woody zimmerman 118 2007The title of this article echoes Mr. Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who famously declared that America’s corrupt and racist past would come back to hurt us. His statement was prescient, as various “chickens” are indeed coming home to roost – although probably not the ones that the Rev. expected. The chickens I’ll talk about here will be Obama’s. The first of these is economics. In later articles we’ll discuss foreign policy and governmental corruption chickens comin’ home to roost – a kind of fowl review of Mr. Obama’s presidency, so to speak.

Mr. Obama seemed almost to descend to the presidency from on high, trailing visions of glory. He promised to stop the rise of the oceans and cause the planet to heal. (His very words!) He spoke of making America loved and respected once again by the nations of the world – especially those in the Middle East with whom we had been fighting over their sponsorship of terrorism. Mr. Obama promised that once again we would sit down at the table of brotherhood with those we had previously called enemies. Terrorism would be foresworn; peace, good will, harmony, and light would reign. And in America itself, the “post-racial” age would begin. People of every color and ethnicity would strive together for the common good. All should have a chance to succeed, with none left out. Indeed, the rocks and hills would clap their hands for joy, and prosperity would flow like milk and honey. (OK, I admit plagiarizing that last line from another source.)

These promises, and many others like them, got Barack Obama elected. They painted a marvelously compelling vision which millions embraced. Young people, especially, ran joyously toward it, like moths irresistibly drawn to a flame. The crowds were almost hysterical. (The only other place where I’ve heard cheering like that was at an Elvis concert, years ago.)

Five years on, things haven’t exactly panned out as The One promised, but he does have a kit-bag full of ready excuses as each chicken flies in. Primarily, of course, it’s all George Bush’s fault that things have gone poorly. He left a colossal “mess” for his successor to clean up. (Who knows what greatness could have been achieved if Mr. Obama hadn’t inherited such a pile of doo-doo from the Bush-ster.) Republicans also take major blame for “obstructing” the good work Mr. Obama would do to balance the budget, heal the economy, and put an electric car (or rickshaw) in every garage. But those confounded Republicans are blocking everything. (You’d almost think they were running the country, with Mr. Obama on the outside trying to put things right.)

Even more than G. W. Bush, House Speaker Boehner, and his dratted GOP majority, though, the real villains are the (filthy) rich, who must be held accountable for not paying their “fair share” to finance Obama’s grand plans for spending our way out of debt. It’s absolutely criminal how little those zillionaires are paying. (Did you know most of them pay lower taxes than their janitors?)

If tax rates of the rich had been raised to levels that The Dear Leader wanted, all of our fiscal problems would have been solved. People making $200,000 a year are truly responsible for the mess we’re in. They don’t need that much income! Even the president says so. (He seems to be channeling Herbert Hoover, who said, “A dollar a day and a pair of overhauls are good enough for any man…”)

But I digress. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” This applies in spades to economics. The facts have repeatedly shown that an economy burdened by high taxes and expensive, business-retarding regulations will suffer slow growth, stagnation, and high unemployment. It will not prosper. (This is happening all over Europe today, as well as in the USA.)

But Mr. Obama doesn’t buy the rap on tax-and-spend economics. Very well, he is entitled to his own opinion. But, as the Senator said, he’s not entitled to his own facts. A president can do a lot of things, but he can’t repeal the “laws” of economics any more than he can repeal the law of gravity or change the weather. Facts are stubborn things – beyond even the awesome powers of the presidency. Even when presidents try to rewrite history, the facts have a perfectly maddening tendency to emerge at the most inconvenient times.

Both the reportorial and academic classes are near-unanimous in agreeing that Mr. Obama is one of the brightest men ever to sit in the Oval Office. Indeed, many say he is the brightest, and some even claim that he might be the smartest man who ever lived. (Full disclosure: I’m not in any of those camps.) But whatever the case may be about those claims, I’ll agree that Dummkopfs don’t usually get elected president by. Thus, I imagine that Mr. Obama is probably smarter than the average bear. Indeed, let’s stipulate that. Certainly, he speaks as though he is a smart guy.

If that’s so, then why would he hold to an economic strategy for nearly five years that clearly has not worked, and almost certainly will not work – unless most economists are totally off the track? That’s a hard question to answer with certainty, but there are several plausible answers:

(1) Mr. Obama believes economists are wrong about high taxes, big spending and big deficits harming the economy. He thinks he knows more than they do about economics, and he is determined to make his way work by the force of his will.

(2) Mr. Obama believes his strategy is sound, but he blames his political opponents (i.e., Republicans) for blocking its correct application.

