Hint: The problem isn’t the car magnets

Eric Davis

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI’s week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them. Just enter your email in the box on the top right.

For today’s week-in-review email, Andy explains it’s President Obama’s big government policies that are responsible for our economic malaise.

“The president who started off with such dazzle now seems incapable of stimulating either the economy or the voters.”

Those words about President Obama come not from a conservative, libertarian or even a moderate, but from liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

The numbers – 8.2 percent unemployment, 1.9 percent GDP growth, nearly $16 trillion in national debt, etc. ­- don’t lie. And so now, even liberals are souring on Obama.

Most interesting about Dowd’s column, however, is that it typifies the failure of those liberals to understand why everything is going so badly. Dowd continues:

His campaign is offering Obama 2012 car magnets for a donation of $10; cat collars reading “I Meow for Michelle” for $12; an Obama grill spatula for $40, and discounted hoodies and T-shirts. How the mighty have fallen. …

The legendary speaker who drew campaign crowds in the tens of thousands and inspired a dispirited nation ended up nonchalantly delegating to a pork-happy Congress, disdaining the bully pulpit, neglecting to do any L.B.J.-style grunt work with Congress and the American public, and ceding control of his narrative. …

As president, Obama has never felt the need to explain or sell his signature pieces of legislation – the stimulus and health care bills – or stanch the flow of false information from the other side. …

But superheroes and mythic figures must boldly lead. Obama’s caution – ingrained from a life of being deserted by his father and sometimes his mother, and of being, as he wrote to another girlfriend, “caught without a class, a structure, or tradition to support me” – has restrained him at times.

In some ways, he’s still finding himself …

Got all that? Let’s review one liberal’s list of explanations for the president’s woes: his lost ability to dazzle; his deference to Congress; his unwillingness to explain his programs; his failure to adequately combat propaganda from the opposition; his inability to lead boldly; his cautiousness; his restraint; his difficult childhood; and his identity crisis.

Hey, here’s a thought: The president’s real problems are his bad policies.

Now, we shouldn’t completely dismiss Dowd’s various explanations for Obama’s troubles. Many of those factors – personality, temperament, communication skills, legislative strategy – can play a role in shaping a presidency. But it’s pretty telling that Dowd neglects entirely the role that the president’s policy choices have played in creating his present situation. Which is a shame, because those choices matter more than anything else.

Ronald Reagan was also known for dazzling audiences. He, too, had a difficult childhood. And he faced dishonesty from his political opponents and a hostile media.

Yet while years three and four of the Obama presidency have produced quarterly GDP growth of 0.4, 1.3, 1.8, 3.0 and 1.9 percent, the comparable periods of the Reagan years gave us growth at 5.1, 9.3, 8.1, 8.5 and 8.0 percent.

The reason for the difference is that, whereas Reagan pursued policies that lowered Americans’ tax burden, decreased regulation and removed government obstacles to private-sector job growth, Obama has done the opposite. From his stimulus to his green-energy-subsidies agenda to his health-care overhaul, Obama’s approach has always assumed that the proper solutions can be found in growing government. The results speak for themselves.

What Dowd and many others refuse to see is that businesses aren’t foregoing new hires because Barack Obama was abandoned by his father or because his campaign is offering “I Meow for Michelle” cat collars. Nor are they simply waiting for him to “explain or sell his signature pieces of legislation.” It’s because they understand that the president’s policies – higher taxes, more mandates, stricter regulations – make it impossible to take on the additional costs and risks that hiring new employees would entail.

Of course, to admit as much would require a fundamental reconsideration of the entire premise of the liberal/progressive worldview. It’s not easy to admit you’re wrong, especially for professional pundits who have touted liberal ideas – the same ideas that are failing today – for years.

It’s a whole lot easier to blame a grill spatula.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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