The President cannot have it both ways: he cannot despoil open market capitalism while now, and rather suddenly, claiming to love it.
This exposes a second problem. The President says he hired Immelt to lead his new Council in order to lead in “finding new ways to encourage the private sector to hire and invest in American competitiveness.”
Innocent sounding as this is, this phrase represents a second concern: the simple fact that there are no “new” ways to create jobs and foster investment, only known ways the President finds distasteful.
The means by which jobs are created are not cryptic. They are not found on some mysterious inscription on a tablet lying amidst the ruble of an ancient city. We need a coherent, predictable, non-adversarial tax code. It should reward innovation (e.g., the R&D tax credit), foster investment (e.g., a deduction for dividends), recognize the linkage between small and large businesses (e.g., GE has thousands of small business suppliers – many of which are affected by a cruel death tax), provide business with the means of training employees with technology improvements (credits for employee education and re-training), etc.
The tax code should also be sufficient to fund only the legitimate needs of the federal government, whose appetite is enormous and requires the joint disciplines of restraint and accountability. And it should recognize that the two-parent family is the foundation for economic growth: Without children, we have no country (and, thus, we should encourage tax credits for minor children and for adoption).
We also need an educational system that prepares students for the challenges of the high-tech workplace (speaking of competitiveness, Mr. President, ever heard of education tax credits?). We need litigation reform, sound trade policies, and a regulatory regime that, while constraining excess, is not the vast impediment to growth and opportunity it now is.
Sadly, President Obama has resisted many of these things, instead imposing on the health system and the private sector that supports it so many new rules that they discourage entrepreneurship and expansion. His confidence in the unique ability of the federal government to staunch economic decline is so profound that in 2009-2010 he, with his allies in the then-Democratic majority Congress, overspent with an energy unique in American history.
With no serious commitment to reforming entitlements nor any seeming interest in understanding how the economic world really works, with typical professorial judgment the President has now turned to an “expert” – Jeffrey Immelt – to help him where he has failed. No expert is needed, only common-sense reflection on what works.
Such reflection has been forced upon Mr. Obama given the tepidity of his economic policies and the “shellacking” a fed-up public gave him and his party last November.
Thus, although relishing his pose as the great conciliator, the man who stands above the pettiness of political faction, Mr. Obama is being confronted by the fact that such active federal interventions as stimulus spending and micro-, or “targeted,” tax reductions are ineffective.
This is political heresy for someone whose public life is premised on the notion that he and his elite friends know best and must educate the frightened, slow-witted masses about what is good for them.
An occasional and uncomfortable spasm of intellectual honesty – in this case, that the market works without undue federal manipulation or guidance – provides Mr. Obama with no substitute for broad-based policies, applied consistently, that will allow the creativity and energy of the American people to foster the robust growth the President says he wants.
Given his philosophical presuppositions and his political indebtedness to the Left and its unions, this scenario is all but impossible, Immelt or not.