Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama’s Plan: One Nation, Under Government

By Keith Koffler
July 25, 2013

You’ve probably read that the series of speeches President Barack Obama started giving Wednesday are a “pivot” to the economy designed to rev things up. Well, they’re not. Obama’s speeches will be no less than the manifesto of a leftist president who plans to spend his remaining time in office installing as much of his big government “project” as possible by whatever means he can get away with.

If you got the wrong message, it’s because Washington reporters too often have a poor understanding of people who have a systematic philosophy and truly believe in what they are doing. Reporters,  focused on who is up this day and who’s down the next, have difficulty discerning the intent of someone like Obama — who is thinking much more long term.

Obama, with his speeches, is intent on laying out the rationale and building public support for “fundamentally transforming America” — as he promised five days before being elected in 2008.

Speaking Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Obama presented a statist vision that should send chills down the spine of anyone who believes that free markets, not government, create wealth.

Obama sketched a series of problems that he says confront the United States and hold back what he called the middle class. He might as well have used the term “proletariat,” though — because every fetter he described requires government intervention to make things right.

“We need a long-term American strategy,” he said, “based on steady, persistent effort, to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades. That has to be our project.”

Let’s forget about the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi, and political debate: “With this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop.”

What needs to start? Government spending. Hold onto your income, because the taxman cometh.

Every problem, in Obama’s thinking, requires a government solution masterminded by the altruism and genius of central planners such as he.

Is business lagging? Lets invest billions to build new ports, transportation systems, power grids, bridges and communications networks to provide infrastructure and, by the way, create “good-paying jobs” with paychecks signed ultimately by Uncle Sam. While we’re at it, let’s expand worker-training programs.

Is American manufacturing floundering? Let’s create government-funded “manufacturing innovation institutes” that “partner” with the private sector to “turn regions left behind by global competition into global centers of cutting-edge jobs.”

Meanwhile, White House economists will perform surgery on the tax code to reward companies that don’t outsource overseas or that invest in proper green technologies.

Are our kids too stupid for the 21st century? Let’s provide a brand new entitlement and “make high-quality preschool available for every 4-year-old in America.” Such a scheme “will also provide a vital support system for working parents. “ That is, government-financed daycare for all.

College is an entitlement too, so Obama will soon “lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families.”

Exactly what that means is not clear. But it’s obviously not coming from the private sector.

Need more health care? Let’s get to “fully implementing the Affordable Care Act.”

Is opportunity not knocking?  “We need a new push to rebuild rundown neighborhoods.”

The democratically elected House of Representatives is conservative and stands in the way of such massive government intrusion. But never mind that. Poor choices by voters cannot be permitted to interfere with the left’s noble designs.

“I will not allow gridlock, or inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way,” Obama warned. “That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it. Where I can’t act on my own and Congress isn’t cooperating, I’ll pick up the phone — I’ll call CEOs; I’ll call philanthropists; I’ll call college presidents; I’ll call labor leaders.  I’ll call anybody who can help — and enlist them in our efforts.”

Just listen to the contempt Obama harbors for those who disagree with him.

“Now, there are others who will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or in some cases because, sincerely, they have a fundamentally different vision for America,” Obama said. “One that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families, and government is the problem and we should just shrink it as small as we can.”

Conservatives, in Obama’s view want to inflict pain on Americans. Is it not therefore just to take any steps necessary to oppose such iniquity and replace it with “equality” and justice?

Obama has made his plans for the country clear. “Government,” he said, “can give the middle class a fair shot in this new century.”

So government must accrue power and act to correct the errors of a market economy and the injustices spawned by too much individual freedom.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

By him.

 

Keith Koffler is editor of the blog White House Dossier.

