The American Dream, or the Dreams of Obama’s Father?

Austin Hill

8/19/2012 12:01:00 AM - Austin Hill

You think President Obama is avoiding the subject of the economy?

Think again.

In reality, thoughts and ideas about the economy, and about economics, and about money – especially thoughts about other people’s money – animate just about everything that President Obama says and does. He is fixated on his belief that it is a grave injustice for a private individual, family or organization to be financially successful, and he is determined that his presidency will be the one to save our country from this “problem.”

So, while President Obama conveniently ignores the data on our current economic conditions – 8.3% unemployment, a decline in manufacturing, a rise in unemployment benefits claims and a drop in the labor force participation rate – he nonetheless cannot stop talking about the economy, and his vision of economic “transformation.” His contempt for individual economic achievements is a part of who he is – he cannot stop being himself.

The President’s recent obsession about Mitt Romney’s tax returns is only his latest in a long history of fussing about other people being wealthy. And the President’s disdainful attitude towards privately possessed wealth should surprise absolutely no one- his own father was also a powerful governmental figure who displayed this same kind of indignation.

Barack Hussein Obama Sr., the biological father of our President, was a bureaucrat in the communist government of Kenya back when the nation first declared its independence in the 1960’s. And while Kenya’s government was at that time moving towards pro-Western, free-market economic reforms, Obama staunchly opposed such changes.

Thus, Mr. Obama published an academic paper in 1965, responding to his government colleagues who supported the westernization of Kenya. Entitled “Problems Facing Our Socialism,” Mr. Obama advised Kenya’s then-President Jomo Kenyatta against relying on private investors, private capital, and private property ownership, as a means of improving the country’s dreadful economy. Why was private capital and investment a problem? Because, Mr. Obama reasoned, private investors inevitably seek to earn “dividends” from their investments, and “turning a profit” was the gravest of all immoralities. Instead, Mr. Obama proposed higher taxes on the wealthy, and a redistribution of that money, for the “collective good” of the nation.

“Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income,” Mr. Obama wrote, “so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.” In the view of Barack Hussein Obama Sr., the right of the individual person to freely work, earn, and invest, meant nothing. All that mattered was the “collective good” of the nation. And if confiscating certain people’s hard-earned money could help benefit “everyone,” then so be it. That wealth would be put to better use, Mr. Obama argued, if it were controlled by the leader of the government.

Given this bit of President Obama’s familial history, it is not surprising that throughout his public life he himself has advocated for many of the same ideas that his father did over half a century ago. During the last presidential election cycle, alone, then-Senator Obama pushed for higher income taxes on “the rich” and higher business taxes on “excess profits” (his definition of “rich” and “excessive” changed almost weekly during the campaign); higher taxes on energy companies; government-imposed limits on private corporate salaries; and – his father would be so proud – higher taxes on dividend earnings. He even suggested at one point that the U.S. government should start taxing capital – not a new tax on interest or dividends derived from investment capital, but a tax on money sitting in banks doing nothing.

Now, four years later, the President is running for re-election in an economic environment made weaker by his own policies and ideas. And it is easy to dismiss as “mere politics” the President’s obsession with Mr. Romney’s net worth, his past work at a venture capital firm, and his annual tax returns – presumably the President is trying to portray Mr. Romney as a heartless aristocrat who is “out of touch” with everyday middleclass Americans.

But given what we know of President Obama and his expressed views of the world, it also stands to reason that, for him, the wealth that private citizen Mitt Romney possesses – as well as the wealth possessed by other private citizens like Mr. Romney – really is the most serious problem facing America today. Even just last week, amid more negative economic reports, the President delivered yet another of his speeches on his “new vision of America where prosperity is shared.”

What the President does not seem to understand (and what his father seemingly never understood), is that prosperity must first be created – by inventors, executives, entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, and yes – sometimes even by “rich people” – before it can be re-distributed and “shared” by anybody. And if a society chooses to punish its wealthy members with ever-expanding taxation, rather than encouraging them to create more wealth, then eventually even the smartest of politicians run out of wealth to re-distribute.

So will the U.S. return to being a country where anybody can pursue the “American dream” without fear of retribution? Or has President Obama successfully supplanted the American dream with – to paraphrase one of his book titles – the dreams from his father?

We, the people, will have our say on this in November. Let’s hope we all make an informed choice.