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Mr. Top-Down Himself, Barack Obama

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Before he touted "revenge" as a motive for supporting his reapplication for the presidential job, Barack H. Obama wished voters to appreciate how icky-yucky he finds "top-down economics." He renewed the theme in his closing electoral appeal. "The folks at the very top" (with Obama, it's always folks, never "people" or "citizens," but let that go), we learn, "don't need another champion in Washington."

Did the gentleman ever get that one right! The top-down philosophy of governance -- I'm on top, and you're not -- has no more unbending champion in American politics than B. H. Obama himself.

What Obama wishes "folks" to envision when he talks his "top-down" talk is a suite-ful of bankers, hedge fund managers and the like, all dressed in pinstriped suits. "Top-down economics," the way the president means it, is they run the show while mere middle-class strivers battle for jobs and bread.

Such a proposition, it could be said, is rich indeed. The top of the top of the top today -- and for the foreseeable future -- is the collection of congressmen, jurists, regulators, functionaries, fixers and especially White House residents who see their mission as deciding what the nation needs, then supplying it, or at least pretending to.

We're all so inured to top-down economics by now that we can barely imagine what it would be like for Americans to flex their economic muscle in a free marketplace, without officials of the government telling them whom they may hire and how many applications they have to fill out, and then calculating how much tax the government expects to receive in return.

The Obama administration is into top-down economics big time. From the folks at the top two years ago came the command to insure 32 million uninsured "folks" at federally stipulated prices and with no recourse to alternative methods of acquiring health insurance. Do it our way, the folks at the top say, or submit to a special tax. The country's banking system acquired a new big brother at about the same juncture. The Dodd-Frank bill's 2,300 words of text are a playground for believers in the power of government to anticipate that which we all, apparently, need.


Speaking of anticipating needs, the Obama administration knows pretty definitively what America "needs" by way of energy. "Green" energy -- chiefly wind and solar -- was at one time expected for purposes of consumption (by voters, anyway) to create 5 million jobs. Into "green" companies such as Solyndra, the administration funneled millions of taxpayer dollars, intending to create the supply that the marketplace -- a compendium of human wants and needs -- had failed to create. The better to direct human wants it sees as misplaced, the administration tries to hem in producers of oil and goal with regulations and denial of such permits as the government oversees. Top-downers in Washington similarly denounce the idea of allowing any element of consumer choice when it comes to deployment of dollars extracted by government ukase under Social Security and Medicare. Choose alternatives to the black financial holes that government digs for the next generation of "beneficiaries"? Impossible. How about allowing parents to take a designated amount of public money meant to finance public schools and actually choosing which school to patronize? The top-downers of the teacher unions would as soon be forced to assign a sonnet by Shakespeare or a speech by Webster.

"Top-down" is America today, at any rate in the sphere where laws and formal regulations obtain. It is a sad reality that Barack Obama is far too young to have initiated, but one he proudly maintains and preaches.


The irony of the piece is that the phrase "top-down," as wielded by Mr. Top-Down himself, applies mainly to business and commercial types whose invaluable contribution to society is the creation of jobs and prosperity far beyond the power of top-down bureaucrats to emulate. If only they'd asked how the government wished them to proceed! Good thing they didn't. Many might affirm.

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