All those Americans who hoped that in victory a magnanimous President would move toward reconciliation of a divided people were bitterly disappointed by Barack Obama’s inaugural speech.

In yet another partisan campaign speech, Mr. Obama suggested that he holds all those who disagree with his views to be malevolent saboteurs who must be run over.

Did he characterize the profound differences of opinion on the role of government as inspired by love of country? No. He essentially told America that he holds nearly half of the nation’s citizens in utter contempt. Such arrogance is not leadership; it is so short-sighted as to be destructive.

In his second term Mr. Obama is surrounding himself with sycophants more interested in political dominance than a fair hearing of other perspectives. Instead, he will make bitter and acrimonious war on all those who worry about borrowing $4 billion a day or Constitutional limits on the separation of powers or limitations on the scope, cost and reach of an ever-expanding and ever more expensive government.

He is hardly serving the American people with this attitude because, election results notwithstanding, most Americans are worried about the reach of government. Not because some goals are unworthy of a great nation but because government programs often produce exactly the opposite of noble intentions. Thus, well meaning but ill-designed poverty programs produce more poverty, over-regulation produces a crippled economy and the “Affordable Care Act” produced an acceleration of healthcare costs.

It is unlikely that these sobering truths will penetrate the walls of partisanship and ideology that now surround this President. Instead, he defines (and infuriates) his policy opponents as hard-hearted and greedy cavemen, bereft of any vision of a better America. This is the kind of tactic that worked well in his campaign but which will fail spectacularly in governing.

Most Americans—including most conservatives—are more than willing to lend a “hand-up” if it means that fellow citizens will find their legs underneath them again. This is, after all, enlightened self-interest whereby a rising sea lifts all boats. But most Americans see that our government either cannot or will not distinguish between those helped by a “hand-up” and those who have come rely upon a “hand-out”. The effect is a weakening of the national character.

The perverse and real-world effect of ill-considered and naïve government “generosity” is the erosion of the American work ethic and increasing citizen dependency. This reality, recognized and finally addressed with welfare-to-work rules during the Clinton Administration, has been contemptuously rejected by this President. In doing so he has treated the common sense of most Americans (reflected in overwhelmingly bi-partisan legislation) and the actual record of success and failure with equal contempt.

Barack Obama will make much of the need for “investing” in our future. But most Americans have come to understand that we don’t get anywhere near a dollar’s worth of value for every hard-won dollar we pay into the growing federal behemoth. When we actually acknowledge that every “investment” is made with borrowed trillions of dollars, the very definition of a “sound investment” is turned on its head.

We read about a $20 shrub moved out of the way of a rebuilt freeway in San Francisco at a taxpayer cost of at least $250,000. We read about the dream of alternative energy subsidized by taxpayers at a cost of billions of dollars that proved to be failed investments because our government ignored any reasonable prudence or due diligence examining actual market conditions. These are economic headwinds of our own creation.

When we talk about “opportunity for all,” we should be talking about all of us. That means we should be thinking hard right now about the future--our children and our grandchildren and even those who follow them. So while the intent may sound noble, spending money now that our offspring (and our economy) will be required to suffer later is hardly enlightened. It is an assault on our future health as a nation.

Concern about unsustainable debt and spending is an entirely legitimate subject that is overdue and worthy of a full-throated national debate. The outcome of this needed debate deserves and requires “consent of the governed” far beyond a 52 percent margin in an election and it deserves more than taunting from his bully pulpit. This badly needed debate won’t happen as it should with a President who has so insulated himself from any other points of view and who, with every new speech, puts his office above discourse and compromise.


Ken Hoagland

Ken Hoagland is the Chairman of Restore America’s Voice.