'For Barack Obama, the Private Economy is an Intellectual Abstraction'

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes,” Back in 2004, when he was running for the US Senate, Obama told the 2004 Democratic Convention. “Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.”


Of course, once in the Senate and then in the White House, Obama has worked extremely hard to put the lie to his own words. And as Daniel Henninger wrote earlier this week, that idea of a unified America is particularly anathema to the president when it comes to the economy. If you’re not on the government payroll, if you’re attempting to run a business that isn’t funded via corporatism and crony handouts such as Solyndra, LightSquared, or GE, GM and Chrysler, you don’t exist, as far as the president is concerned:

There was more clarity in a previous presidency about the meaning of “is” than about Barack Obama’s elastic definition of a millionaire. Another familiar part of the political background noise in politics is the president’s animus toward something called “business.” This is taken to mean he dislikes the undeserving fat cats of banking and corporate management. At this level, the president’s American Jobs Act is progress: From its details emerges a clear understanding of Mr. Obama’s beliefs about what he takes to be the engines of the American economy. How it works. How it grows.

For Mr. Obama, there is no such thing as the American economy. Instead, there are two Americas with separate economies—one public, the other private. The economy of the public sector—the money it spends and the direct or indirect recipients of its spending—is the real economy, the one that matters for the health of the country. Mr. Obama’s second economy, the one most people think of as the private sector, is an intellectual abstraction. It’s like the distant planets that astronomers regard as real but have discovered using mathematical calculations. It is believed that life forms exist in the private economy, but they do so as datapoints inside the White House Office of Management and Budget.

* * * *

Because Mr. Obama and his circle divide the economy into two parts, with the private economy merely a satellite orbiting the public sun, he has proven incapable of offering policies for the whole nation. A Whole America plan to lift both blue-collar and white-collar workers would have included some gesture toward a broad-based Bowles-Simpson tax reform, rather than wait for the debt panel to act. The plan’s mention of reforming Sarbanes-Oxley (for small and new business only) merely promises to “work with” the SEC to “explore ways.” A pipedream.

The American Jobs Act is a jobs plan for Barack Obama’s America. The United States is a bigger country than that.


But then, long before he took office, Obama and his wife told anyone who was paying attention of their lack of understanding and empathy for American business people. There are several examples collected here, including this telling passage in a book by David Mendell titled Obama: From Promise to Power:

“[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn’t want to be on one of those trains every day,” said Jerry Kellman, the community organizer who enticed Obama to Chicago from his Manhattan office job. “The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions… that was scary to him.”

And note the idea from an Obama supporter that being in business, or working for one isn’t dynamic, is simply going through the motions, and is ultimately scary.

I imagine President Sisyphus isn’t too thrilled about having to go through the motions on the perpetual campaign stump right about now.

Perhaps someone should hand him his gold watch and ask him to call it a day.


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