 

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a visit to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 

Comments
25 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“Today’s typically knee-jerk antagonism toward government conceals a far more crucial dimension of our nation’s politics: that voters are largely failing at the task of self-governance.”
http://judefolly.squarespace.com/blog/20 13/7/24/small-govt-slogans-are-for-sucke rs.html

Posted by jude_folly | Report as abusive
 

Obama is now clearly saying what many of us have been accusing him of since 2008. He is a totalitarian, plain and simple. His interest is government being in control of all we are and do, freedom be damned.

As much as I wish the House were more functional and more reliably on point, I give them credit for not folding to the will of this tyrant, and for continuing to serve as a “roadblock” to the un-American agenda he’s trying to install. Yes, we do disagree with him! Yes, we do think he is a radical! No, we have no interest in seeing his policies become the policies of this country. If he wants to continue to act like a spoiled child over the fact that he holds a minority view of this country’s future, great! I hope he whine and cries and excoriates the rest of us, right up until the day he is ushered out of the White House for the last time, to be replaced by one who understands and believes in our Constitutional republic.

Posted by dm6968 | Report as abusive
 

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Too bad congress has given up so much authority via the creation of so many agencies that act indifferently to the constitution, under the direction of the executive.

Posted by ArnoldLayne | Report as abusive
 

Free Market? Ha that’s rich. Do you mean the market where the corporations buy our politicians, do you mean that one? Is that also the one that has our military doing the bidding of the oil industry? Wow, that sounds really free. Is this free market the one where bankers made up a bunch of fake securities and then when they collapsed they get saved by the tax payers and no one goes to jail for the theft. Free, free, free, it’s a crazy world of up is down and down is up and the loonies write about it.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive
 

@brotherkenny4: Yes – you have good comments about the “free” market, but you need to remember, each of those constraints you list was imposed on the government BY ITSELF. The latest example is Dodd-Frank where the government has committed itself to back the big banks, and charge the small banks for it. In return politicians can demand ‘election’ fundraising (please remember that election funds are the personal property of the politician once he leaves office) or unreadable ‘regulations’ will be enforced. The alternative to it is not ‘small’ government, but accountable government – with a particular functions so it can be held accountable. The reason for ever increasing government is often to make sure it is too complicated to be held accountable, not really to get a job done.

Posted by mnemos | Report as abusive
 

The writer assumes that the role of a nation is to ‘create wealth.’ It’s not. A place like Haiti even creates wealth. For about 6 people. The rest live in sewers. Put those 6 people in charge, and they will say the country is doing its job of ‘creating wealth.’

The role of a nation is to as much good for its citizenry as it can. That means security, a strong middle class, oversight.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Does anyone remember a Guy named Adolph Hitler from Germany in the 1930′s?
Same Song…same Dance!

Posted by nctexan | Report as abusive
 

So, the gamblers in the Wall Street Casinos with losses reimbursed by taxpayers are the engines of the economy?

Poor democratic government is always the scapegoat for everything evil, not crony capitalism and the One Percenters Club that benefits from a corrupt Congress.

It’s utterly amazing that the “big, bad government” theologians dismiss the effects of federal government stimulus that has put a shot in the American economic arm many times in the past when it was languishing on a hospital bed.

Next, we’ll be giving out medals to the Plutocrats who run the Wall Street Casinos and ran our financial system to ground. Hip, hip, hooray! The too-big-to-fail institutions are now even bigger and more powerful and our Congress has completely succumbed to the money drugs they provide.

THE PLUTOCRACY RULES!

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive
 

Keith Koffler just sounds another bitter and angry GOP election loser. Yawn. Do you have any actual ideas, or just a list of complaints again?

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Ask a coal miner or a mud logger how he feels about Obama’s commitment to good jobs.

