What Has Barack Obama Wrought? Some Recent Writers Contemplate the Issue

In retrospect, the single most important admission Barack Obama made during the 2008 campaign was when he said that we were moments away “from a fundamental transformation” of the United States. That should have given every American pause, and should have led to the country demanding to know just what he meant by that. Most Americans want a nation that works, an economy that flourishes and provides jobs, and a government whose leaders protect our national security and stand firm against America’s enemies.

There were many reasons why Americans voted for Barack Obama, but I doubt one of them was that they wanted a “fundamental transformation” of a constitutional republic: it always needs improvement, but does not need to be made into something very different than our Founders intended.

What our country has become in the few years of the Obama administration was made evident in a few seminal articles appearing this past week. The November 21 issue of Newsweek performed a very useful service by running a major article about the work of author Peter Schweizer, whose new book Throw Them All Out is making tremendous waves, including a segment on 60 Minutes.

Schweizer, a conservative writer affiliated with the Hoover Institution, has managed to make a major breakthrough into the mainstream media. As Marc Thiessen wrote in his review for the Washington Post (also posted at  the book's Amazon page):

On Sunday night, CBS News' 60 Minutes looked into this form of "lawful graft." The 60 Minutes story exposed, among others, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for participating in a lucrative initial public offering from Visa in 2008 that was not available to the general public, just as a troublesome piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies began making its way through the House (the bill never made it to the floor). And it showed how during the 2008 financial crisis, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) -- then-ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee -- aggressively bought stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had received the day before from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have finally achieved bipartisan unity, when it comes to making millions through actions that would get average Americans a lengthy jail term. The term for what they are engaging in is “crony capitalism,” which conservatives and liberals should both demand be ended immediately.

One of the worst offenders is my own representative in the House, Rep. Shelly Capito (R), who sold between $100,000 and $250,000 in shares of Citigroup after leaving a briefing with Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke. She and her husband then accrued as much as $50,000 in capital gains from the Citigroup transactions made throughout the financial crisis. When she next appears at a town forum in my community -- if she dares to -- I intend to publicly confront her about her activity and see how she tries to defend herself. I will tell her that as a conservative and a citizen, I find her actions reprehensible, and a good example of everything that is wrong with our political system.

Newsweek also printed an excerpt from Schweizer’s book titled “Obama’s Lucky Friends,” which presents the details on how the president violated every promise he made after coming into office in 2008. Schweizer notes the following:

It would take an entire book to analyze every single grant and government-backed loan doled out since Barack Obama became president. But an examination of grants and guaranteed loans offered by just one stimulus program run by the Department of Energy, for alternative-energy projects, is stunning. The so-called 1705 Loan Guarantee Program and the 1603 Grant Program channeled billions of dollars to all sorts of energy companies. The grants were earmarked for alternative-fuel and green-power projects, so it would not be a surprise to learn that those industries were led by liberals. Furthermore, these were highly competitive grant and loan programs -- not usually a hallmark of cronyism. Often fewer than 10 percent of applicants were deemed worthy.

He goes on to reveal how the Obama grants were a model of what we mean by crony capitalism. A large proportion of the winners had Obama campaign connections; 10 members of his finance committee and a dozen of his campaign bundlers got taxpayer money for their own firms, and some politicians who backed Obama launched alternative-energy firms that got grants. As Schweizer writes:

The grant and guaranteed-loan recipients were early backers of Obama before he ran for president, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008. Their political largesse is probably the best investment they ever made in alternative energy. It brought them returns many times over.

One firm, Kleiner Perkins, that had Obama financier John Doerr and Al Gore as partners, found a $16 million investment worth $69 million. But did it create jobs, as the administration promised? Schweizer’s answer:

Meanwhile, the $24 million grant created 40 jobs, according to the government website recovery.gov.

Isn’t it amazing how the taxpayer dollar works? I guess they weren’t shovel-ready jobs for the calling. As for why it is crony capitalism, heed Schweizer’s explanation:

The[Energy] department’s loan and grant programs are run by partisans who were responsible for raising money during the Obama campaign from the same people who later came to seek government loans and grants. Steve Spinner, who served on the Obama campaign’s National Finance Committee and was a bundler himself, was the campaign’s “liaison to Silicon Valley.” His responsibilities included fundraising, recruiting more bundlers, and managing Obama’s relationship with a cadre of very wealthy donors. After the 2008 campaign, Spinner joined the Department of Energy as the “chief strategic operations officer” for the loan programs. A lot of the money he helped hand out went to that same cadre of wealthy Silicon Valley campaign donors. He also sat on the White House Business Council, which is made up of Obama-supporting corporate executives.