Odds and Ends from Obama’s New Nationalism Speech

Here are some odds and ends from President Obama’s New Nationalism speech yesterday.  In my post yesterday, I looked at the parallels between Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Government intentions and Obama’s Big Government intentions.  In the present post, I’ll look at other remarks that Obama made, and what they indicate about his plans.

Let’s begin with this one.

So [Roosevelt] busted up monopolies.

This is fairly minor, but it demonstrates a lack of concern for the facts.  Roosevelt didn’t “bust up” many monopolies at all.  Mr. Trust Buster, instead, tried to bring the railroads under the control of his Executive Branch of the Federal government.  He simply didn’t believe that the courts were the proper place to handle these affairs.  Indeed, it wasn’t until 1909 that the Sherman Antitrust Act got a serious work out (beyond an 1890s effort to break up a labor union monopoly), when the DoJ brought an antitrust suit against Standard Oil.

There’s this remark, too:

After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess.…  Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules….  I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules.

Aside from crass partisanship, this is simply an inaccurate description of the choices.  The real choice is between those who, on the one hand, want big government to make decisions for Americans, big government to define what is fair or appropriate for Americans to do; and on the other hand, those who want government out of Americans’ lives, who trust to individual Americans’ wisdom and capacity to determine for themselves what they will do and to accept the consequences for those decisions.  And to do so under a common set of rules.  Obama’s “choice” is a straw man wholly unrelated to the discussion.

And this:

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal.

And yet it’s government farm subsidies, and government price and labor controls that drive those costs to the point of Americans needing food banks, and food stamps.

And this:

Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, and communicate with the rest of the world. That’s why the over one million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and bridges; laying down faster railroads and broadband….

They would be, if big government got out of the way of projects that would provide jobs—like the Keystone XL pipeline that would have provided 20,000 construction jobs in the US and nearly 200,000 follow-on, permanent jobs in related industries that would have profited from the outflow from the pipeline.  There are, according to some estimates, 1,000,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry alone that would materialize, were big government to get out of the way of business, to get out of the way of drilling, for instance.

Obama quotes Roosevelt extensively, including

“Our country,” [Roosevelt] said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

As we saw in yesterday’s post, though, that’s not all that Roosevelt said.  What Obama has so carefully elided is that other shoe that utterly negates any hope of “showing the best” [emphasis still added]:

…having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.

He decries some government outcomes.

Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class—things like education…Medicare and Social Security.

But he ignores their source.  These are things that belong in the hands of the States and local communities, in the hands of individual, capable Americans.  Big government’s deficits exist because of massive big government spending of wealth redistributive taxes.  If these “investments” were where they belonged, big government wouldn’t need to be spending and so wouldn’t need to be taking the tax monies away from Americans in the first place.

Then he says this:

…we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everyone to do their fair share.

Would that include the 50% of Americans who pay only 3% of the nation’s income tax collections?

He goes on:

If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.

Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law, and proposed trillions more….

Actually, he’s “promised” $1 trillion in future spending growth reductions.  He’s actually exploded our national deficit by some $1.5 trillion and our nation’s debt by some $9 trillion in his three short years in office.

More on taxes:

Most immediately, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month.

Since he agrees that a tax cut is good for Americans, why is he so adamantly opposed to a permanent income tax cut, instead of this temporary extension of a reduction in funding for an already failing Social Security system?


But in the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education, and research, and high-tech manufacturing? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both.

This is a cynical false dichotomy, supportive only of the modern Progressives’ class warfare.  The choice is not between big government subsidies of favored industries and higher taxes on disfavored Americans.  The choice is between big, intrusive government and a smaller federal government that respects the rights and duties of the constituent States and the sovereign Americans.  The items named by Obama are items that belong in the hands of the States, local communities, and Americans and their businesses.  These are choices that we certainly can afford, given fewer big government diktats and lower taxes, leaving more money in the hands of the folks who actually know how to handle their money.

There’s this on taxes, too:

Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.

This is the height of unfairness.

His answer is to ignore the loopholes and shelters—to refuse the closings of these offered by Republicans—and instead to seek to raise taxes on his disfavored few.  That is, indeed, the height of unfairness.


Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street.

Would that include everyone paying the same tax rate?

He has this, too:

…already, some of these reforms are being implemented. If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you’ll have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes.

Except that the Dodd-Frank Bill he favors so much has provisions in it that guarantee that some entities will be taxpayer bailed-out again: the bill codifies “too big to fail.”


But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to let [Obama’s “consumer watchdog”] do his job. Why? Does anyone here think the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Of course not.

Agreed.  Congressman Barney Frank refused to allow the regulation and oversight of entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would have contributed to preventing the housing bubble that contributed to the current crisis.  However, that version of increased oversight would not have led to bigger government.

Finally, this:

Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or member of our Armed Forces could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford….

Because, as Croly said, “[T]he average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities…,” and as Obama has said all these last three years in his own messaging, Americans just don’t understand. Government has to do for us.

But in the end, despite Obama’s hubris in attempting to drape the Roosevelt’s mantel around his shoulders, he simply failed to measure up.  Where Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech, regardless of what we might think of it, was a nonpartisan national call to arms, Obama’s New Nationalism speech simply collapsed into the petty partisanship of a harangue against those terrible Republicans who declined to accede to his every wish.

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