Nero is believed to have “fiddled,” during the Great Fire of Rome…
And today, as international authorities fret about mounting U.S. government debt and the risk of an ensuing global economic crisis, the most powerful man in the world seems to be in a precarious situation as well. President Barack Obama appears to be clinging not to his lyre, as Nero allegedly did, but to his rigid, narrow, very limited worldview, despite the fact this behavior seems to work against his own self-interests.
Much has been said about the President’s address to the nation last week regarding the U.S. fiscal crisis. The Wall Street Journal called the speech “toxic” and “partisan” (go back and read their succinct analysis if you haven’t already). Charles Krauthammer called it a “disgrace.” Most critics regarded it as political speech, devoid of substantive policy.
No doubt the President had a “political need” to fulfill. Congressional Republicans have in the past few weeks seized the mantle of fiscal responsibility, as the news of our out-of-control government debt has remained top of mind. So he artfully attempted to ride the fence between being President, which requires one to set productive policy, and running a re-election campaign, which requires an incumbent President to appeal to his political “base.”
But President Obama’s speech on the fiscal crisis was not merely political. It was also highly ideological. Despite how counterintuitive it may seem to pursue an expansion of government spending while a good bit of the world is seeking a government “downsizing” (including much of Europe), President Obama’s proposals fit with what we know about him.
The governing philosophy that leads our President to these sorts of proposals has been identified by many different names. Statism, Marxism, Socialism – the Obama agenda arguably contains elements of all of these philosophies, and more.
But rather than trying to connect President Barack Obama to somebody else’s pre-established political philosophy, it’s useful to examine what appear to be the philosophical assumptions with which the President operates. Here are just a couple of the assumptions that currently seem to have engulfed the President:
“Government always know best” – President Barack Obama seems to have very little confidence in the abilities of private individuals and groups to solve problems, and seems to view individual liberty as a problem to be “managed.” Thus, no matter what the dilemma – the rising cost of healthcare, the collapse of American automobile companies, or a proliferation of “bullying” on school campuses – the President’s instinctive responses are almost always the same.
Form a commission. Convene a summit. Appoint a Czar. Set-up a new “department.” The President seems to assume that with more oversight and control, government will always act benevolently and in the “collective interests” of all, whereas private individuals and organizations are almost always suspected of acting selfishly and destructively.
This philosophical assumption was absolutely entailed in the President’s remarks about our fiscal crisis. While Congressman Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman proposed to expand competition in the healthcare markets as a means of reducing Medicare costs, an indignant President Obama would have nothing to do with the idea (as the Wall Street Journal pointed out the President stopped short of calling this idea “murderous”).
The only means by which entitlement spending on Medicare can be controlled, so far as President Obama is concerned, is to have all Medicare coverage decisions routed through an un-elected commission in Washington so as to eliminate “unnecessary” Medicare payments (this approach also re-affirms his previously stated belief that greedy medical doctors have a proclivity to bill Medicare for unnecessary procedures, simply because they want the money).
“Private resources ultimately belong to the government” – President Obama is well known for his “spread- the-wealth-around inclinations, given his now famous run-in with the “Joe the Plummer” character during the 2008 presidential campaign. What often goes unnoticed, however, is that he frequently speaks not merely of government’s “right” to re-distribute private wealth, but of government’s ultimate ownership of it.
This philosophical assumption was apparent in the President’s fiscal crisis speech as well. When discussing the taxation rates imposed upon America’s top income earners, President Obama insisted that America “can’t afford” to leave these rates in place. Both explicitly, and implicitly, the President was saying that our government incurs a cost, when it does NOT take money away from private individuals.
How can this be? The government “loses” money, when it does not take money away from private citizens? President Obama has been using this line of reasoning for nearly all of the twenty-eight months of his presidency. It ultimately points towards a believe that your money, at the end of the day, belongs to the government, and it’s up to agents of government to determine how much you’re permitted to “keep.”
The President’s philosophical assumptions are not merely a matter of politics. They are a part of who he is. Can America withstand this?