Have Obama's Policies Failed? Let Us Count the Ways

"Time to Admit Obamanomics Has Failed" is the title of a Washington Examiner editorial from Sunday that brings out in stark relief the monumental failure of the $1 trillion stimulus bill to stimulate anything except the greed glands in Democratic constituencies like labor unions and government workers.

The money graf:

The economy is stalling, unemployment seems stuck at European levels of idleness, the federal deficit and the national debt are at historic highs, public confidence in Congress is at its lowest-ever level and big majorities of Mainstream Americans say Obama has the country on the wrong path. Obamanomics has failed miserably and it's time for everybody in this town to admit it so we can move on.

That's only the half of it. Add on the following from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and you begin to get the complete picture of how much this government has spent to "rescue" the economy and how little good it has done.

* $85 billion to prop up GM and Chrysler, as well as auto suppliers. GM is still "Government Motors" despite crowing about "repaying" the government loan that kept them afloat. Not only was the $6.7 billion GM gave back to the government only about $42 billion short of what they owed, they had the temerity to use part of the bailout money to do it. GM claims a healthy profit this past quarter, but taxpayers -- who still own about 70% of the preferred stock in the company -- shouldn't be checking their mailboxes for dividend checks. This gift to the UAW has spawned the next adjective to describe product failure: the Chevy Volt.

* $70 billion for consumer and business lending initiatives. This was a program designed to jumpstart business and consumer lending. As with every other program that was supposed to shock the economy back to life, it has failed miserably.

* $75 billion to help those with mortgages that were underwater to stay in their houses. A recent study shows that the centerpiece of those efforts -- the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) -- has a miserable success rate of 32%. That means that "about a third of the trial mortgage mods begun will be successfully converted to permanent ones, and won’t redefault." Granted, if it were you or I who was helped by the program, we would declare the effort a success. But a redefault rate of 2/3, if looked at rationally, has to be considered an abject failure.

All of the above came out of the $700 billion TARP program signed by President Bush. Of course, no one who voted for the bill could have imagined the monies being used to bail out GM, throw money at lendees drowning in bad mortgages, or jumpstart the commercial and consumer loan industries. The bill may have originated with Bush -- a desperate attempt, we were told, to buy up toxic paper from banks in order to stave off economic calamity. But Obama made this program his own, eschewing its original intent by vastly expanding the reach and power of the federal government, taking it into areas of the economy it had never ventured before. TARP's failures are Obama's failures.

And what of the hundreds of billions of taxpayer monies used to bail out banks? Much of that money didn't go to eliminate the problem that caused the meltdown in the first place. Some estimates place the amount in toxic assets held by banks -- still hovering in the background despite massive efforts to hide, write down, or otherwise resolve the value of these worthless securities and derivatives -- at several trillion dollars face value. If another meltdown were to occur -- a possibility not out of the question -- we'd be back at square one with the big banks, risking depression and a blowup of the Western industrialized world's financial system unless taxpayers repeated the agony of massive bailouts.

One federal program, the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP), promised to buy $1 trillion worth of those troubled assets. To date, the program has purchased $12 billion -- another failure that can be laid at the doorstep of Treasury Secretary Geithner.

Nothing the Obama administration has tried to get the economy back on track has done what they promised. The only positive out of all of this seems to be that the big banks are profitable again and are back to paying their executives enormous bonuses. The question of ownership -- whether the banks are owned by the government or whether the government is owned by the banks -- is open for debate after all the wheeling and dealing done by Democrats in Congress and the administration in getting their "financial reform" package passed.

These are failures that are statistically quantifiable. But even with the evidence of incompetence and catastrophe, including anemic economic growth, high unemployment, massive uncertainty, and the growing possibility of the United States falling back into recession, we should calculate the failure of President Obama on a much more fundamental level.

President Obama has failed to inspire the American people. He has failed to ignite the native optimism that is part of our patrimony, and which is vital to America regaining its self-confidence in order to overcome this economic inertia and start the engine of democracy rolling forward.

You don't have to be an expert economist to understand how this singular failure by the president is holding us back. Everyone from corporations, to small businesses, to ordinary folk are holding onto their money and playing it safe. Businesses aren't hiring because not even the government knows how new laws like national health care and financial reform, as well as new regulations from every department of government, are going to affect their bottom line.

For someone who got elected largely because of his supposed golden tongue, the president's efforts to lift up the American people and instill the kind of optimism and confidence that just might overcome the uncertainty caused by his policies have been dismally lacking in inspiration. He lectures rather than lifts up. His rhetoric fails to connect because it has distanced itself from reality. Few are buying what he's selling.

Both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan also came to office at a time when there was a lack of hope and belief that things would get better. Then as today, America's detractors were circling like vultures overhead, predicting the end of the "American century" or the "death of capitalism." America as a superpower was finished, we were told. The U.S. was down for the count never to rise again.

Never underestimate the power of the spoken word in a democracy, because both Roosevelt and Reagan picked the country up off the floor by the sheer zest and sunniness of their words and their dispositions. President Obama's disposition is sometimes dark and foreboding. His threats promising catastrophe if his stimulus and financial reform bills weren't passed hardly contributed to elevating the national mood. And his words, while pretty things that listeners allow to envelop them in good feelings, end up floating above his audience, untouchable and unreachable, not zeroing in on their hearts where the soul is touched and thoughts transformed.

Obama's calls to action fall flat because his attempts to connect our past with the present in order to build a brighter future fail on the fundamental level of believability. He has made it clear that he wants to cut America's umbilical cord with our treasured traditions and first principles. His desire to "remake" the country, by definition, abandons the past in order to create his new America. Hence, President Obama's rhetoric that seeks to use America's past as a touchstone for patriot hearts engenders a titanic disconnect between his actions and words. There is no "there" there when Obama seeks to inspire the country.

It isn't only Obama's economic policies that are dragging the nation down. It is his inability to extend a hand to a dispirited people and help them pull themselves out of the doldrums and look with confidence to the future once again. He doesn't seem to have it in him. Perhaps he doesn't believe it himself. Whatever the reason, unless he can find it within himself to begin to reinstill the native optimism and confidence of the people, voters will look elsewhere for inspiration in 2012.