Inherit the Wind: Obama and the economy

As legend has it, Rip van Winkle woke up from a 20-year snooze to find America had won the Revolutionary War. Colonial portraits of George III were replaced with the humbler George Washington. Flip your storybook forward to 2012. The United States is still nodding toward its small-“R” republican roots, but the President keeps speechifying about his “inheritance.” Did something happen while we were asleep?

No, the President isn’t the next in line for a country estate, yacht or gold watch. Mr. Obama inherited the world’s largest economy. That sounds like quite the family bequest, except when it’s rather inconvenient. You see, Barack Obama doesn’t like to talk about inheriting America’s Constitution, spunk, fireworks, diversity or entrepreneurial prowess — in other words, the good stuff. What he insists he “inherited” was our fiscal mess.

Check out the White House Press Office and do a simple search for the word “inherit.” The results are ubiquitous. Either David Axelrod put the word in front of one hell of a focus group, or the President is no longer aware that what he’s repeating is political prose, not fact. The term has so thoroughly seeped into the Beltway consciousness that it passes for reality. In this alternative fiefdom, huge deficits are patriotic, food stamps will “create” jobs and shovel-ready projects don’t really need shovels. When a trillion dollars in stimulus doesn’t pan out as promised, there’s always a predecessor to blame.

Is there a bloodline connecting George W. Bush to Barack Obama? Has the sourpuss Queen Elizabeth II escaped Buckingham Palace and annexed the White House?  In a speech on immigration in 2010, Mr. Obama announced “I just wanna repeat, I’m president, I’m not king.” Well, that seems pretty colloquial and clear. So why the hierarchal language, before and since?

The obvious answer is that Mr. Obama’s democratic policies weren’t actually up to the task. When President Bush left office, unemployment was 7.8%. For Mr. Obama, that number has never dipped below 8%. The stimulus was supposed to bring unemployment to 5.6% by now. A trillion dollars later, the Keynesian emperor has no clothes. So why not point the finger at the last spendthrift ruler?

Sure, those first few months in office must have been a rough. And if the American people had plucked an unsuspecting Mr. Obama from some Kansas field and dropped him in the Oval Office, I might give him a pass. At the very least, we might allow him a year or two of bellyaching over his challenging career shift. But, lest he have us forget, Mr. Obama asked for his job. He campaigned extensively for it. When the economy bottomed-out in 2008, John McCain looked stupefied, while Mr. Obama was all calm, cool and collected. For that, he got the keys to the White House and a hefty responsibility, not permission to grouse incessantly about his Texan forefather.

Mr. Obama isn’t a spoon-spooned prince who made a God-sanctioned climb to the throne. For those of us who still believe in meritocracy, he looked, back in 2008, to have earned the election. He seemed to think so too. “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers” an audacious Mr. Obama told an aide. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m… a better political director than my political director.”

Except the policies haven’t worked. At a time when households and businesses need a level of certainty about their tax and regulatory burden over the coming years, we instead have the looming federal cliff that could very well bring a second recession. As the Wall Street Journal reported, between January 2009 and June 2012, the average family lost $4,019 in real income. Even if you don’t count the losses until the recession officially ended in June 2009, median income is down $2,544. Bread and circuses — i.e. the War on Women, Ann Romney’s horse — won’t cut it.

Things will improve if and when our leaders recognize that government doesn’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do. Right now, we’re stealing from the private sector to feed the public. At least the statist kingdoms of old erected beautiful palaces for their heirs. Today, we’ve got a federal system that operates with about as much efficiency as a DMV window fifteen minutes before lunchtime.

It’s true, we suffer a famously unmovable Congress. But Mr. Obama didn’t inherit the Republican-led House, which swept the historic 2010 midterms in response to the President’s leftward push. Instead, the Mr. Obama lampooned these freshman congresspeople as intransigent rebels for daring to have a different interpretation of government. Surely some of the much-discussed “obstructionism” belongs to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has neglected to enact a budget going on four years. Then again, Mr. Obama inherited Sen. Reid.

Not to worry. While Congress has recessed — officially or otherwise — Mr. Obama pushed through 29 appointees. This came after the President regularly criticized Mr. Bush for Constitutionally-dubious maneuvers. Perhaps Mr. Bush endowed his successor with a few strategies? The executive branch has repeatedly acted on its own (apparently superior) accord, re-interpreting immigration law and Bill Clinton’s signature welfare legislation. Think ObamaCare will be monstrously expensive for your business? If you’re politically connected, grab a waiver. If not, what backwater notion of fairness do you subscribe to?

Besides the Greek columns at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and all those so-called bureaucratic “czars,” America is known — or was known — as a Constitutional Republic. Who knows what the next guy will inherit.

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