The summer of our discontent: What Mr. Obama hasn’t done in the last three months

Raising the Barr

Over the summer, students at Prospect find themselves engaged in a multitude of activities: band, athletics, summer school, summer reading, and of course, leisure pursuits.

Andy Barr
Andy Barr: Conservative Blogger

Now, even though high school students are notorious for their busy schedules, it would seem logical that the President of the United States would be busier. But looking back at what the chief executive has been doing over the past three months suggests otherwise, at least in terms of successful, beneficial legislation.

One thing is for certain: though he might not have been legislatively successful, the President, unlike many prospect students, did his summer reading. On his weeklong vacation, he brought a total of five books totaling some 2,300 pages. So at least he did that.

After the electoral events of last year, I was dreading the summertime. After all, what better time of year for major ideological shifts than when students are on vacation, and the sun is shining? As the old adage goes, “idle hands are the devil’s playground.” But alas, I was wrong. The shift to liberalism that seemed so imminent as a result of Obama’s election never came to pass. This made me think: with the effusion of public support for Mr. Obama and his “gospel of change” one would imagine that people would be flocking to the far Left like lemmings to their demise.

However, a Gallup poll in August of this year found 40 percent of Americans described their political views as conservative,” while only 21 percent as liberal. According to an August 2009 Gallup, Obama’s job approval rating is 50 percent. Additionally, Gallup discovered that Americans, by a surprisingly staunch two-to-one margin, say their political views in recent years have become, if anything, more conservative than liberal.

It seems to me like we’re dealing with a very average president here, not the earth-shattering, messiah figure that will bring balance to the force of American and global politics. But then, the polls could be deceiving us, as they sometimes have.

So, let’s look at what Mr. Obama has accomplished over the last several months. His main concern, legislation to revamp the health-care system, is having major difficulty getting anywhere on Capitol Hill. He wanted the both the House and Senate to support massive, all-encompassing healthcare bills by early August. That didn’t happen. The House Energy and Commerce Committee managed to attain an unstable compromise on one version of the bill several weeks ago, and the Senate Finance Committee seems to be moving in the direction of coming to a consensus. More and more, the Obama plan seems to mirror the ill-fated healthcare designs of Mr. Clinton in 1994. Will history repeat itself? Will this bill, like Clinton’s, brand Obama as a “big government liberal,” and cause the plan to fall flat on its face? Only time will tell.

However the fact remains that Congress is still far behind the timetable that Mr. Obama sanguinely established earlier this year. That’s strike one: healthcare.

On April 4, 2009 the president attended the NATO Conference in Strasbourg in an effort to garner allied support for “pursuing the growing threat to American securityin the Middle East.  This region, specifically the extremely volatile Afghan-Pakistani border area, has become a major aspect of Obama’s foreign policy. Not only is this expanse a threat, but it represents an area that the United States is vulnerable against and in which the President is having (as several presidents have) trouble securing allied support.

Since his presidency began, Obama’s mantra seems to be establishing a perdurable and certainly pro-U.S. regime in Afghanistan. In order to accomplish this, the man who promised an abatement of U.S. forces in the Middle East and an end to “excessive military spending” has proclaimed that more troops (over 21,000) will be sent overseas and an additional $80 billion supplement to the previous $750 billion allotted to the pentagon.

In addition to squeezing this money out of congress (and by that same token, out of our pockets) the President has also pursued an insistent policy of pressuring our European and Asian allies for sizeable additions of combat troops and monetary support. At the April NATO conference, sadly, Mr. Obama’s propositions were trenchantly rebuffed. A swing and a miss on foreign policy: that’s strike two.

In regard to the economic crisis, Mr. Obama has warned us “If we don’t act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits.” To this rather grim admonition, National Review simply responded “We acted immediately. Millions more jobs were lost. National unemployment rates are approaching double digits.”

The problem that we are running into with the economy is the same one that Herbert Hoover had to deal with when the stock market collapsed in 1929. Hoover, whose economic policy (along with Coolidge’s) is arguably the best this nation has every seen, was made to look “uninterested” and “uncaring” by his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

To the Keynesian Roosevelt and his liberal supporters, Hoover’s policy of non governmental interference with business during the economic crisis (particularly Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon’s “Leave it Alone” approach) and the business volunteer initiatives that he endorsed were not enough. Roosevelt took it to the other extreme, initiating what some might call “socialist” policies.

Despite the enormous public appeal of Roosevelt at the beginning of his presidency (which Mr. Obama also enjoyed) unemployment began to rise once more as the years of Roosevelt’s presidency progressed. At one point, then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau announced, “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.”

The so-called job creation program instituted by FDR in 1936 was an illusion. Colossal government spending does not, nor has it ever has created employment opportunities or economic stability in the long term. With the onset of World War Two, the economy was restored to health and it seemed as though it was Roosevelt who was responsible, not the massive demand for war material.

With $2.2 trillion already spent on bailouts and another $11.5 trillion allocated for more bailouts, one would think that Mr. Obama might pause and consider the philosophies of Mellon and Hoover. We are presented with a great opportunity: the decline of the economy has acted as an “Economic Social Darwinism” eliminating individuals and businesses from the market that could not withstand poor market conditions, and were thus weak.

We have an opportunity to shape our economy into something more powerful than it was before, if we would follow Mellon’s plan of cutting the top income tax rate, cutting taxes on low incomes, and reducing the Federal Estate Tax. But sadly, this will never happen. So that’s strike three, Mr. Obama. You’re out.

But we as American citizens are not out of the game: we can do our part to improve the economic wellbeing of our nation by involving ourselves in worthwhile economic ventures like investing in the stock market (supporting businesses) which will be beneficial in the long run, rather than donating to charity (supporting individuals) that will have no impact in the long term. Like great American thinker and patriot William F. Buckley Jr. once observed, “There is an inverse relationship between reliance on the state and self-reliance.” Let us exercise that self-reliance now, by supporting the economy, by supporting business.