Obama's latest watchword, "investments," is not, as I originally assumed, simply a euphemism for government spending. It captures his entire economic philosophy -- a philosophy that is permanently engrained in the core of his being and disastrous for America's "future."
President Bill Clinton shrewdly used the word as a more palatable substitute for income tax rate increases, saying taxpayers needed to "invest" more of their hard-earned dollars in America. But Obama's use of the term was different in two important ways. First, for him, "investments" would apply to the spending side of the fiscal equation. He would ask our support in his plan to "invest" more government money in infrastructure and education.
Secondly, and more significantly, Obama used the term to candy-coat his fundamental lack of confidence in the private sector and free market, as well as his commitment to faith in government as the primary engine for economic growth.
For all the analysis of Obama's speech, I don't think nearly enough has been made of this theme, which was interwoven throughout it. For it is the key to understanding that regardless of any promises he might make to move to the center, he will not do so willingly. It is also critical to comprehending why, despite the marked failure of his economic policies, he is virtually incapable of voluntarily changing course.
Obama's critics often say that it's important to pay more attention to his actions than his words. Though there is much validity in that, it's also true that we must not overlook his words, for he is not always careful to disguise his heartfelt views.
In his pre-speech teasers, Obama telegraphed that he would be emphasizing job creation. Indeed, he said that he saved the nation from economic collapse through his (atrociously wasteful and wholly ineffective trillion-dollar) "stimulus" bill. He insisted that he has succeeded in reigniting the economy but that the matter of job creation is an entirely separate process that will follow through his next round of magic.
He didn't bother acknowledging that he's played this same tune many times before (saying he wasn't focused enough on jobs but now he is) or that he specifically promised from the outset that job growth would result from his stimulus. But he did tell us multiple times in this speech how he envisions job growth finally coming about.
Yes, he rolled out the blame-Bush card again, but he also underscored the limitations of the free market to produce economic growth and employment. His entire "Sputnik" meme was based on this wrongheaded notion.
When the Soviet Union lurched ahead of us in the space race, America's leaders launched a national effort to surpass the Soviets. For Obama, by analogy, the federal government has to be the prime mover in leading and catalyzing America's comeback in education and in economic growth. We cannot understand Obama without recognizing that he believes the private sector can't create or innovate without paternalistic direction and googobs of money from the wiser beings in Washington.
"We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time," he said. "The first step ... is encouraging American innovation." Note that he didn't mean "encourage" in the sense of getting government off businesses' and people's backs. He means the federal government should proactively prod, direct and lead us into the promised land of economic growth.
He credited government for providing money for "basic research" and "cutting-edge scientists and inventors" throughout history, without which the hand of the free market would have been not only invisible but also impotent. As a result, he pledged from his command-control perch to "invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean energy technology" (that PC token can never be omitted) -- "an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people." So far, they've been "countless" indeed. This is just one example. Read the transcript and you'll see that throughout he betrays his blind faith in the indispensability of government action to job growth.
It would be bad enough if Obama's ideas merely retarded their stated goal of restoring job growth. But they necessarily involve Keynesian prescriptions of throwing obscene and budget-busting amounts of federal money at this ephemeral solution. Even if Obama wanted to reduce the deficit and debt, his economic philosophy would compel him always to spend more and would prevent fiscal responsibility.
If you listened to the speech and came away believing Obama is receptive to moving to the center, then you didn't hear or understand him. For the GOP to make headway on restoring fiscal sanity to this nation, it must first understand him. Then it must oppose and reverse him.