The President's Contradiction Soup


From Obama's prepared remarks last night:

As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction–we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

That effort must begin within our own borders. Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security. But we have also understood that our nation's strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation's long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

1) You can complain about "record deficits," you can complain about "borrowing from overseas," but in the same breath as lamenting how we've "short-changed investments in our people"? Even letting that whole trope pass, the last two years have illustrated poignantly that goosing domestic spending without significantly drawing down our international military commitments will put the "record" in "record deficits," and potentially the "over" in "overseas."

2) What are these "tough decisions" about "our manufacturing base," why should the federal government be making them, and how exactly did the Iraq War in particular kick them down the road? Usually, when political people (especially on the left side of the aisle) talk about "manufacturing base," it's in the context of supporting stuff like "anti-dumping" rules on poorer countries who are trying to get rich, as the administration did to China just last week. How exactly does that constitute "lead[ing] among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people"? I'll answer: it doesn't.

3) In a similar vein, how can Obama argue that the war "put off" a big re-do on energy policy when his own political party (the one that swept into power on much anti-Iraq War and Nu-Energy-Policy sentiment) has yet to pass through its own big energy policy re-do? Could it be maybe that energy policy is just hard, particularly when you've tethered it to the absolute fantasy of creating 5 million "green jobs"?

4) The phrase "short-changed investments in our own people," has been, as Nick Gillespie demonstrated yesterday, knocking the stuffing out of the phrase "education reform" for decades now. When your idea of education reform is spending record amounts on the status quo while tossing a few crumbs in the vague direction of teacher accountability, the result is not investing "in our own people," unless by "own people" you mean "the (overwhelmingly Democratic Party-supporting) education establishment." Fooling David Brooks and getting a better bang out of our education buck are two separate things.

5) On a related note, having two-thirds of your stimulus-related jobs going toward making sure education bureaucrats don't get fired is a leading indicator that the current efforts toward growing the middle class are instead making sure the government class stays the same size while the non-government class shrinks.

6) Finally, if your goal is "long-term competitiveness," then maybe you should get around to letting individuals and businesses compete, instead of attempting to cushion everybody's fall and punishing the people they're competing against. Also, we are competing and losing at producing a K-12 educated workforce, in large part because there's very little competition in the provision of that particular good.

The president wants to lead the world in expanding opportunity by decreasing the opportunities for the world to sell us stuff. He wants to increase our competitiveness by protecting us from failure. He wants to reduce our deficits by investing in our people, and get the economy rolling again by redistributing taxpayer money to teachers. What could possibly go wrong?