January 3 2012
After turning himself into a veritable caricature of the 1 percent he derides at every opportunity, President Obama has suddenly discovered his true calling: champion of the middle class.
The president made it clear that he is auditioning for this coveted role during that odd, TR-impersonating speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, when he of the $4 million Christmas vacation proclaimed, not untruthfully, that this is “make-or-break moment for the middle class.”
Not since Senator John Kerry windsurfed off the coast of Nantucket has the middle class had a more unlikely champion.
Still, Republicans must resist the temptation to pillory President Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ extravagant vacations and other indications of an unseemly sense of privilege. That could backfire, as the critics fail to concentrate on what really matters: the policies. The president's opponents must instead hammer home day and night that no administration in American history has done more to harm the middle class than the Obama administration.
If this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class—and it is, I agree, Mr. President—it is because the policies of the last three years threaten the middle class’s ability not just to thrive, but to hang on, while the hopes of those not yet in the middle class to climb upward are being dashed in a dead-end economy.
What does it take to get into or remain a part of the middle class? If you answered higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires, you are wrong. What it takes is a job, and the policies espoused by President Obama not only haven’t delivered a recovery, they have actively suppressed job creation.
If President Lyndon Johnson gave us the war on poverty, President Obama has given us the war on jobs. Where to start? The most obvious direct hits were the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline and the attempt of the Obama National Labor Relations Board to prevent Boeing from building a new plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. These are symbols of the Administration's habit of putting interest group politics above actual private sector growth. Less well-known, but more pernicious, are the regimes of regulations emanating from the executive branch, which make it more difficult for established businesses to do as well and even more difficult for new ones to be created.
BB&T Corp. founder John Allison told John Stossel that he used “gut instinct” in the BB&T venture. Allison added, "It would be very difficult to do what we did then today. It was semi-venture-capital thing. The government regulations [today] are so tight, including setting credit standards, particularly since the so-called financial crisis and since they ... changed the credit standards in the banking industry, making it very hard for the banks to finance small businesses."
To be fair, crippling regulations didn’t start with Obama, but have they ever grown in the last three years. The Environmental Protection Agency under Obama-appointee Lisa Jackson has produced a blizzard of regulations that harm job creation and increase the cost of what families and businesses will pay for electricity in the name of unproven green claims.
The mother of all regulatory disasters is, of course, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—which, if allowed to stand, will pretty much ensure that the Obama administration is more successful in wiping out job creation than the most starry-eyed Johnson administration officials could have dreamed of being in eradicating poverty.
The burdens that will be imposed by Obamacare, along with the increased uncertainty, have made those who would hire commitment-shy. Employers know that the government, not the company’s budget, will dictate what kinds of policies must be provided. Sure, we’d all like coverage with all the trimmings, but unless employers have leeway to decide what benefits to offer, many people won’t just miss out on acupuncture: they won’t have jobs.
Senator Tom Coburn and columnist Ross Kaminsky have cited a report from UBS, the investment bank, entitled “Suppression II: Revolt of the Employers” that details the job-crushing nature of Obamacare and other administration policies.
The report is not available to the public, but here is a nugget quoted by Kaminsky: "Observers are gradually starting to recognize that the tax hikes and regulations emanating from Washington are frightening employers and discouraging hiring.… Rising taxes and the surge in regulation [are] suppressing what J.M. Keynes called 'animal spirits -- a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction.'”
While the president’s policies have been harmful to the middle class, the erosion of an appreciation for middle-class values may even more detrimental to our future. The president applauds Occupy Wall Street’s sense of entitlement. Here are people who demand that total strangers pay for their college educations—and the president thinks they’re just dandy! Instead of self-reliance the president proposes an ever-widening web of government programs—paid for by the middle class, who, unlike the President’s friend Jeff Immelt, don’t have lawyers to figure out how their companies can avoid onerous taxes.
Many of us mocked bourgeois values when we were younger, regarding them as stifling and conventional, not for intellectuals such as ourselves. But most of us grow up. Obama, the creature from the faculty lounge, became president instead. If he remains president for four more years, we might one day look back on this as the moment that broke the middle class.