In 2008 I wrote a column entitled “Going for the Moron Vote,” in which I detailed policies proposed by then-candidate Barack Obama that appeared to run directly counter to the interests of the people whose votes he was seeking. In that analysis I reviewed three areas of relevance: (1) gas, oil, energy and quality of life; (2) the cconomy; and (3) national security.
Readers can review the original article to judge how prescient (or not) I was in predicting how Mr. Obama’s proposed policies would actually damage the people who supported him. I’ll make my own assessment, and I’ll review some of the issues Mr. Obama is pushing as part of his re-election strategy – especially as they align with the “moron vote” strategy.
Gas, oil, energy and quality of life. When Mr. Obama was running for president in 2008, he went around the country hammering George W. Bush because oil was over $140 a barrel and gas was selling above $4 a gallon at the pump. He held Mr. Bush responsible for this, and he implied that he would make things better. By the time of the election, Congress had let the ban on offshore oil drilling expire, and the international oil market had completely crashed. Gas was selling for $1.80 a gallon when Mr. Obama took office. Clearly, a change in drilling policies made a big difference in the oil futures market.
Today, Mr. Obama is ramming around the country again, but this time his tune is different. ‘No, no, no,’ he says, ‘I’m not responsible for oil and gas prices (currently over $100 a barrel, with gasoline bumping against $4 a gallon at the pump). A president has nothing to do with the international oil market. It’s political disruption in the Middle East. It’s the Arab spring (or summer, or winter…). It’s the hurricanes; it’s the Republicans blocking my green energy initiatives; yadda, yadda, yadda.’
Mr. Obama claims that we’re doing more drilling for oil than at any time in our history, but he delicately fails to mention that most of the increase in drilling has come on private land. Issuance of permits for drilling on public lands, including offshore, has actually decreased under his watch. He has virtually shut down offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, despite two court rulings that deny him the authority to do that. (Mr. Obama has simply ignored those rulings.) In recent months, the president has denied permission to construct a pipeline running from Canada to Texas ports that would bring us 1 million barrels of Canadian oil a day. This, I suggest, has helped keep oil futures elevated and gasoline prices high.
Notwithstanding his demagoguery of the oil price issue in 2008, high energy costs are ironically one area where Mr. Obama has kept a campaign promise he made in 2008. In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he admitted that under his proposed cap-and-trade policies energy prices would “necessarily skyrocket.” (Were any of his acolytes and eventual voters listening?) This has obviously happened, although the “green energy” president seems curiously loath to take the credit for it.
In 2008, I also did not comprehend Mr. Obama’s intentions on taking over General Motors and Chrysler, pushing the failed Chevy Volt, and subsidizing Solyndra and other so-called green industries. These ventures have cost taxpayers billions, while doing nothing to produce energy or control its price.
With high energy prices threatening to push us into another recession on the very cusp of the election, Mr. Obama is in full panic mode, trying to persuade gullible voters that this is George Bush’s fault – or anybody’s fault besides his. The question is whether he can fool the American public twice. As I noted in the 2008 article, that’s not too likely. The president has wonderful oratorical gifts, but $4/gallon gas has a way of concentrating the mind wonderfully. Unless oil suddenly drops like a stone, he is in big trouble.
The Economy. The rich ironies abound in the Obama presidency. In 2008 Mr. Obama reprised Bill Clinton’s strategy of claiming that we were in the “worst economy since the Great Depression.” In 1992, unemployment stood at 7.5% – not the worst ever, but still pretty bad. But the unemployment rate for 2008 was just 5.8%. This was hardly a depression-level stat, but Mr. Obama aligned himself with how people felt about the scary subprime mortgage crisis and the bank collapses. The message resonated with voters and carried him into the White House.
Mr. Obama rode in with a kit-bag full of Keynesian fixes – a “stimulus” of $800 billion in federal monies not least among them – that he claimed would hold unemployment under 8%. Instead, it zoomed up over 10% and stubbornly stayed above 9% for over two years. The jobless rate has not been below 8% for any year of Mr. Obama’s presidency, despite the fact that two million fewer people are counted as part of the work force now than when Mr. Obama took office. This artificially reduces the unemployment rate. Some economists claim the true unemployment figure is close to 20%, when the eligible working population includes those unemployed and seeking work, those unemployed but no longer seeking work, and the so-called under-employed. This figure does begin to look like Great Depression-era figures. Thus, ironically, Mr. Obama has actually achieved the benchmark to which he had compared the Bush economy of 2008.
