Carter's Second Coming?
Richard H. Collins
Friday, June 13, 2008
Barack Obama may be the political equivalent of a rock star with his huge crowds and his celebrity endorsements, but his economic policies are simply the warmed over liberalism of the sixties and seventies.
Stale liberalism doesn’t have a history of success in America and doesn’t match his image of Hope and Change. This same old big government tax and spend liberalism is a far cry from a “New Politics.” So Obama has been forced into some creative marketing to sell his leftist ideology as post-partisan solutions to the country’s problems.
If you can cut through the hype and the rhetoric, his worldview is clear. Look at the way he talks about money. Tax cuts are “giveaways” and “wasteful spending.” Forget for a moment whether specific tax cuts enhance revenue or stimulate the economy. Instead, remember that tax cuts are fundamentally different from government spending because the money isn’t the governments to begin with.
This captures the liberal view perfectly; the government knows how to spend your money better than you do. Wanting to keep your own money is selfish and wasteful. Obama even made the ludicrous claim that it is only with his nomination that America can began to heal the sick and find jobs for the jobless. It is only increased government spending that can solve problems and only Obama who can lead the way.
Obama is counting on the fact that many Americans have a poor grasp of history. He is counting on the fact that high gas prices and a slowing economy might tempt them to return to a philosophy that has failed repeatedly in the past. Have we forgotten the legacy of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter?
It was Lyndon Johnson who waged the War on Poverty and initiated “urban renewal.” These crusades resulted in a system of dependency and family dysfunction based on the warped incentives of government welfare; in rising crime rates and destroyed neighborhoods; in bloated government bureaucracies and higher taxes.
Jimmy Carter brought this same attitude to Washington. His solution to America’s problems was more federal government control and spending. Is American education better off since Carter created the Department of Education? Is America more energy independent and secure since the creation of the Department of Energy? Did Carter’s policies jump start the US economy?
Obviously, the answer to all these questions is no. The Carter administration was a time of long gas lines and rationing, stagflation and rising unemployment. A general malaise fell over the country. Facing this crisis Carter famously called on Americans to sacrifice in the name of energy conservation. Rejecting the dynamism and innovation of America, Carter proposed that we simply learn to live with less.
Despite all of his charisma, Obama brings the same attitude. He too castigates Americans for selfishly driving the car they want or for using air conditioning too often. He too believes that the answer to our energy challenges is more federal spending. He too believes that domestic sources of energy must be off limits; that the desires of the environmental lobby trump our national interest and the pocketbooks of average Americans. He too opposes free trade and favors big unions over small businesses.
Obama’s record matches his attitude, if not always his seemingly centrist campaign rhetoric. Obama and his allies in Congress have tried to resuscitate the windfall profits tax strategy that failed during the Carter administration. In his first three years in the Senate Obama voted for increasing taxes 94 times (including taxes on coal, natural gas, payroll, and income).
Obama talks at length about only raising taxes on the rich but he voted in favor of increasing the 25 percent federal tax rate to 28 percent (this bracket covers income from $32,550 to $78,850 for individuals and between $65,100 and $131,450 for married couples). And his plans to end the cap on Social Security taxes means an increase for anyone making more than $100,000.
In order to get elected Obama is sure to campaign with centrist rhetoric. He will try to play on the weariness of voters tired of Washington. His fresh face and rhetorical skills will be used to convince voters he is different.
In reality, Obama is a traditional liberal who favors more government and less freedom. These policies have been tried and failed. Dressing them up with fancier words and bigger crowds won’t change the outcome.
Let’s hope voters remember their history.