I Obama’s Legacy: Trump and Bernie
By DANIEL HENNINGER
The Wall Street Journal
Jan. 13, 2016
There is Barack Obama’s State of the Union and then there is the state of the union anyone else can see.
The new year began with an underground nuclear-bomb test in North Korea, the worst first week for the Dow since 1897, and Iran forcing 10 U.S. sailors to their knees.
But the man delivering the State of the Union is “optimistic” because “unconditional love” will win.
Let’s get just one SotU venting out of the way before considering what Mr. Obama has wrought for his country and its politics as he turns into his final year.
It is beyond any conceivable pale that Mr. Obama would fail at least to note the 14 Americans gunned down in San Bernardino by committed Islamic terrorists, even as he stood there lecturing the country, at least three times, about not turning against others’ religion. In the past, he said, we have “turned toward God.” Ugh.
In fact, seven years of the Obama presidency have left the United States with a historically weak economy and a degraded national politics. The causal legacy of those two realities are— Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Mr. Obama said in his speech that the economy is producing jobs, which is true, and that it is “peddling fiction” to say the U.S. economy “is in decline.” Really?
The U.S. economy’s average annual growth rate since World War II has been about 3%. In Mr. Obama’s seven years it has been about 2%. Some 65% of people think the U.S. is on the wrong track. You can discover a lot about the wrong track in that missing 1% of economic growth, Mr. Obama’s “new normal.”
The president is correct that the economy is creating jobs, but an alternative view would be that he has proven it is not possible to kill an economy with a GDP of $16 trillion.
Here’s what the new normal looks like. The gold standard of new job creation is business starts. Indeed, Mr. Obama said his new online tools “give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.” Perhaps not everything.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of business establishments less than one year old rose steadily from 550,000 in 1997, peaked at about 650,000 in 2006, and then has gone straight down. The Kauffman Foundation’s 2015 entrepreneurship report puts startups in 2012 at just over 400,000.
The Brookings Institution in a 2014 report noted that since 2008 businesses closing annually have exceeded startups for the first time. Their yearly analysis dates to 1978.
That relative decline has a price. More businesses being born than dying is where real jobs come from, not the government tooth fairy. This data is a portrait of an economy losing its innate dynamism. That’s the real cause of “anger” in the U.S. electorate.
We’re supposed to believe that long-term “structural” factors are causing these shifts. Maybe. And if you want to wail about income disparity, go ahead. But if so, it is the president’s job to get impediments out of the way. Instead, this presidency has created them.
For example, Kauffman’s report also notes that the rate of entrepreneurship among people age 20-34—who hire employees like themselves, new breadwinners—began dropping fast in 2011. The president said Tuesday that ObamaCare would help new-business formation. It is doing the opposite. Millennials, assumed to be the Obama base, have entered adulthood to endure a decade of slow growth.
The leaders of Communist China lie awake at night worrying about creating 10 million new jobs every year to prevent a revolution. The elected leader of the U.S. lies awake every night thinking about jobs making . . . windmills and solar panels.
And we’ve got a revolution.
People wonder what accounts for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Maybe the better question is how the Obama years could not have produced a Trump and Sanders.
Both the Republican and, to a lesser extent, Democratic parties have elements now who want to pull down the temple. But for all the politicized agitation, both these movements, in power, would produce stasis—no change at all.
Donald Trump would preside over a divided government or, as he has promised and un-promised, a trade war with China.
Hillary or Bernie will enlarge the Obama economic regime. Either outcome guarantees four more years of at best 2% economic growth. That means more of the above. That means 18-year-olds voting for the first time this year will face historically weak job opportunities through 2020 at least.
Under any of these three, an Americanized European social-welfare state will evolve because Washington—and this will include many “conservatives”—will answer still-rising popular anger with new income redistributions.
And for years afterward, Barack Obama will stroll off the 18th green, smiling. Mission, finally, accomplished.
