Fissures in the Obama Totem
Oh, I know that President Obama’s approval ratings are still around 62%. But I also remember that George Bush’s at the end of 2001 got even higher — and stayed at or above 60% through most of 2002, explaining why he increased his congressional majority in the midterm elections.
Nevertheless, I think we are beginning — after less than four months — to see fissures in Obama’s Pentelic statuary. And the cracks will widen, because in about six areas he has taken on human nature itself, age-old logic, and common sense-opponents that even a Harvard Law degree and Chicago organizing are no match for.
1) The Rule of Law. We are on dangerous ground here with the reordering of the bankruptcy statutes with Chrysler and the UAW; with the strong-arming of stimulus money for California predicated on the protection of unions; with the serial disdain for paying taxes on the part of Geithner, Solis, Daschle and others; and with the selective release of CIA memos, to denigrate those out of office as veritable torturers (they should reread the transcript of Eric Holder’s 2002 CNN interview with Paula Zahn in which he grandly denies that the Gitmo detainees have any recourse to the Geneva Convention accords and can be held there for as long as we think the war lasts). What separates the U.S. from Mexico, Cuba, or Haiti is the rule of law, the protection of capital and property, the evenhanded treatment of investment, and the faith in a fair media to uncover abuse. I think that is now all in question, as the Utopian ends justify the tawdry means.
2) Energy. We are finding more natural gas than ever. There are billions of barrels of U.S. oil in Alaska, offshore, and in shale. Yet rigs sit idle and government leases are constricting rather than expanding — and for reasons other than the economy. Logic dictated a simple course: expand exploration, increase production, use the revenue to pay down the deficit, and, along with conservation, ready ourselves for the next round of inflationary energy hikes, petro politics, and Middle East petro-bribery by transitioning to alternate energies. In other words, the rare carbon bounty of the U.S. was vital in providing a window of survival, until technology solves wind, solar, and bio-fuel by making them more competitive and plentiful.
No to all that common sense. Instead, Obama is ignoring the potential of coal, nuclear, gas, and oil, intent on cap-and-trade, and pie-in-the-sky present-day Gore-ish wind and solar. The result will be that our energy bills will skyrocket. Our vulnerability will increase. Our overt enemies will gain leverage, and covert ones will keep using coal and nuclear for economic advantage. This is a disastrous energy policy and apparently has been outsourced to the Al Gore cadres. We have a rendezvous with real trouble when the global economy rebounds and demands more oil and gas. Al Gore will keep his yacht, jet on private planes, and tinker with his various contraptions at his estate; the rest of us will be in gas lines.
3) Debt. Obama has somehow already used the tax last resort. That is, his figures assume taking off FICA caps, watching the states increase their own tax rates, upping the federal rate to 40%, curbing deductions, and effectively increasing the total state and federal bite to above 65% on top incomes.
Fine. But the deficits still go up, adding an aggregate $8-9 more trillion to the debt. The magnitude of borrowing is so staggering that there is almost no conceivable way that we can ever balance the budget without simply confiscating incomes in toto, or taxing our very sneezes. This will blow up in the administration’s face as well. The taxes will discourage and dishearten entrepreneurship as the spending increases unproductive sectors of the now federalized economy, as in turn a larger fossilized constituency demands ever more entitlement and more taxes for “them.”
I do not know what is worse, the mega-interest to come on the debt; the stifling of economic initiative and the rise of barter, off the books income, tax avoidance, or simple slowdowns; or the creation of vast new dependent classes who vote in exchange for entitlement.