18 June 2010

Do Not Follow the Bright, Shiny Thing

My mother sent me an email regarding President Obama’s speech on Tuesday and distractions. The lack of specificity in the president’s speech was there, perhaps, specifically to get attention away from the Gulf of Mexico and on to the next big thing. His presidency, after all, is founded a series of big things. Aberrations like the oil spill simply get in the way; they must be dealt with – at least rhetorically – quickly lest they grab too much attention. Thus the attempts to paper over the spill with a few presidential “I pledge to you” statements. If he promises to take care of it, then we can all get on to the next big thing.

In this fast-paced political environment, with all its moving and shaking, its hope and change, it would do us well to slow down and take stock of where the fundamental changes, where the big spending has taken us.

Evidence that the health insurance “reform” bill – I mean, law – will result in higher costs and fewer choices. It appears that if you change health insurance providers or if your provider changes your plan, you’ll be subject to the new legislation. So much for keeping your health insurance. Indeed, one report claims that 51% of workers will not be “grandfathered” under new regulations. What is more, according to the New York Daily News, “Obamacare is already proving costly to American businesses.” The article also reinforces the point that employees may well lose their current health insurance benefits because of the “reform”.

But that hurdle, that change is in the past for Mr. Obama. Health care reform has been achieved. He would have all of us focus on the next thing instead of taking a good, hard, analytical look at what this “reform” really has “achieved”.

To look further back, there is the stimulus. Mr. Obama claimed at the time of its passage that it would hold unemployment to 8%. Unemployment has hovered around 10% for some time now with few signs of abating – despite the amazing addition of hundreds of thousands of (temporary) census jobs. If one adds underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work, the unemployment rate (called the U-6 by the Labor Department) jumps to 16.6%.

But that spending – somewhere in the stratospheric neighborhood of $1 trillion – is still going on, jobs are still being created and saved, the administration would have us believe. And after all, Mr. Obama would most certainly add, the economy was an inherited problem. He is just trying to “clean up” someone else’s “mess”. Never mind Mr. Obama’s tenure in the Senate from 2005 – 2008. He would have us focus on Mr. Biden’s claims regarding jobs.

Health insurance reform and the stimulus are only the big, big things that Mr. Obama would have the public pay no close, analytical attention to. (Funny that an intellectual like Mr. Obama would not want intellectual examination of his initiatives; it speaks volumes.) Is anyone discussing the administration’s offering of jobs to politicians in exchange for dropping out of primary races? Will there be any response to Mr. Greenspan’s warning that the U.S. will soon hit a borrowing ceiling? Is there any urgency on the matter of passing a budget, which Congress still has not done (which is a pretty fundamental requirement of the government)? Or the vast number of foreign policy issues at the moment – from Iran to Afghanistan to Gaza? Will there be any explanation how Mr. Obama’s spending policies differ from those practiced in Europe which are crushing European economies?

No. Mr. Obama would have us all focus on the bright, shiny thing that he puts before us. On Tuesday, pie-in-the-sky renewable energy took its place as the bright, shiny thing. Mr. Obama wants the populace to focus on it – and never mind the men and women behind the curtain pulling the levers.

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