Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers, is a columnist living in Colorado. Email: SpeaktoJay@aol.com.
Maybe you didn't really trust Barack Obama's politics when he was elected president, but he was also bursting with positive characteristics, wasn't he? And weren't lots of people reassuring us he would fix the broken economy, abide by the highest principles of governance and move the country in right directions?
The first assurance was utterly wrong. The second was decisively wrong. And the third was laughably wrong, which isn't to say any of us should feel merriment. We should instead feel betrayed, for what Obama embraced was ever-expanding, regulatory-minded, autocratically managed government, and one consequence — just for starters — has been a wrecked recovery.
That's no small thing. It has meant increases in poverty, a decline in household income of 5 percent and millions of people with no place to turn for a decent full-time job. As economist Robert Barro of Harvard has pointed out, the way back to a bubbling economy was austerity, the kind of thing that worked for Sweden and Germany, and not a stimulus that turned out to cost as much as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under George W. Bush.
Even if the stimulus did some quickly evaporating ounce of good, hijinks reduced its chances to accomplish more than that. Besides proffering temporary, voter-pleasing tax reductions that have never worked, it lavished millions on corporate donors to the Obama campaign, was rife with non-stimulating, wasteful pork the president himself OK'd and fed the presidential ego with long-term, mostly dubious, faddish projects such as high-speed rail.
Punch rich in the nose
Some on the left would have you know all of this means bliss someday, but what it mainly means is a worsening of a debt that will burden generations to come. It is already slowing down economic growth, threatens calamity just around the corner and is making our president yawn. Yes, yawn. Although Obama's own debt commission had terrific bipartisan ideas about fixing things — spending cuts that would make Republicans happy, tax reform that just might please Democrats — a bored Obama scooted to distant shores. He showed a marked distaste for the kind of negotiations absolutely required for successful leadership in a divided government, reprehensibly castigating some perfectly sound budget-control ideas as an assault on the middle class.
What he wanted was to punch the rich in the nose. He absurdly suggested they were not paying their fair share of taxes, a dishonest act of demagoguery underlined by proposals that would produce a Band-Aid's worth of revenue. And he wasn't through with divisiveness.
In a society in which the resources for education, nourishment, housing, health care, charity, government programs and you name it trace back to business activity, our president has constantly blasted businesses as if they were the enemy. There are some reckless, even bad folks in business as in anything — in government, for instance — but our businesses are mostly owned, managed and manned by splendid citizens, and one of the punishments Obama illustratively has in mind, higher taxes for oil companies, would mean higher pump prices. Gee, thanks.
This supposed saint has probably been the most autocratic president since Richard Nixon, bypassing the law on some 40 occasions without the required consent of Congress, according to a recent Republican study. His re-election campaign has been as dirty as any in recent memory. And to this day, he blames his predecessor for a situation he worsened.
For the sake of unions, he cheated bondholders in the General Motors bailout that actually is not working out half as well as pretended or even as well as it might have under a plan put forth by Mitt Romney. He ripped off Medicare to finance Obamacare. He opposed Wisconsin efforts to save itself from budgetary chaos posed by ever-escalating benefits to public employees.
The record is not pretty. It is, in fact, scary.