February 12, 2009
Ready for some political and economic rock and roll? It’s happening. In 2008, Americans were rocked by the beginnings of a deflationary credit collapse and Uncle Sam’s extraordinary bailout/nationalization agenda. In 2009, Americans will be rolled. If you think 2008 was expensive, wait until you see what President Obama’s band has in store for us.
In politics, people are policy. The band of policy players that President Obama has assembled gives some hints as to the chart-topping tunes we can expect to be hearing—bigger, even more costly government, and a beleaguered private sector that will be hard-pressed to create new jobs.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony during her confirmation hearings epitomizes Obama’s priorities. Despite multiple risks to American interests around the globe, Clinton declared that her top priority was to place Americans under the control of multilateral global-warming agreements. Do Secretary Clinton and President Obama really believe that American interests will be advanced by curtailing our consumption of energy, thereby further slowing economic growth in the midst of a severe recession?
Joining Mrs. Clinton in putting growth-killing measures like carbon taxes at the top of this year’s policy agenda are Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and environmental/climate “czarina” Carole Browner. Chu is a global-warming alarmist who has echoed Obama’s rhetoric about reducing our consumption of coal (which generates half our country’s electricity) by making it prohibitively expensive to burn. Browner, since serving as the heavy-handed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Clinton-Gore, has more recently held a leadership position on a Socialist International committee dedicated to transferring wealth from the United States to much of the rest of the world.
Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury (which includes the IRS) Tim Geithner, “forgot” to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes to Uncle Sam. It would seem inappropriate to most Americans to place such a person in charge of federal tax collections, but behold the zeal of partisans, who regularly rant about “the rich” and businesses not paying enough taxes, to make excuses for Geithner. Such an attitude is elitist and antidemocratic, a repudiation of the rule of law, but the partisans are willing to give this high-income American a free pass as long as he supports their plans to increase government control over Americans’ wealth.
Geithner wasn’t the only tax hypocrite tapped by Obama to serve in his cabinet. Another, of course, was former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who had been tapped by Obama as Secretary of Health and Human Services, until his tax "problems" became too much even for liberals to swallow. (Daschle has long favored socialized medicine. He was making $83,000 per month as a consultant in addition to his lavish Senate pension and his wife’s lucrative income as a lobbyist. He believes in government transfers of wealth from rich to poor, as long as it isn’t his wealth.)
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is solidly pro-union. She has sponsored legislation to deprive workers of secret ballots when voting on union representation. Her appointment underscores Obama’s commitment to unions. The last time the rules of the game were tilted in labor’s favor was during the Great Depression. Then, newly empowered unions crippled business activity and profitability, which consequently stifled job growth and increased unemployment.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is the appointment of Eric Holder as attorney general. As deputy attorney general in the ‘90s, Holder worked on Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose debt to justice was apparently paid via generous contributions to the Clinton library. But the primary problem with Holder is his apparent view that American businessmen are more dangerous than Al Qaida fighters. Consider: The “Holder Memorandum” of 1999 was designed to coerce businesses into forgoing rights to legal counsel, infringing their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. In contrast to his desire for American businesses to have fewer legal protections, Holder favors greater legal protections for captive Islamic combatants who seek to kill Americans.
President Obama has assembled a cabinet that shares his love of Big Government and concomitant antipathy for free markets. That same philosophy is embodied in Obama’s stimulus plan, which has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with politics. Like FDR’s New Deal, increasing government control of the economy will not stimulate economic growth. It will, however, stimulate and strengthen the Democrats’ hold on power by channeling vast sums of money to Democratic special interests.
The Obama band is ready to roll, and we in the private sector are the ones who will get rolled. Brace yourself for the reverb.
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is a faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.