Obama’s Politics of Envy
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 25, 2012 on The Washington Times website.
When reality bites, you can either try to change reality or create your own.
Barack Obama claims he has presided over trillions of dollars in spending cuts. If he’s a fiscal conservative, then I’m a forward “enforcer” for an NBA playoff team.
The president, who has increased the national debt by $5 trillion – more than all previous presidents combined – points to a nutty study by a journalist named Rex Nutting, whose virtual math asserts that Mr. Obama is an advocate for small government.
Mr. Obama has unrolled this meme on the campaign trail. He told a crowd at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday that the Republican plan to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts is “like trying to put out a prairie fire with some gasoline.”
Mr. Obama also pushed his green energy agenda by promising to save jobs at a wind-turbine factory in Newton, Iowa, where he said, “If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit. Jobs will be lost.”
Mr. Obama should know about lost jobs. Real unemployment, which includes underemployment and those who have given up looking, is about 11 percent. First Solar, to which the administration provided $3 billion in loan guarantees, has fired 30 percent of its workforce, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Abound Solar, which got a $400 million loan guarantee, stopped production in February and laid off 180 employees, according to Forbes. Solyndra and several other companies that received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees also have gone belly-up.
The problem here is not failed capitalism but crony socialism. According to the Hoover Institution’s Peter Schweizer, author of Throw Them All Out, bundlers for Mr. Obama raised nearly $500,000 for his campaign while receiving more than $11 billion in grants or loans.
So who is to blame for the mammoth increase in national debt since 2008? Why, George W. Bush, of course, Mr. Obama’ favorite devil.
Yes, Mr. Bush spent too much, financing two wars and colluding with liberal Democrats on boondoggles such as the No Child Left Behind Act. But Mr. Obama’s crony socialism makes Mr. Bush look like an amateur.
The real cause of government gigantism is a breakdown in the moral culture and the rise of envy, the beating heart of socialism, which is the desire to have what someone else already has.
All across the land, Mr. Obama is waging class warfare. In Columbus, Ohio, on May 5, Mr. Obama accused GOP nominee Mitt Romney of wanting “to spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”
In Redwood City, Calif., on Thursday, he slammed Republicans for wanting “bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. They want to give banks and insurance companies even more power to do as they please.”
It’s not as if Mr. Obama has been coy about his redistributionist philosophy. He tipped us off when telling Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher in 2008 that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
In 2009, in his first budget statement, Mr. Obama announced, “For the better part of three decades, a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth has been accumulated by the very wealthy. Technological advances and growing global competition, while transforming whole industries and birthing new ones, [have] accentuated the trend toward rising inequality.”
It was time, Mr. Obama said, “to break from a troubled past” and “begin charting a new path.”
Where have we heard this before? From socialist thinkers for more than 200 years. French socialist Gracchus Babeuf, for example, in arguing for forced equalization and against the free market in 1797, said:
“The most intelligent and the most industrious are given a warrant for hoarding, a title to despoil with immunity all those who are less gifted… one succeeds in having too much only by causing others not to have enough.”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, borrowing from Louis Blanc, declared in The Communist Manifesto that government should ensure a redistributionist system “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
By contrast, Ronald Reagan called the left’s theory of social and class warfare “alien and discredited.”
“Since when,” he asked, “do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes – one rich, one poor, both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other?”
America’s Founders, informed by a biblical worldview of human nature (“Thou shalt not covet”) recognized that envy could become a driving force in politics. They designed the Constitution to protect our God-given rights, including the right to private property, from government’s greedy, grasping hand.
Mr. Obama sees this as a monumental flaw, as he said in a 2001 radio interview:
“I think we can say that the Constitution reflected an enormous blind spot in this culture that carries on until this day, and the framers had that same blind spot. … The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”
The “blind spot” is really the heart of the founders’ view of limited government and the role of law in society. With a Harvard law degree, Mr. Obama understands this well enough, as he has said:
“The Constitution is a chart of negative liberties; [it] says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.”
Yes, he gets it. He just doesn’t like it.