The Old Media choir is making happy harmony, but a few cranks and screechers refuse to follow the hymnal and sing at the Church of Barack. They’re asking such inconvenient questions as, when will the president get around to making more jobs his Job One?
In the first term, there were public budgets to stimulate, crony palms to lubricate, car companies and health care to expropriate, and Wall Street bankers to exculpate. In term two, the president has declared gun control and immigration “reform” come first.
Struggling job-seekers—who haven’t given up and slipped under the water—wonder when creating conditions that help them find work will hit the presidential radar screen. They better ask loudly, because the Big Feet at Old Media won’t be pushing the issue on their behalf.
The truth, though, is the president won’t be making a serious run at reviving the economy. Sure, he’d like things to pick up to boost his popularity, and bolster tax revenues (the latter not a dire concern when—for now-- he can just go on borrowing 40% of current spending, or invent trillion dollar coins).
But anyone who takes Barack Obama seriously enough to watch what he does and listen to what he says knows economic growth and industrial expansion aren’t his top priorities. They’re way down the list.
Adding a few jobs is neither transformational nor historic. Candidate Obama didn’t promise to focus on producing wealth; he promised to work to spread it around. He argued on national TV in favor of raising capital gains taxes even if it would actually cost government revenue, because knocking the wealthy down a few notches advances “fairness.” When he said he was out to fundamentally transforming America, he meant it.
An ugly reality of our age is it’s politically and socially hazardous to talk frankly about the nature of Obama’s vision and direction for the economy. But the truth is clear: The community organizer aims to be the National Reorganizer.
The protégé of Bill Ayers has much bigger fish to blow up than his mentor dreamed of. Buildings are insignificant. Obama wants to blow up the wall of Americans’ skepticism and vigilance against an overreaching, smothering federal government.
Obama wants to rehabilitate and reinvent Big Brother as the benevolent protector of Julia and the working man; to pick up where the ‘60s left off and to pretend the ‘80s and ‘90s never happened; Ronald Reagan never showed how regulatory reform, economic freedom, and a more limited federal hand could drive booming prosperity, and Bill Clinton never grudgingly ratified that vision.
No, to such a man, record numbers of Americans on food stamps, lowered standards for receiving welfare, pushing subsidies into the working classes, are not signs of failure or decline, but of success at building a new, more collective, socially just society.
Obama protested in the second debate that he gets a bum rap; he actually “believe[s] the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known.” He may use those words, but, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I do not think they mean what he thinks they mean.
Business development that’s planned and directed from Washington is not the same thing as free enterprise. Obama clearly aims to steer industry and consumer behavior, from the biggest currents to some of our smallest personal choices: Sources of energy, structure of labor and workplace relations, the content of our food products and the light bulbs we’re allowed to buy (yes, originally a GOP idiocy, but one now defended zealously by Secretary Chu.)
The president shrewdly enlists big dogs from big business, insurers, pharma, cooperative players like GE, (he’s courting Walmart on guns) for the head of the banquet table he’s setting, in exchange for their cooperation in pushing his agenda.
There’s an F- word that describes that kind of economy, and it’s not “freedom.” Of course, liberals get the vapors if you accuse them of supporting fascism, because a genocidal dictator or two ruined the brand. But before the blood, horror and descent into WWII, Hitler and Mussolini had their American defenders who admired their efficiency and effectiveness, just as today, the bloodstained oligarchs in China get valentines from useful idiots like Tom Friedman.
Progressives like the idea of controlling the economy. They hate the boorish, untidy freedom of a world of unenlightened supply and demand. But, they also hate accurate labeling of their economic beliefs.
It’s possible, though, to make some fair observations about an economy driven by deals between Main Street, Wall Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue: 1. The road doesn’t lead to vibrant, free markets, robust growth, or expanding opportunity. 2. When the pie gets carved at political tables, the best connected, most docile, or most politically helpful hustlers get bigger pieces and they work to shaft their competitors; 3. Politicians will be delighted to host the bidding war and bed the winner. 4. Resources will be steered for political reasons, not for maximum growth, efficiency, or opportunity. 5. Consumer choice and quality of life is not an important consideration.
Elections have consequences, so that’s where we find ourselves. Obama believes fundamentally in redistribution because he doesn’t comprehend wealth creation by the miracle of freedom. He is going to continue to build-out public infrastructure, and to neuter and harness big business, which is all too willing to be a draft animal for a bump in the share price.
Stagnation, ballooning debt, and limited opportunity line our road toward a Greek budget tragedy. The task for those who remember or believe in a better way is to stay engaged, flag better decisions, and point out that, frankly, conditions suck. The diminished reality we’re living is not the paradise the Barack Chamber Press Chorale is singing about.