In the seminal article of 2008, I suggested that Mr. Obama distrusted business and wanted to take us back to the New Deal. This observation is vindicated by the Obama Administration’s issuance of myriad regulations to control many aspects of business not previously touched by government. The New Deal was famous for exactly that.
The president’s “hope and change” mantra of 2008 has degenerated into depressingly crass pandering to various interest groups he knows he must carry in order to win re-election. One of those groups is young people – especially those either in college or finishing college. This week, Mr. Obama’s shtick was promising those young people that he will lower the interest rates on their college loans. This is a big deal to them, since there is a serious lack of jobs for high school or college grads. The official unemployment rate for people aged 16-24 is 18.4% – the highest rate ever recorded in the 60 years since these data have been compiled.
Worse yet are the unemployment data for young black men. Some economists estimate that only 14 of every 100 young black men are actually employed in a regular job. The figure is so appalling that one hardly knows what to say about it. Whatever “change” Mr. Obama’s legions of young minorities thought he was going to bring, this certainly was not it. His lofty visions of hope are gone like the morning mist.
I have heard no economists predict any material economic improvement in the six months remaining until the election. Mr. Obama’s economy is en la toilette. He can only change the subject – as he is doing – and try scare voters away from Mitt Romney and the GOP. We shall see if he can rally his troops to vote for “four more years” of what he has given them on the premise that Mitt Romney is a rich guy who once put his dog in a cage on the top of his car. I doubt it. The bloom is off the rose, and Mr. Obama has been revealed as just another slick-talking pol who looks good in a $2000 Italian suit.
National Security. (A lot to say here, so we'll save it for a later article.)
Federal Spending and Taxation. When I wrote the 2008 article, this topic was not on my list of moron-vote issues. Frankly, I didn’t foresee the level of federal spending that Mr. Obama has achieved over his term in office. (I don’t think too many people did.) By the end of 2012, he will have added nearly $6 trillion to the federal debt. (George W. Bush added $4.6 trillion, but it took him eight years to do it.) The federal debt now exceeds 100% of our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a ratio not reached since the end of World War II.
In 2011 we experienced the first downgrade of federally issued bonds in our history. Between Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, the federal debt will have tripled since the close of FY2000. The debt does not even include an accounting of the unfunded liabilities of Social Security ($8.6 trillion) and Medicare ($38.6 trillion). The total of all unfunded liabilities for the federal government now stands at $61.6 trillion.
These incomprehensible figures, which I shall not even attempt to calibrate, mean we are in far deeper trouble than most leaders seem willing to admit. Last year even the most modest attempts to cut planned expenditures met with fierce resistance and demagoguery from Congressional Democrats and the president. Both have happily mau-maued budgets put forth by Republicans. Meanwhile, Dems who control the Senate have not submitted a budget for three years. They believe this will enable their reelection by clueless voters (a.k.a. morons) who won’t realize how bad things really are.
Truth be told, Mr. Obama is really employing the same strategy. With trillion-dollar deficits stretching out beyond the horizon, he is declaiming across the country about making the “rich pay their fair share” via the Buffet Rule. The latter – a law Mr. Obama wants enacted – would apply a minimum tax rate of 30% on incomes above $1 million a year. The CBO calculates that this tax would raise $4.7 billion a year in new taxes – hardly a drop in the bucket against an annual deficit of $1400 billion. Yet Mr. Obama shills tirelessly for the new tax – pretending that our fiscal problems can be solved if we can squeeze a few more billions out of those greedy rich folk who just aren’t paying up.
This should insult the intelligence of voters who can see what a crock the whole thing is. But Mr. Obama knows his constituency. My guess is that he and his advisors are confident that most of his “base” won’t be able to see the fraud in those numbers before the election, or at all.
Josef Goebbels was right – The Big Lie is the supreme political idea of the 20th century. And it looks like its run will include the 21st. We can only hope that enough people stayed awake through arithmetic class to unmask these frauds. As the Duke of Wellington once said (on another matter), it may yet be a “damned close-run thing…”