Friday, January 25, 2013

“A Partisan Inaugural”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“A Partisan Inaugural”
January 25, 2013

Nobody will ever deny that President Obama is a master orator, as long as his speech writers have been busy and his Teleprompters are functioning. He is articulate, with a well modulated voice. In his inaugural, he borrowed phrases from the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln. Of the twenty-seven paragraphs in his second inaugural, four began with the words “We the people…” and one began, “For we the people…”

Such words and phrases may warm the heart of a conservative, but the underlying vision was one of an expanded central government that would push a social agenda of green energy, climate control and gay rights. There was very little in the speech addressing the needs of the economy, jobs, deficit reduction, or the persistence of al Qaeda networks and affiliates. In fact, in regard to the latter, he wants to eviscerate the military while promoting his policy of leading from behind.

Seeking the high ground, the President said we cannot, “…treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” Keep in mind his re-election campaign had alleged that Mitt Romney was a liar and implied he was a killer. Stephanie Cutter called him “a felon who was unconcerned about wives of workers dying of cancer.” David Axelrod called him an “artful dodger” and the President’s staffers referred to Bain Capital as being “like a vampire; it came and sucked the life out of us.” In spite of an adamant refusal to negotiate with House Republicans and an agenda that does not allow for partisanship, Mr. Obama had the chutzpah to proclaim: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle…” While politicians of all stripes become vituperative during campaigns, an inaugural is typically conciliatory and inclusive. Mr. Obama’s words reflect a “take no prisoners” and “divide and conquer” attitude, sounding more like Saul Alinsky than a founding father.

The speech provided a sense of Mr. Obama’s priorities for his second term. It gave the public an opportunity to better understand the extremism of this President. It avoided any discussion of our unusually poor economic recovery. While GDP growth continues positive, it is doing so at a very modest rate, too slow to absorb population growth. The unemployment rate remains where it was four years ago, but that is because of the millions that have left the labor force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), non-farm payrolls at 132,461,000 remain just over a million less than four years ago. During the past four years about six million people entered the labor force. The President’s policies of antipathy toward entrepreneurs have failed to solve the riddles of increased competition from overseas, and the replacement of people by technology. He proclaimed that “America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class,” yet during his first four years as President poverty has increased and dependency on government has expanded. Over the past four years, there has been a 24% increase of those on disability insurance.

In his speech, Mr. Obama emphasized social issues, like full equality for women, gay rights and the “victims of prejudice.” He spoke of the importance of sustainable energy sources, while ignoring hydraulic fracking and offshore drilling that would lead to energy independence. He spoke of the “threat of climate change,” but incorporated fear mongering and exaggeration, rather than real innovation. These are all important issues, but doo not have immediacy of finding more jobs. He offered “commitments” to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, yet offered no explanations as to how to contain their costs. In terms of Social Security, in 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree. Today the number is just over three. Using myself as an example, it takes the contributions of 5.4 workers to pay for the Social Security benefits received by my wife and myself. Three workers per retiree won’t do it.

Ironically, the President has done little for African-Americans. As a race, they have been victimized by failing inner city schools, as a consequence of placing union interests (a major funding source for the President) above those of the children. At 14.3%, Black unemployment is almost double that of the nation as a whole. Family cohesiveness among African-Americans is low, while drug use is high. While he spoke movingly about “a little girl born into the bleakest poverty,” he has never acknowledged African-Americans like Clarence Thomas or Thomas Sowell who were born into unimaginable poverty, but succeeded as conservatives. In fact, he has trivialized them because of their political beliefs.

In words more common to revolutionaries and tyrants, he persists in dividing the country, isolating one small segment of society (the “wealthy”) for blame as to the woes on the nation – the “shrinking few [who] do very well,” while “a growing many barely make it.” Vilifying any segment is always fraught with risk; though, admittedly, there are times when revolutions are necessary. In colonial America, it was the King and Parliament. In 1789 France, it was the monarch and the aristocracy. In 1917 Czarist Russia, it was the Czar and the aristocracy. In Hitler’s Germany, it was the aristocracy and the Jews. Other than President Nixon (and perhaps Franklin Roosevelt), it is hard to think of an American President that has so denigrated a specific sector of our society. While serving to rally his faithful followers, such words dampen the aspirations of millions of others who still see the country as a land of opportunity.

It is worth repeating that no matter how much we might like things to be otherwise, people are all different. Equality is in the eyes of the law and in the opportunities afforded us as Americans. But we are not equal in intellect, athleticism, looks, aspiration, or effort. In any society, there will always be a few who will do very well and many more who will not. While we are a compassionate people, no political system can change that. And, we should be thankful for the magnanimity of many of the wealthy. Without them where would our hospitals, museums, symphonies, schools and universities be? Functionaries of government? I doubt it.

Presidential inaugurals represent the peaceful transfer of power. They have done so for more than 200 years. It is typically a time of reconciliation – of healing wounds inflicted over four years of partisan politics and years of negative campaigning. But Mr. Obama used this occasion more like a stump speech – an opportunity to lay out a leftist agenda that calls for a stronger central government, increased dependency and more redistribution. All of what he wants costs a lot, yet there was little focus on how to pay for it. Mr. Obama knows how to appeal to the masses – Everybody likes Santa Claus; nobody likes Scrooge.

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