Posted by nixonfan | Report as abusive
 

nixonfan, you want Obama to fix the natural gas glut? Because that’s coal’s problem right now. Not Obama. Any coal plant today can also burn natural gas. Since we are producing more natural gas than we have ever produced in the United States, natural gas prices are low and coal is not as attractive. That you put yourself in the wrong business at the wrong time….. is no one’s fault but your own. Sorry.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

I prefer President Obama over any plutocrat who wants to enslave me in low wages, take away my liberties and civil rights, and restrict my voting rights.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive
 

Delighted by the many reasonable comments. Wealth? It’s when you have an education, decent housing, food, health care, ability to care for your family, spend time with them, and live in a community of friends who help each other. Anything much beyond that moves from the good life to wanton excess. Interestingly, if you re-read this approach to “wealth”, it will be apparent that many of our “wealthiest” don’t have this basic wealth.

Posted by jfxwsr | Report as abusive
 

Delighted by the many reasonable comments. Wealth? It’s when you have an education, decent housing, food, health care, ability to care for your family, spend time with them, and live in a community of friends who help each other. Anything much beyond that moves from the good life to wanton excess. Interestingly, if you re-read this approach to “wealth”, it will be apparent that many of our “wealthiest” don’t have this basic wealth.

Posted by jfxwsr | Report as abusive
 

As an investor, I’m happy to say that my money is making money. As a member of a community, I see what the merciless pursuit of money is doing to our people and communities.

We’ve allowed companies to evolve that are now true global players. They exist to create wealth with no conscious thought of how their actions affect society at large. They exploit any and all avenues to minimize their tax burden, as they find it is more profitable to pay a hoard of tax accountants to manipulate tax codes than to actually pay taxes that maintain the infrastructure that they use daily. Their response to this accusation is two fold; first, that they have not broken the law, though even a cursory examination would conclude that they are twisting the intent of the law to their bidding, and two, that they have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits for their stockholders. Wages and benefits to their workers are also minimized under the same rationale. People in their employ are mere technicians to be used as needed, no more than that.

If corporations are people, then they too have a role in shaping our society and contributing to it. They have abdicated that role.

Though government intervention is abhorrent to some, me included, the scales have tipped too far in favor of rapacious greed, to the point that here in the US a form of economic serfdom is becoming reality. Is this what we want as a society?

As an investor I am happy; as a member of society I’m not.

As an investor,

Posted by pragmatist7 | Report as abusive
 

With regards to climate issues, President Obama’s plan is a critical step forward and will help transition the U.S. economy away from dirty fossil fuels and to a cleaner, more sustainable economic model. Why does government need to lead the charge here? Capitalism runs of self-interest and (many would argue) creates public good only as a by-product. When it comes to large public sphere issues like public health and the global environment, there are no private interests that are up to these challenges.

http://clmtr.lt/cb/vas0byD

Posted by PRVs | Report as abusive
 

Pragmatist7, I agree. It’s easy to make money in the stock market, but it does not really help America. I’ve been doing it just because it’s there. With today’s volatility in the market, it’s fairly easy to set trade triggers and go on auto pilot. Sell at a 10% increase, buy at a 10% decrease. Trade about 3 times a week, before you know it, your original investment has gone up 300% in 6 months. I decided some time last year to start donating everything I make from this ridiculous hobby. I already made more than I need. Paid off my house. Bought some rental properties. The rest is for charity. It’s not work, but it pays more than work.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Libertarianism is the ideology of those who believe that wealth is only created by free markets and never created by governments. If you’re not a libertarian ideologue, then you probably don’t believe the premise of the author’s argument, in which case, you probably won’t be alarmed by the sort of governmental actions that President Obama is proposing. If you’re not an ideologue of any sort, then your reaction to anything and everything will probably be guided by the best available evidence. The evidence would likely lead a fair-minded person to conclude that robust public and private enterprises are both needed to create and sustain wealth. Despite their role in delivering the benefit of wealth, enterprises of both sorts frequently conduct themselves in ways that irritate large swathes of the public. Ideologies that are hostile to either public or private enterprises thrive on such irritations, but every ideology worthy of the name is thoughtlessly destructive by its nature. Don’t say you weren’t warned. By history.

