“We are five days away,” the future President famously said in October of 2008, “from fundamentally transforming the United States of America…”
So how does Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” look to you now?
If the world seems chaotic to you, you’re not alone. President Obama promised “change” during his first campaign for the presidency, and in less than one full term he’s delivered.
American foreign policy, historically devoted to protecting American interests and championing liberty, is now focused on “outreach” to people who want to destroy us. But the “transformation” has not just impacted America’s place in the world.
Your private world – your day-to-day environment and the cultural norms that order that environment – is changing as well (so is mine). And while it’s difficult to measure people’s changing attitudes, there is clear evidence that Americans are increasingly developing a negative attitude towards work, productivity, and success.
Depending on what poll you’re reading, roughly half of the American population agrees with President Obama’s assumption that “rich” Americans need to be taxed at a higher rate. Concerns about undermining people’s incentive to achieve just don’t matter to many of us – making “somebody else” pay makes a lot of us feel better.
There also seems to be a change in Americans’ attitudes towards working. And while there are far too many of us who are earnestly trying to find work and cannot, there nonetheless appears to be growing numbers of us for whom working is just not a priority.
The reality of Americans choosing to not work – or, at a minimum, choosing to work less – would seem to be a very intentional consequence of President Obama’s agenda. Indeed, it has long been the belief of the President’s science adviser John P. Holdren that the world would be a better place environmentally if “Americans worked, produced, and earned less.”
This may seem counter-intuitive, yet the numbers don’t lie. As the unemployment rate has recently dropped a bit, so also has the “labor force participation rate” – the statistic that represents the ratio between the labor force itself, and the overall population. Assuming that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is telling the truth, participation in the labor force has dropped to a 30 year low, as roughly 1.2 million Americans recently chose to exit the labor market.
It’s difficult to deny that the decline in the number of people who want to work correlates with the President’s agenda. At the very least, one has to admit that this change corresponds on the timeline with Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Yet within his first three years as our President, we’ve seen the amount of direct federal payments to individual households – both direct payments for specific usages, and for “unrestricted” usages – skyrocket by more than $600 billion. One might argue that these direct payments rose out of necessity because of the recession, although President Obama has slated for another $500 billion worth of annual increases in direct payments between now and 2016. If the trend continues, within the next four years direct payments will account for two-thirds of all annual federal government spending.
But wait, there’s more. A record forty-nine percent of all American homes have somebody living in them who is receiving some sort of federal benefit. And reliance on food stamps has expanded forty-five percent during the Obama presidency, thanks in no small part to the President’s insistence that the expansion of food stamp funding be included in his “economic stimulus bill.”
So has the expansion of “federal assistance” brought about “fundamental transformation?” President Obama insists that it creates a sense of “fairness” in our society. Yet it’s difficult to argue that it doesn’t create at least some incentive to cease being productive.
And then there’s President Obama’s signature “healthcare reform law.” Nearly two years ago the Congressional Budget Office warned that with all the robust entitlements that the law promises, it would most certainly impact the labor market.
Speaking at a little-noted event at the University of Southern California in October of 2010, C.B.O. Director Doug Elmendorf noted that, outside the healthcare sector of our economy, the greatest impact of the Obamacare agenda would be with people’s interest in working.
Furthermore, Mr. Elmendorf stated that, in some cases, Americans would simply choose to no longer work, because their needs for healthcare will be provided by the enhanced Medicaid funding entailed in the Obamacare law.
Proclivities to make somebody else pay, and a declining interest in working – indeed America is being transformed. Will voters choose more of it this November, or will we choose to get back to being Americans?