(Article first published as Obamanomics: Simply Insanity or Crazy Craftiness, Too? on Blogcritics.) On February 12, 2008, in a campaign speech delivered to a packed, thunderously approving crowd, then candidate Barack Obama provided a glimpse of Obamanomics. As in his later encounter with Joe The Plumber, the first term Illinois Senator preached government control of wealth. The specific example he used on both occasions was wealth redistribution. But, that is merely one type of wealth control. There are others and Obama has also pursued them in his first term. They’ve all failed or we wouldn’t be surveying their smoldering wreckage from our perch on the brink of a double dip recession.
And yet Obamanomics hasn’t changed one whit. No lessons learned, not even a slight course correction. It’s still all about government control of wealth through taxing and spending, regulating, granting unfair advantage to handpicked businesses and industries, etc. Take Obama’s jobs proposal, or Stimulus 2.0, unveiled in his September 7 speech. The payroll tax cut is merely an extension of the current one-year reduction. It won’t improve hiring because it’s not a cause of unemployment. But, it is convenient diversionary dressing around a window the White House can’t break through.
And then there’s infrastructure spending, redux. In 2008 and 2009, Obama preached the importance of shovel ready jobs so much he practically turned it into a religion. But in a September 2010 interview, published the following month, Obama admitted those jobs don’t exist in the public sector. One short year later, he’s pushing them again.
The tax increases in the President’s just announced debt reduction plan are nothing new, either. He’s pressed the issue of increasing taxes on the rich since his first term candidacy days. But, at this juncture, even Democrats are having a difficult time supporting them. The reason is obvious. The economy cannot be fixed by taking money out of it. Increasing taxes on those who invest their incomes in growing businesses is much more than merely foolish.
Obama’s persistence in the face of these failures is very like Einstein’s definition of insanity. That is, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It doesn’t happen in physics and it won’t happen in economics, either. But, is Obamanomics just insanity or is it also the slick strategy of a President desperate to win re-election? The facts are stacking up in favor of the latter.
From the moment of his first presidential campaign appearance, Obama has clung to the politics of blame like an addiction. Now, in these beginning days of his re-election bid, with his poll numbers tanking faster than the Titanic, he desperately needs a distraction to hype. Anything that will get the electorate more upset with Republicans than with his mishandling of the economy. So, he offers proposals that couldn’t get through Congress with a battering ram in order to contrive blame scenarios.
His jobs plan is a typical example. Before its delivery, he set the stage by characterizing it as ‘bipartisan’, which, of course, is wrong since it takes two parties to create bipartisanship. No matter, in his Saturday address to the nation, Obama stated his intention to extort GOP support for his new Stimulus proposal. His grand scheme is to blame House Republicans for continuing high unemployment if they oppose it. What he’s not saying is that, if Republicans do support his plan, he will include them in a circle of ‘bipartisan’ blame when it fails. Using blame like a flamethrower is what got Obama elected and blame is what he believes will get him re-elected. Meanwhile, we’re getting much too cozy with double dip.
In another favorite blame pitch, Obama pits the “rich” against the “little guy” over the amounts of money they earn and taxes they pay. But, concocting divisions and wielding them like weapons to get re-elected merely underscores his unsuitability for the office he holds. He ignores the fact that the rich pay most of the federal income tax while about fifty percent of wage earners pay zero dollars.
Obama also fails to mention that many in his crosshairs are small business owners who employ the majority of the American workforce. Taking more money out of their pockets leaves them with less to invest, which means businesses stagnate and the unemployment rate remains high. It also depresses tax revenue.
But, it works for Obamanomics, which holds that government, not the private sector, is the engine of economic growth. As if on cue, the Solyndra loan scandal, presently engulfing the White House like a Gulf oil fire, belies that argument. Taxpayers, courtesy of the Obama Administration, guaranteed $535 million in venture capital loans to the handpicked company. One thousand new jobs were supposed to be created in return.
Fourteen months later, the company folded, laying off eleven hundred workers and leaving taxpayers holding an expensive bag. At a cost of over $535,000 per job, the loan guarantee is being criticized as “crony capitalism”. One of the Solyndra investors is a high-profile Obama campaign contributor. Regardless, the whole debacle highlights the inability of a government bureaucracy to drive an economy anywhere but off a cliff.
In an unusual public chastisement, former Clinton strategist, James Carville, scolded Obama last week for not firing his staff and completely changing his direction. Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that the American people know Obama is doing all he can to grow the economy and create jobs. At last, we all agree on something. We know Obama’s doing all he can. And it’s not working.
In that February 2008 speech, candidate Obama promised to remake this country, block by block, precinct by precinct, county by county and state by state. If you’ve had enough of that, get your shovels ready. You’ve got a job to do come November 2012.
See you in the mirror.