perhaps, if we make a similar discovery, we too can get home again – to America.
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