Posted by MoBioph | Report as abusive
 

It’s abundantly clear that nothing is going to move through congress anyways so why should I care? I’m assuming you couldn’t think of anything that affects the real world today so you just wrote this. Please take a sick day next time instead of wasting my time.

Posted by skiingdemon | Report as abusive
 

Keith, that was a very enlightening article you wrote. Thank you.

Posted by auntym | Report as abusive
 

“Keith, that was a very enlightening article you wrote. Thank you.”

Says his wife from the laptop in the next room. The only thing ‘enlightening’ about this article is that it made me grateful all over again for Mitt Romney being defeated. Then there was the added bonus of Karl Rove making up some alternate Ohio numbers on FoxNews election night. Good stuff. Thanks for the article….. Keith.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Obama wants more contractors – and where will the money come from to pay them? From our tax dollars! Fraud perpetrated by these contractors is costing us billions already, so we are paying double or triple.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

This conspiracy of growing government is not limited to Obama. It started with H.W. Bush, ramped up by Clinton and G.W. Bush and now Obama has accelerated it.

Posted by Jmach | Report as abusive
 

Koffler is a stooge.

First off, you need to be a dolt to not understand the last week in DC is all about the coming budget fight. There is no real economic Hail Mary grand plan. It’s a show.

But is there anybody out there that really believes America can continue wily-nily with no semblance of centralized strategic industrial policy against juggernauts like China? Does anyone besides regurgitating Birchers believe self-regulation will not lead us to more of what we currently are experiencing? There’s a difference between central planning that assists our industrial output vs. over regulation and hampering the free market. When you allow entire industries to do as they please we end up with citizens being bled dry via price collusion and other dirty tricks with no regard for the regulation or morality. Or government injecting huge amounts into a certain industry that’s ‘vital.’ Cuts both ways. Unfortunately many hacks continue to spread propaganda amounting to ‘whatever’s good for business is good for America.’ It ain’t so.

I’ll sidestep the hootenanny of the great conspiracy directing the IRS to persecute the teabaggers as well as how Obama murdered the ambassador. Exhale.

As far as new ports, transportation, power girds, bridges and networks: I will grant you that ports and rail smack of federal welfare for companies. Highways we plough money into every time a transportation bill comes up. Maybe it is time we devote something to rail, at least light rail in certain cities, in lieu of highways. In my city we can’t build any more highways but Ohio needing high-speed rail between Cleveland and Cincinnati makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Now as far as power goes: I take it you are aware sir, of recent increases in power usage and associated blackouts not only making the U.S. appear as inept as various two banana republics but also costing some people, usually the poorest among us or the elderly, their lives. You can rectify your vision by grasping the obvious fact that an increasing population necessitates more infrastructure and that if utilities, for instance, are not allowed periodic price increases (due to decisions made by independent boards), that some other player needs to assist the market. Not necessarily via boatloads of money. Government programs do not necessitate huge outlays. That’s a conservative fallacy. Tax policy can increase investment for example. So don’t bamboozle us into believing taxes always go up. Just look at whose taxes decreased under the GOP of late and you’ll see what I mean.

I hope you’re not another Luddite who thinks the majority of our bridges will stand forever with no need to even inspect them? Is the U.S. lagging far behind other countries in very high-speed connectivity somehow beneficial, due to the so-called free market? If the past twenty years have taught us anything it’s that technology is central to the new economy. Perhaps the prez isn’t calling for government to build everything using tax money but simply to induce private companies to invest in our common future. Where a profit will be made no less. With at least a nod towards the common good. Or is everything we citizens “own” simply given away for free or for a pittance, with deals made behind closed doors such as the giveaway of spectrum to communications corporations? How’s that for your “Socialism/Communism” baloney.

If we agree that manufacturing is vital to exports and U.S. GDP, how can we not aim for synergistic growth in this sector? It’s not as if altering regulation as a means to improve production runs counter to U.S. history. I could cite various instances where companies employing thousands survived and prospered only because of government intervention. Or how policy begat core industries and Detroit saving us from the Axis powers.

