Michael Barone

Obama seeks to direct the economy in certain politically correct channels. He delights in subsidizing "green jobs" making solar panels or electric cars. Not coincidentally, losers like Solyndra and Fisker had backing from Obama political insiders.

The oil and natural gas boom ignited by hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- on private lands does not delight him so much. He sought credit for it on the campaign trail. But his regulators are itching to stamp it out.

One of the problems of prosperity, from this perspective, is that you can't predict what will happen next. People operating in free markets produce innovations that no one else anticipates.

Sluggish growth and recession, in contrast, make things more predictable. Constituencies that enjoy political favor -- UAW members at General Motors or Chrysler, for example -- can be subsidized to remain in place.

The cost of such subsidies can be extracted from disfavored constituencies. This is called, in Obama's words to Joe the Plumber, "spreading the wealth around."

Remember when ABC's Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama if he would raise capital gains tax rates even if it brought less revenue to the government. Yes, Obama said. "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

In contrast, it was after Bill Clinton agreed to cut the capital gains rate in 1997 that large enough gushers of revenue poured in to balance the federal budget.

Obama seeks to advance what Alexis de Tocqueville in "Democracy in America" called "soft despotism," with "a network of small, complicated, painstaking rules" -- think Obamacare -- to "finally reduce ... each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd."

Or so it seems to me. If so, why not risk a recession? It would keep the herd in need of shepherding.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM