All Fall Down
In 2004, the media’s “jobless recovery” was the description of George W. Bush’s 5.4% unemployment rate. “It’s the economy, stupid” referred to George H.W. Bush’s 1992 annual 3.3-4% GDP growth rate. “Unpatriotic” was W’s $4 trillion in borrowing in eight years, not $5 trillion in three. If Obama right now had 5.4% unemployment, 3.4% economic growth, and a budget deficit of about $400 billion, what would the media call it—a job-full recovery, "it’s not the economy, smarty," or patriotic borrowing?
Those with capital—slurred as one-percenters, fat cats, and corporate jet owners unless hit up for Obama campaign donations—are not hiring or buying. Maybe they think oncoming Obamacare will smash them. Maybe they see on the Obama horizon rampant inflation, debt cancellation, or higher taxes as planned liberal remedies for our endless borrowing. Maybe these shrugging Atlases see that fossil fuel energy is not pursued on federal lands, but needless new regulations are implemented.
Whatever the reason, they hesitate—only sorta buying here, kinda hiring there. And the result of millions of these collective hesitancies is an ossified Europeanized economy, run by technocrats without private sector experience and exempt from the sacrifice they demand of others, as they desperately try to borrow and grow the government to ensure a permanent lease on power through the creation of a vast angry dependent constituency. Not near-zero interest rates, not nearly a trillion dollars in “stimulus,” not four years of chronic deficits, not “quantitative easing,” not any classical priming seems able to shock the unwilling and hesitant back into action.
And Then There Is Our Survival
For about three years I have been monotonously suggesting that we were once again in a 1977-1979 Carteresque era, as Obama systematically trashed his predecessor’s policies, denounced “exceptionalism” and “unilateralism,” gave soaring narcissistic sermons on his/our new morality abroad, redefined both allies and enemies as morally equivalent neutrals, and generally suggested that if you were a China, Russia, Middle East, or Latin America, you had justifiable grievances against the pre-Obama U.S., at least during the era when the president was just “three years old.” Last time we did this, after three years of Carter’s sermonizing, calculating nations in 1979-1980 saw that it was time to get up from the table and cash in their chips. So we saw Russia in Afghanistan, China in Vietnam, Iranians in the U.S. embassy, communist insurgencies in Latin America, and radical Islam on the rise, culminating in the annus terribilis 1980. I’m afraid 2012 may be our 1980. For the Carter Doctrine will we get a Johnny-come-lately “Obama Doctrine"?
A “reset” Russia now threatens unilaterally to preempt and take out proposed U.S. anti-missile sites in Eastern Europe (Poland and the Czech Republic should enjoy that, even though it is mere bluster). The Chen case reminds of China’s growing contempt for the indebted U.S. (They did not get the message that a community organizer and Chicago part-time lecturer is a postnational, postracial healer.) The Arab Spring is turning into an Islamist Winter. What the media forgot to tell us about the spike-the-ball presidential trip to Afghanistan is the president’s promise to end Predator drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan—the liberal favorite tool of foreign policy (no prisoners in Guantanamo, no tribunals, no trials, no media videos of the explosions, no reports of the kids and granny blown up along with the suspect, little dollar costs, no U.S. lives endangered, no downside really other than we sometimes are not quite sure whom we blew up below).
The more we praised and emulated the EU, the more it unraveled and the more its leaders distrust the "lead from behind" America (Obama never quite got it that, when Europeans trashed us for leading and being capitalist, the whining was a psychological mechanism for being happy that someone other than themselves was still leading and somewhere outside Europe was still capitalist). Or alternatively, just as Obama is our Nemesis, so too he is Europe’s: be careful what you pine away for.
If I were a state or clique up to no good, and if I thought Obama might not be reelected, in my final window of opportunity, perhaps around September, I might flex my muscles in the former Soviet republics, send another missile over Japan or South Korea, cruise into Taiwanese waters, put some Argentine Marines on the “Malvinas,” seek readjustment in Cyprus and the Aegean, send some rockets into Tel Aviv, dispatch some suicide bombers from Gaza, and let off more missiles from Iran. Not just to make a statement, or to gain more "please don’t" concessions, but because it was my pleasure to do it—if only for the hell of it.
Ministry of Truth
Around January 2009, deficits became “stimulus.” “Jobless recovery” vanished from the vocabulary. Guantanamo, renditions, and preventative detention virtually ended. And Obama’s successful surge paved the way out of Iraq. Predator assassinations of hundreds of suspected terrorists and anyone nearby when the explosives went off were liberal improvements over waterboarding three confessed terrorists.
The good war in Afghanistan turned bad, and the bad one in Iraq turned good. The Obama “surge” brought peace to Iraq. We were told that we could not just sit by and watch Libyan thugs kill the innocent, but could do just that in oil-scant Syria. Obtaining UN and Arab League approval to go to war without the U.S. Congress was “leading from behind.”
Those who made over $200,000 never paid their “fair share,” but could—and not by paying more in taxes, but by buying a $40,000 a person ticket to an Obama fundraiser. Golf was no longer an aristocratic indulgence, but fresh-air, healthy downtime for an overworked president. Mangling words and abject ignorance—whether “corpse-man” or Maldives/Malvinas—were evident only to nit-picking partisans. A downright mean country redeemed itself with free jet service to Costa del Sol, Aspen, Vail, and Martha’s Vineyard.
Yes, after January 2009, Al Gore lives in a tiny green home. “Two Americas” John Edwards did not really build a 30,000 square foot mansion, with a 4,000 square foot “John’s Lounge.” “Punish our enemies” was the new civility.
What Does It All Mean?
In short, liberalism does not work, contrary as it is to human nature. I wish I could just say that about every thirty years or so, forgetful Americans take an allergy shot of it, suffer the reaction, and then get another three decades of Carter/Obama immunity. But instead statist redistribution and intrusion are an insidious process, no longer specific just to Democrats, but bound up in the growing affluence and leisure of the West—both serving its various needs of alleviating guilt to the masses, subsidizing half the nation, and providing much envied power and lucre to a highly educated and technocratic elite who have little talent for acquiring either in the private sector. That it is not sustainable does not mean that it will not cause havoc as it totters and collapses. Look at Russia and Eastern Europe circa 1989, or the present-day EU, or Greece proper, or California or Illinois today.