National Review’s Rich Lowry has a great, counterintuitive column today on Barack Obama as the last 20th century president-an irony since Obama came upon us as the apotheosis of the new.
I’ve been inclined to think of President Obama as the last gasp of the 1960s. The sixties ethos is the prevalent view in college faculty lounges and among liberal pundits. But Rich traces the roots of the president’s failed policies even farther back in the past:
His economic policy has been a reprise of the best economic thinking circa 1932. It’s been all Keynesian stimulus, and the soggy results are all around us. With the economy still weak and unemployment still high, he’s checkmated by his own stale orthodoxy. He’s unable to advance any significant proposals that wouldn’t simply be more of the same and politically unacceptable in this era of anxiety over the debt.
In his misplaced faith in the “shovel ready” project, he must have had visions of the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system – those jewels of 20th-century American infrastructure, built relatively rapidly before the regulatory state had tied itself in knots – rising up from his stimulus. Instead, the stimulus has built little or nothing anyone will remember.
Obama’s health-care program is radical in its sweep, but distinctly mid-20th century in its orientation. An enormous part of it simply depends on the expansion of Medicaid, the pride of 1965. In the first blush of the Great Society, Medicaid might have seemed a glorious innovation. Now, its results are so poor that some studies show that the health outcomes for people on Medicaid aren’t any better than those without any insurance at all.
It turns out that Paul Ryan has fresh ideas, while Barack Obama is wedded to the past.