(3) Mr. Obama knows he is wrong, but he cannot oppose the prevailing line of thought of his party and political supporters. He is a captive of liberal-Democrat economic orthodoxy.

(4) Mr. Obama knows his strategy will not help the economy recover, in the conventional sense, but that is not his objective. He has something else in mind.

There might be other answers, but these are the ones I see from here. Here’s how I evaluate them:

(1) Obama is right; economists are wrong. There is more than a germ of plausibility in this answer. Nearly five years into his presidency, we now know how powerfully narcissistic Mr. Obama is about his own sense of rightness. Having never lost an election, he took office with virtually no experience in the real world of business. Yet he was convinced that he knew all the answers. Indeed, his air of certainty was one of his most attractive attributes. Young people (plus quite a few older people) followed him the way Hamelin youngsters followed the Pied Piper. They thought he must know because he looked and sounded so good.

(2) Obama is being blocked. This answer doesn’t explain everything, but there is no question that Mr. Obama complains often about the “obstructionist” GOP-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican cadre in the Senate that is big enough to maintain a filibuster. Without their opposition, Mr. Obama’s higher taxes on the so-called “rich” would have passed, along with gazillions in additional federal spending. If he really is a smart guy, Mr. Obama must realize, in his heart of hearts, that Republicans saved him from himself. Had he obtained all of his desired higher taxes and giga-spending, his presidency would have been in complete shambles, with only himself to blame. The GOP actually allowed him to keep blaming his political opponents on the way to being re-elected.

(3) Liberal orthodoxy. Five years ago I wrote (prophetically) that Mr. Obama wanted to take us “…not forward, but backward – i.e., back to the New Deal, higher taxes, less economic freedom and a managed economy.” (See “Going for the Moron Vote”; Atlantic Highlands Herald, June 24, 2008; http://www.ahherald.com/columns-list/at-large/4259-going-for-the-moron-vote )Today we can see that his entire presidency has moved us in that direction. How did I know that it would go that way? Because it’s what liberal Democrats – a.k.a. “progressives” – have wanted since Woodrow Wilson’s day. They worship at the shrine of socialism. It is holy doctrine for them. I figured it was certain that Mr. Obama would stay with the horse he rode in on, even if he knew socialism was a total crock that fails every time it is tried. Young people always think it sounds perfect because they fail to see that people will not work for the “common good” unless they stand to gain something for their labors. On the other hand, liberals have an indestructible conviction that the socialist paradigm is the right solution, if only it can be applied correctly. (In a century of trying – including 70 years in Russia – it has never worked.) Liberal orthodoxy would never dream of questioning whether socialism’s central premise might be fundamentally flawed. So there is absolutely no way that Mr. Obama could take a different direction on economics. His liberal base calls him on even the slightest deviation from progressive economic holy writ.

(4) Obama has a different objective. I’m not alone in believing that Mr. Obama does not really want a strongly recovering and growing economy. The entire picture of his presidency is clarified when you accept this as its central premise. When he was running for president, he kept declaring how he would “fundamentally transform the United States.” Excited acolytes naturally assumed he meant “out with the bad and in with the good.” Most never dreamed that he meant changing free enterprise and business as we know it, or taking wealth away from individuals and placing it under the control of government. Free enterprise and private wealth are the country’s “fundamental” pillars. Without them, we should not have the nation of immense wealth and power that makes freedom possible. Instead, we should find ourselves weak, poor, and fearful. Is it not clear, beyond peradventure of doubt, that this is where we are heading today? We should have seen this coming, but we were blinded by a rock-star persona, a silver tongue, and a million-dollar smile.

Meanwhile, government agents are actually on the road across the USA, trying to persuade once self-reliant Americans to sign up for food stamps. Millions of taxpayer-dollars are also being spent on Mexican advertising to convince people to come to the USA to take advantage of food stamps and other aid programs. This must be because our food stamp rolls have increased by only 13% each year, from 2008 to 2013 (a net increase of 85%). Over 50 million Americans are now on the program – nearly 1/6 of the population. Similar numbers are now counted as “poor.” Last year the official poverty tally increased from 49 million to 49.7 million – highest in our history. By official government count, 2 million fewer Americans are working now than in 2007.

All these are Obama’s economic “chickens” – now coming home to rest. To distract attention from the mess they are making in the national “henhouse,” the president is in full-time campaign mode – currently touring round the country, telling us how great things are and pumping up his college-student base with promises of loan-forgiveness and other new spending programs. There is no end to his ideas for new benefits, and no mention of how it will all be paid for.

Not to worry, though. It’s all George Bush’s fault…