Quote of the Day:
President Obama’s great accomplishment, arguably, has been to spur the evolution of a society that formerly rested on individual and familial aspiration, and turn it into a more regulated and centralized regime focused on broader social and environmental concerns.
As President Obama's time in the White House winds down, we can ask: was he true to his promise of a "fundamental transformation" of the United States?
In a truly illuminating article, Joel Kotkin shows how Obama and his progressive allies have been true to that vow. It has happened regulation by regulation but now we have a new kind of United States. Kotkin writes:
The shift away from the entrepreneurial model can also be seen in the constriction of loans to the small-business sector. Rates of business start-ups have fallen well below historical levels, and, for young people in particular, have hit the lowest levels in a quarter century. At the same time, the welfare state has expanded dramatically, to the point that nearly half of all Americans now get payments from the federal government.
In sharp contrast to the Bill Clinton White House, which accepted limits on government largesse, the newly emboldened progressives, citing inequality, are calling for more wealth transfers to the poorer parts of society, often eschewing the notion that the recipients work to actually improve their lives. The ever-expanding regulatory state has powerful backing in the media, on campuses and among some corporations. There is even a role model: to become like Europe. As the New York Times’ Roger Cohen suggests, we reject our traditional individualist “excess” and embrace, instead, Continental levels of material modesty, social control and, of course, ever-higher taxes.
Rather than promoting an entrepreneurial nation in which people can advance and improve their lot in life by their own creativity and exertions, Obama and the progressives have set up a regime of "permanent racial redress:"
The second major thrust of the reconstituted American Dream is the imposition of a regime of permanent racial redress. In contrast to assuring equal rights, the new drive is to guarantee similar results. In every aspect of life, from immigration and housing to school and work, “people of color,” which increasingly excludes Asians, will be categorized by race. This includes the call for “reparations” for African Americans and essentially open borders for undocumented immigrants.
The brand of environmentalism we have today also preaches against economic growth. Instead of trying to find a mix of policies that preserve natural beauty and yet allow economic dynamism, the environmental movement would shut down growth. (Since many affluent environmentalists come from families that got their wealth generations ago, they can afford to think that job creating is soooo tacky.)
Kotkin says that future generations are facing a "decline in prospects." And this very discomfort may be our only hope:
Millennials may have different social attitudes [from] their parents, but that doesn’t mean they reject their parents’ aspirational dream, most notably to buy a house, preferably with some decent space. Although they have been far less able to achieve homeownership, surveys consistently show that most millennials want to own a house, get more space and seem increasingly willing to move to the suburbs, even the exurbs, to get it.
This will no doubt prove a disappointment for the highly influential cadre of generally wealthier, environmentally focused baby boomers, who celebrate millennials being satisfied as apartment renters – for life. Perhaps this is one reason that, in recent surveys, young people have been less likely to identify as “environmentalist” than previous generations.
President Obama did transform the United States.
The only question now is whether the damage will be repaired.
It could be projected that Trump Mania, with all the confusion and contradiction about actual policies, is a response to our sense that the American Dream, at least for now, has been downdized.