January 23, 2010

The Official Obama Truth-O-Meter

Yesterday our president visited the town of Elyira, Ohio, as the backdrop for a major economic address.  This area has been hard-hit by the recession, with many jobs lost and throngs of citizens desperate for relief.  As usual he was received as a rock star, interrupted by enthusiastic applause, it seemed, every few seconds.

Clearly they are true believers.  But did they really listen to what he said?  It’s hard to say, because much of it was misleading, slanted or just plain false.  Let's examine a few excerpts:

#1: “The banks caused this mess.”

Half-true.  No doubt, the banks contributed to the current economic crisis by their irresponsible lending practices.  But in this profligate activity they were hugely enabled by a lack of government oversight, pressure to make those bad loans, and the eager borrowers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  It’s only natural that a child craves ice cream and candy; it’s just what kids do.  A responsible parent (or government) doles it out sparingly.

#2: “We’ve slashed taxes for 95 percent of working families.”

Not only false, but impossible.  The vast majority of working people don’t pay federal income taxes in the first place, so as to benefit from a reduction.  At best they make an interest-free loan to the Treasury with their payroll withholding, but they get it all back in April.

#3: “We’re creating jobs by building roads and bridges.”

True.  But even in the best of times, most construction jobs are temporary.  The raising of a freeway overpass might provide gainful employment for 100 workers for a year, but when it’s done it’s done; then what?  A skilled tradesman might have only short breaks between gigs, but true full-time jobs are rare.  Additionally, small businesses can’t bid on these large public works projects.  They require deep pockets, access to ample credit, and a fleet of heavy equipment.  Only a relative handful of major contractors can even hope to compete.

#4: “Insurance companies just want to make money.”

Umm….yeah.  Guilty as charged.  That’s sort of the point of going into business in the first place, is it not?  Without a profit, they can’t pay claims.  Companies that don’t make money, don’t invent new things or hire workers.  They don’t pay taxes, they don’t buy computers from Staples or delivery trucks from GM, and they don’t support their neighborhood Little League team.  Aren’t these the very things that Mr. Obama says he wants to achieve?

#5: “From now on, the Treasury will manage all student loans.”

Big mistake.  Even the worst-performing banks manage to balance their budgets and eke out a profit most of the time.  As for the Treasury?  I don’t think they have ever managed to pull off such a feat in my lifetime.  Government has no incentive to be efficient or make a profit, and they’re accountable to no one. Just consider the record of Social Security and Medicare: if any private company dared to operate as they do, the feds would shut them down before you reach the end of this sentence.  I’m not prepared to give them yet another huge business to screw up.

#6: “This government has unprecedented transparency and accountability.”

Not even close.  Time and again during his campaign, The Chosen One promised that the health care debates would be broadcast on C-SPAN.  Last time I checked, most of that process took place behind closed doors, sometimes even freezing out the opposition party.  Dozens of czars operate unchecked behind a veil of secrecy; have they ever held a press conference to report what they’re up to?  Most politicos shout it from the rooftops when they’ve achieved something good; the lack of crowing makes one wonder.  And why would he work so hard to suppress the release of his birth certificate?

God has blessed our nation to be the most advanced and prosperous society in the history of the planet.  How did we get here?  Dreamers.  Capitalism.  Private enterprise.  A profit motive.  Risk-taking. Stock, bond, and commodities markets. All but a few of the greatest inventions and scientific advances of the past 100 years were achieved, not by some government grant or mandate, but by private citizens on their initiative and on their own nickel.

Mr. Obama says he wants to create millions of new jobs, yet he also wants to tax and regulate successful companies into oblivion.  Which almost certainly assures that they will retain their hiring freeze for years to come.  The gravy train is stalled, and the “experts” are trying to fix it by ripping out the tracks

Of course, yes, there is a legitimate role for government, to police the schoolyard and make sure that everyone plays fair.  Otherwise the best thing they can do is just get out of the way, and let good old American ingenuity do what it does best.

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