Do you really believe we should continue to allow corporations to hollow out America? Or that we cannot address wastelands like Youngstown, OH via American ingenuity? What about when we finally allow China to introduce their autos, partially built by their slave labor? You believe we should allow destitution to spread because it’s the will of the market? If you believe Red autos aren’t flooding our roads due to not passing U.S. safety stipulations I’ve got a bridge to sell you. You may believe Solyndra was simply a giveaway to favorites or for future campaign contributions but if you know the story it was Chinese policy that shuttered that factory. How often does Uncle Sam ‘invest’ gajillions in industries like aerospace and anything remotely related to defense anyway?

Don’t even get me started on tax policy being bent for every Tom. Dick and Harry. I personally believe Labor policy, outsourcing and immigration policy are at the core of our current predicament. We know who is winning and why. As far as education goes, sure, another entitlement sounds socialistic as well as unaffordable. But what if we could take it at face value? Compare day care to school lunch programs. Do you really think these are a bad investment for a society? Realize forward thinking companies have taken that very concern and turned it into a win-win. Do we really need secret off the books security agencies with overblown buildings and server farms compared to any number of programs that would probably be or are in fact economically viable, such as Pell grants?

True, in this age of many women out-earning men we could genuflect to Ms. Rand and say everyone for herself. But, living through this time of extreme hardship for many middle-class families, what if we could accomplish increasing access to daycare without unduly burdening the taxpayer? Do you ever think about how those misfit kids that bully, start fires or grab a gun could have been re-directed? They say things start early. Well, Ayn Rand never had children. Never wrote about sacrifice for her kids. Seems like a no-brainer for strengthening families, another conservative issue as I recall. Perhaps combining good intentions with limits would be an improvement over bridges to nowhere and ‘the missile system doesn’t work so give us another 300 million and we promise we’ll fix it.’ I think the Star Wars system was finally mothballed recently after, what 30 years. And it never worked, regardless of what the Foxbot tells you.

Have to have noticed the exponential increases in tuition over the last 30 years. Unless you’ve been living under a rock. What happens to a country when only the well off can afford higher education? Do you want to find out? Because I’ll tell you, we face a tsunami of Hispanic kids dropping out of high school with no skills unless we alter the current system and that starts before they get to that level. That probably is best left to individual states but education is a key factor, which will decide our collective future. Are there a lot of Hispanic kids in your city, because there are a lot in mine and I’m not an ostrich with my head somewhere. Perhaps some or many solutions can come from the private sector if we put our heads together and stop thinking the status quo is doing just fine. I think school vouchers and what Michele Rhee accomplished can work hand in hand. I also don’t think that all unions are evil. I know of many smart, dedicated teachers, for instance, who are underpaid and are great at what they do.

A great analogy re: education is the curmudgeon that doesn’t want to pay school taxes because his kids are out of the system. Not how democracy works but also doesn’t take into account how we nurture a better society. Do we warehouse kids until they’re 18 and then boot them into the real world, the market? No, we try to prepare them for society. We’ve had compulsory enrollment for more than a century. Is that socialistic? Studies now show the vast majority of future graduates will need to know some form of technology or other specialized study. There will obviously be a hierarchy of achievement. Do we invest in non-budget-breaking programs that encourage STEM graduates or do we let the market decide? Because markets are fickle, and too many losers equals a depression. If you perceive higher tuition is increasing buildings on campus vs. decreasing class sizes you may be onto something. If you know anything about the scandal of college book prices you might understand what the prez is talking about.

I’ll skip the ACA as that’s a whale of a subject but know this: unless the cost structure was addressed the ‘previous’ system would’ve bankrupted the country and many individuals while providing no improvement of outcome for patients. It’s a shame more of a compromise of a bill wasn’t hammered out but I think like the past we can’t go back, we can only go forward. Koffler I’m sure labels ‘Obamacare’ socialist or worse so he doesn’t understand economics but worse, probably believes in ‘self-regulation.’ Read non-regulation. You know down under they fine you if you don’t vote. More socialism? Republicans would throw out the baby with the bathwater because they’re (more) beholden to vested interests.