II The Deadly (and deliberate) Dereliction of Duty at the Top
By Wesley Pruden
The Washington Times
December 21, 2015
Franklin D. Roosevelt told a frightened nation on the eve of World War II that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and it was a message everyone understood. Fear paralyzes even the strong. The United States had a war to win, and paralysis doesn’t win wars.
Now we are engaged in another great struggle (to steal language from another wartime president,) testing whether this nation, or any nation conceived and dedicated to liberty and freedom as this one is, can survive and endure. Barack Obama, alas, is neither a FDR nor an Abraham Lincoln. (but, a Manchurian Candidate) jsk
President Obama is mortally afraid of offending Muslims, radical or otherwise, whom he imagines are the key to making America safe. He’s heard that pretty evening music from the mosque. He finally recognizes the painful truth that domestic and sometimes homegrown terrorism is more than “workplace violence,” but wants to put American safety in the hands of Islamic “partners” of dubious reliability.
Fear drives Republicans, too. When duty calls, earplugs can be a comfortable answer. Paul Ryan, the new speaker of the House, backed by a comfortable Republican majority, is mortally afraid of Barack Obama. He executed a monumental cave on the new budget of bloat, waste and extravagance that would make a Democratic spendthrift lose his breakfast, lunch and dinner. He expects, in connivance with the Democratic minority, to get the House to approve it on Friday. Mr. Ryan, with a grin as broad as the Capitol rotunda, looks in the photographs as if he had just won the lottery.
Many Republicans caved with him, showing no shame, and now owe John Boehner an apology. The Republicans in the House threw out Mr. Boehner for caves like this. He did it on nearly every issue crucial to the Republicans keeping their word to the people who sent them to Washington, and Mr. Ryan seems determined to protect the losing streak. We can expect the Republican tough talk to resume next year when the elections approach, voter anger subsides, the Republican candidates return with their begging bowls.
Americans traditionally expect more from presidents, and with this president they’re resisting, as good citizens, the temptation to wonder whose side this guy is on. Mr. Obama can’t bring himself to consider that the enemy, now clearly establishing itself within the borders (porous as they are), won’t be deterred by good wishes, good faith and good speeches. Mr. Obama’s strategy is to disarm everyone, take it easy on evil, and set an example of peace in our time that will transform enemies into docile friends.
Mr. Obama is an intelligent man, but he’s addicted to theory over experience, which makes him a slow learner in a time and place where indifference and delay can be lethal. His national security strategy has the usual bureaucratic slipperiness, “Countering Violent Extremism,” and the nation continues to pay a high price for it on the installment plan. We just paid the latest installment in San Bernardino.
“Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, as its fans call it, insists that radical Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam or the ideology that reviles the United States and dares anyone to do anything about it.
CVE was introduced in Mr. Obama’s first term, and he loves it even if no one else does. The authentic threat to national security is not from terrorists, so the theory goes, but from provocation of Muslims by Americans who understand that radical Islam is at war with America. The only way to deal with terrorism is to find “partners” in the Muslim communities, even those who may be influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, recognized as evil by certain governments in the Middle East — Egypt, for example — even if the White House has deliberately blinded itself to reality.
Mr. Obama’s latest expedition into the fantasyland where fools rule is to avoid bombing the propaganda centers identified by U.S. intelligence as the source of the effective Islamic State recruiting. To do that would “invade the privacy” of ISIS recruiters.
One recruit influenced by ISIS propaganda was the late Tashfeen Malik, the San Bernardino killer whose endorsement of jihad and her disdain for America was all over the Internet’s social media. But U.S. immigration agents were forbidden to read such revealing rants because guidance from “Countering Violent Extremism” forbids it.
Now that the facts about the program have slipped out, anyway, the White House is trying to sell the stammer and splutter that the instructions were only “guidance.” But it was “guidance” that Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, declined to countermand even when his agents pleaded with him to do it. The president didn’t want to hurt the feelings of Islamic radicals. Confronting the enemy can be so fatiguing. (and, so counter-productive as far as his goals are concerned) jsk
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.
(Too bad these articles, these revelations, these epiphanies are SEVEN YEARS TOO LATE.) jsk
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