The annual gathering of the “intelligentsia” at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen CO would normally be a love fest for left leaning politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s a veritable “Who’s Who” of leftish thinkers.
But this year, for some reason, it isn’t a place where Barack Obama would feel particularly comfortable, it seems. Speakers have been anything but complimentary on the current administration’s policies or the direction of the country.
One of his recently more outspoken critics is Mort Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News and editor-in-chief of US News and World Report. On a panel shared with Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson, Zuckerman was none to kind to the present commander-in-chief or his economic policies:
“We are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,” Zuckerman said. “The real problem we have…are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.”
And why does Zuckerman – a business owner in his own right – feel this way:
Zuckerman added that he detects in the Obama White House “hostility to the very kinds of [business] culture that have made this the great country that it is and was. I think we have to find some way of dealing with that or else we will do great damage to this country with a public policy that could ruin everything.”
Those aren’t words couched in nuance or diplomacy as one can immediately tell. Those are the words of a man – an Obama supporter – who has come to the realization of how serious a mistake he and others who supported this President made.
Ferguson was no less critical. Panning the policy which has kept extending long-term unemployment benefits, Ferguson said, “Long-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy.”
And, adding to Zuckerman’s “nation in decline” observation he said:
“The critical point is if your policy says you’re going run a trillion-dollar deficit for the rest of time, you’re riding for a fall…Then it really is goodbye.” A dashing Brit, Ferguson added: “Can I say that, having grown up in a declining empire, I do not recommend it. It’s just not a lot of fun actually—decline.”
When the “S” word found its way into the conversation, Ferguson was a little less forthright with his answer:
“If you’re asking if the United States is about to become a socialist state, I’d say it’s actually about to become a European state, with the expansiveness of the welfare system and the progressive tax system like what we’ve already experienced in Western Europe,”
Or, “yeah, the US is headed that way”. Ferguson also warned that in essence we were moving toward becoming an “implicit part of the European Union” and he warned, “I’d advise against it”.
Ferguson even complemented Republican Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” as the “radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement system” that is necessary to “unleash entrepreneurial innovation.”
That won’t exactly come as music to the ears of Peter Orszag and Larry Summers who are expected at the event later this week. Summers has come under criticism as well for his explanations of why the recovery was to this point jobless.
Sitting in the audience, clapping enthusiastically with all the rest of the invited were Barbara Streisand and her husband James Brolin – neither of whom would be described as from the conservative set. When asked, at the conclusion of the panel discussion, for their impressions they said:
“Depressing, but fantastic,” Streisand told me afterward, rendering her verdict on the session. “So exciting. Wonderful!”
Brolin’s assessment: “Mind-blowing.”
Actually, it is more mind-blowing than one might imagine. If Obama has indeed lost the likes of Zuckerman and Ferguson that’s certainly a blow to him. But if even the likes of Streisand and Brolin can see the problem and its origin, he has most assuredly lost a good part of the left.