Urban renewal is a time-honored endeavor that takes place with or without federal intervention but I feel your pain, Koffler. You’d never even scratch the surface anyway but short-term construction jobs will not increase opportunity. Much. Again, the best solution to increase opportunity is education. It’s not a panacea but a lot of people could use more education if they could afford it. We have numerous programs that already assist those who try and help themselves. However honest statistics show that it’s getting harder to afford education in this country. Companies already partner with colleges to obtain employees ready to hire. Wouldn’t a push for technical education be a better use of public funds than increasing the dole? For increasing nurses instead of importing them? Or choosing policies that encourage the pursuit of medical degrees?

If austerity really has been disproved, and I believe it has been if you study the EU, then what better way to get more workers filling government coffers than by directing young lives towards more schooling, perhaps with a good dose of tough love so to speak. The current stats promise the further Walmart-ization of our country unless we take action. Where would we have been without the G.I. bill by way of comparison?

Now when push comes to shove between the different branches of government I can only say that the Luddites in the House are in for a real education in the coming decade and I’ll take anyone’s proactive position against what the GOP stands for currently. (Well, ok, not Hillary.) Taxes are going up now regardless. But not because of Democratic giveaways. You need only look to the unfunded wars – astoundingly expensive, the lowering of taxes and corporate welfare, only now being even recognized, and the bailouts, started by W. to see how our brief surplus was squandered in such a heartbeat. Have to pay for Bush and Cheney’s oil grab. That turned out peachy didn’t it? (Don’t believe me, conspiracy zombies? Read up on Condi’s Vulcans meeting up at her alma mater.)

Doesn’t compare, in my opinion, to assisting those hurt or in some cases wiped out by Wall St. boys playing with matches. And anyone spreading propaganda that the Great Recession was caused by all those greedy homebuyers can meet me in the street. They’re nothing but purchased hacks; Trying to put lipstick on W. “He was a great president.” Yuh.

I believe inequality is inevitable but one difference is that many of us don’t believe that outcome is always just. Life isn’t fair but that doesn’t mean you allow laissez-faire markets in every crevasse. In fact it’s precisely why you don’t. Nor do you throw money at every problem, that’s not a solution, and don’t kid yourselves the Republicans waste endlessly as well. Unfettered risk taking due to non-regulation however, is exactly what led to the meltdown and no amount of hoodwinking double-speak will paint the hands off and the ‘lower taxes’ policies that begat our latest implosion as anything more than that. Yea, the changes in banking regulation started under Clinton. I know

I refute your assessment. Many of us do believe some conservatives, especially the scared headless chickens in the House, do in fact want to inflict pain. The question is whether by opposing that you espouse handouts or correcting ‘unfettered free markets.’ Or some combination of the two to regain a semblance of equality and especially justice. Those on the dole will inevitably rejoin the working economy but one thing that will not help hiring is cutting food stamps.

Government has allowed corporations to steal power during most of my adult life and it’s about time the people start to get back a system that protects them against an anything goes mentality. Yes, government should act to correct gross abuses in the market but don’t conflate that correction with impinging your and my individual freedom. (The individual mandate differs little from auto insurance. Some people won’t like their costs but in ever other Western country it is not viewed as Communism.) And don’t confuse Obama’s hubris with realpolitik. It’s the party, stupid.

Posted by Mac20nine | Report as abusive
 

Self-regulation = Mexico. Richest man in the world lives in Mexico. See? They ‘create wealth’ down there.

And yet…… Thousands of people from Mexico every day climb the fences and cross the deserts to get here and live. Why? Cuz middle class. You either cultivate one or you don’t. They don’t cultivate themselves through self-regulation.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

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