Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.
In working with matters overseas, the President must lead. The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.
A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure. That leadership thing again … he isn’t one. And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar. He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.
Epstein goes on:
Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.”
It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.
The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.
The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.
And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate. It’s all about stalling and buying time. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact. Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet? It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress. As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).
Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.
That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence. Bottom line?
The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.
Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”. Naturally, he’s full of them.
The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.
But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.
None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.
This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power. They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate. Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it. And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.
Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims. Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success. For instance:
He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.
So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies? You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:
Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.
Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.
And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.
But we told you all that before he ever ran.
Below the dignity of the office? You think?
One CNN correspondent asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during a daily biefing: ‘I’m just curious – was “Charlie Bit My Finger” or “David After Dentist” not available?’
Add in the John Kerry/James Taylor “You’ve Got A Friend” and, well, “pitiful” is an inadequate way of describing this mess.
Next up? Joe Biden attends the funeral of the Saudi King and offers Ray Stevens and “Ahab the Arab” in tribute? Would anyone be surprised?
Facts – hard to beat. Easy, though, to put nonsense out there (especially when you have an hour of prime time TV to yourself) and have it believed by enough people that will never see the corrections. Even AP couldn’t quite stomach the baloney Obama put out:
Among the claims the AP finds less than truthful in the piece, entitled “FACT CHECK: Obama claims credit for an incomplete recovery“:
- “At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
Actually, the AP notes, “By many measures, the economy is still recovering from the deep scars left by the Great Recession.” Unemployment has been steadily decreasing, but that’s driven primarily by a growth in low paying jobs and people leaving the labor market. There are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than in December 2007 when the recession began.
- “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.”
The cost of community college isn’t being lowered to zero, the costs will simply be shifted elsewhere. The AP estimates it would cost “an estimated $60 billion over 10 years to the treasury.” Furthermore, the plan would require states to contribute a quarter of tuition, and not all students would qualify.
- “Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.”
While business owners are indeed reporting that they “plan” to increase wages, “there is scant evidence that it is happening yet.”
And that’s just a very small part of the propaganda Obama put out there.
Frankly I think Emily Zanotti (I’m a big fan of hers) summed it up best:
The State of the Union is an infomercial for low-information voters and an excuse for DC staffers to get blindingly drunk on a weeknight.
Pretty much. I’d only amend it to say that it is the party of the President who gets to present the infomercial (because few if any watch the other party’s rebuttal). But yeah, it’s a whole bunch of preening and lying laid out for those who will look no further. It’s also an exercise in bias confirmation for others.
Modern politics. What’s not to love?
The short answer is “yes”. Megan McArdle makes the point :
Higher education is becoming the ginseng of the policy world: a sort of all-purpose snake oil for solving any problem you’d care to name, as long as we consume enough of it. Education is a very good thing, but it is not the only good thing. An indiscriminate focus on pushing more people into the system is no cure for society’s ills–and indeed, often functions as a substitute for helping the people who are struggling in the current system.
In fact (beside the fact we can’t afford “ObamaCare for colleges”):
What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t? My grandfather graduated into a world where a man with a high-school diploma could reasonably hope to own his own business, or become someone else’s highly valued employee, a successful pillar of a supportive community. His grandchildren graduated into a world where a college diploma was almost the bare necessity to get any kind of a decent job. Why aren’t we at least asking ourselves if there’s something we can do to create more opportunity for people without diplomas, instead of asking how many more years we can keep everyone in school? Why do all of our proposed solutions essentially ratify the structure that excludes so many people, instead of questioning it?
Indeed. For too long our policies have been driven by an elite. And for the most part, the elite have made an awful mess of things. Now they want to take on “community colleges”.
Anyone? How long before they start looking at 4 year colleges?
McArdle suggests the following probable effects of any program like Obama has proposed:
1. Offer a subsidy to middle-class kids who don’t really need the money?
2. Encourage middle-class families to transfer their kids to community college for the first two years of school, and thus help to moderate college costs?
3. Encourage financially constrained students who might not have gone to college to enter the system en route to a degree?
4. Encourage marginal students with a low chance of completing a career-enhancing degree to attend school, mostly wasting government money and their own time?
As she points out 2 and 3 are actually not bad policy goals in and of themselves. However, the much more likely effect will be 1 and 4. Another government sponsored and taxpayer funded boondoggle that will essentially give community colleges a subsidy (it’ll be all about headcount – no one will really care if the student’s succeed) and create bureaucratic jobs while doing little or nothing in terms of “education advancement”.
Oh, yeah, did I mention we can’t afford it?
I thought I did.
I’ve said for 6+ years that the man in the White House was not a leader. He’s never been a leader. And this weekend he again demonstrated to the world that leadership is not something of which he has even an inkling of understanding. This weekend, at a gathering of 3 million in the French capital, 40 leaders of various countries stood with those people and symbolically said “no” to terrorism, intimidation and murder and “yes” to free speech. They demonstrated leadership. They demonstrated political courage. They did what leaders do.
And where was our President? Or Vice President? At home with nothing on their schedules … that’s where. Showing up in Europe and doing what leadership demands was apparently something they couldn’t figure out.
Leadership takes, no, requires courage. This weekend we saw a display of diplomatic and political cowardice (and I don’t buy the “threat was too great” – apparently it was acceptable to the Israeli PM).
Oh, we’ll see them scramble now to try to turn this around and to their advantage, but it is clear to those of us who’ve actually been leaders that we lack one in the White House. It’s a pitiful but representative example of why this man should never have been elected to the Illinois Senate much less to the presidency of the United States.
He voted “present” as a state senator and this weekend he voted “present” as the President of the United States.
The “this”? Keystone XL pipeline. Why is the president at all involved in this decision? Why is he threatening a veto if the Republican Congress passes a bill authorizing it?
The nation’s pipelines are a transportation system. Pipelines enable the safe movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling our economy and way of life. The arteries of the Nation’s energy infrastructure, as well as one of the safest and least costly ways to transport energy products, our oil and gas pipelines provide the resources needed for national defense, heat and cool our homes, generate power for business and fuel an unparalleled transportation system.
The nation’s more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars everyday.
Pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products.
The source? The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. Yes, that’s right, the US government. Executive branch.
Note the facts – 2.6 million miles of pipeline safely moving petroleum products 24/7. Look at would be required without them.
Oh, wait, look what’s required without Keystone – trucking and railcars, of course. And who has a major stake in those operations continuing? You know how this works … follow the money.
Can you say “cronyism”?
Sure you can.
The most “transparent administration”, ever!
Btw, GOP … make his veto it or forever be held as the cowards most think you are (after all, you didn’t even have the courage to dump Boehner).
As you’ve probably surmised, I’m taking a bit of a break the last two weeks of the year. Decompress, catch up on other things and generally relax. That said, I was happy to see that Erb and the anti-Erb have managed to provide the best in entertainment for the QandO faithful.
Looks like the anti-police riots and ambushes are reaching their natural end. That’s what happens when you overreach. I’m not at all implying that some protest isn’t necessary or warranted. But when it goes beyond that to murder, well, then you’re likely to lose any sympathetic audience you might of had prior to that. And that’s pretty much what has happened.
I’m also finding if pretty interesting to watch de Blassio sink in his own man-made rhetorical swamp. Great choice, NYC. Now live with it.
Of course we’re having to live with the choice of enough of America’s voters that we’re into year 6 of the 8 year nightmare presidency. And what do we have on the horizon? More of the same. A Bush/Clinton run? If so, we’re worse off than I think. No more of either family … please!
As for Elizabeth Warren? Yeah, let’s again go for a junior Senator who has never run anything or done anything except claim minority status to get a good paying gig in academia that certainly didn’t tax her “work ethic”. Let’s again let some smooth talking “populist” promise us the moon and deliver Ecuador. And, yes, I’m talking to the press.
The GOP? Name someone with a chance for a nomination and you’ll likely name someone I wouldn’t want anywhere near the Oval Office.
Then there is the GOP Congress. It appears Obama is saying he will have a new use for his pen these last two year – the veto pen. I say that’s good news. Here’s a chance for the GOP and Congress to use an opportunity to drop the onus for being obstructionist on the President. If they have the plums to do that. By the way the “obstructionists” in the past wasn’t the GOP but Harry Reid who wouldn’t bring passed House legislation to a vote in the Senate (not that the press ever caught on) – that problem, theoretically, no longer exists). Do I have any faith the Congressional GOP will inundate the President with legislation he will have to sign or veto? No. None. Recent history gives me no warm and fuzzy about that – especially while McCain and Graham are still in the Senate. Look for McCain and his lapdog Graham to again resurrect the “Maverick” brand and spend as much time as Reid screwing up any plans the Senatorial GOP might have to push legislation to Obama’s desk.
Oh …. guess what the NY Times has discovered? There may not be enough doctors to cover any expanded insurance rolls … especially Medicaid. Why? Well for one thing, there are a finite number of doctors that can see a finite number of patients and having insurance hasn’t changed that fact one bit. But, what is a determiner in who may or may not get to see a doctor is how much that doctor gets reimbursed for his/her work. And Medicaid is cutting that amount by about 43%. That means doctors will likely opt out of seeing Medicaid patients (or at least new ones). In essence then, not much changes in the real world despite the utopian plans of our betters. While more may have insurance, emergency rooms will be the “primary care” unit for most and “preventive care”, a supposed goal of this abomination we call ObamaCare, is still a fantasy without realization. Funny how ignoring immutable facts (number of doctors and how humans respond to incentive or lack thereof) always ends up with predictable results.
Bah … enough. I’m supposed to be taking a break.
See you next year. In the meantime, happy New Year!
It simply doesn’t make sense in any sort of context that says the job of the President of the United States is to look after the welfare of the country’s citizens:
The official U.S. unemployment rate has indeed fallen steadily during the past few years, but the economic recovery has created the fewest jobs relative to the previous employment peak of any prior recovery. The labor-force participation rate recently touched a 36-year low of 62.7%. The number of Americans not in the labor force set a record high of 92.6 million in September. Part-time work and long-term unemployment are still well above levels from before the financial crisis.
Worse, middle-class incomes continue to fall during the recovery, losing even more ground than during the December 2007 to June 2009 recession. The number in poverty has also continued to soar, to about 50 million Americans. That is the highest level in the more than 50 years that the U.S. Census has been tracking poverty. Income inequality has risen more in the past few years than at any recent time.
The true indicator of the actual unemployment rate is the labor participation rate. It is at a 36 year low. The fudged numbers used by the US government hides the actual depth of joblessness problem. And, frankly, it’s a “buyers market” in the labor market. Lots of labor competition for few jobs. That’s one reason you don’t see incomes rising and you do see underemployed Americans.
So let’s introduce about 5 million illegal workers from other countries and enable them to compete in an already depressed labor market and while we’re at it, let’s agitate for a raise in the minimum wage.
Mind blown. How do you square that sort of action with your oath of office if you’re the President of the United States?
Several networks won’t be carrying President Obama’s prime-time address on immigration Thursday night from the White House.
ABC, CBS and Fox are saying they won’t air the president’s speech live; NBC also reportedly isn’t planning to carry his address.
With polls saying that only 38% of Americans support his intent to use his executive power to provide amnesty to a portion of illegal aliens here in the US, there’s certainly no ratings upside to televising it. And, in fact, there may be a little payback involved:
There was also griping among the White House press corps Wednesday at Mr. Obama using a Facebook video post to announce the timing of tonight’s address, rather than using the traditional media.
A television correspondent asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest if the move was “a thank you” to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who helped launch the immigration reform advocacy group FWD.us that is aiding the administration’s push for immigration changes.
Mr. Earnest denied the White House was playing favorites with Facebook, but said it was a good way to reach the president’s audience.
“The good news is that the wires, the networks and the press corp are all on Facebook,” Mr. Earnest said. “We don’t have to choose.”
The denial comes as no particular surprise – this administration denies everything. As for choice, the White House did choose, and it chose to snub the White House press corps and the networks. Apparently it finds their reaction to the snub problematic.
White House officials are expressing annoyance with the networks’ decision, saying that all major networks aired a prime-time address by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006 when he announced the deployment of national guard troops at the U.S-Mexico border.
Well perhaps that was because the Bush administration included the networks in its announcement of his speech. The fact that the big 4 (if NBC refuses to carry it as well) are not going to carry it doesn’t mean it can’t be seen live if you’re so inclined to view it:
Two networks with Hispanic audiences, Univision and Telemundo, will air the president’s address live. CNN, MSNBC and PBS also plan to broadcast live.
But the bottom line of this little dust up is it appears that at least some of the networks are willing to strike back a bit at the White House press operation and it’s treatment of an unhappy White House press corps. Now if we could get some actual unbiased and factual coverage from that press corps that would be a bonus. Being water carriers hasn’t worked out very well for them, has it?