Obama unmoved by failures

January 30, 2011


— Disregard Barack Obama’s rhetorical cotton candy about aspiring to be transformative. He is just another practitioner of reactionary liberalism and champion of a government unchastened by its multiplying failures.

The word “entitlements” was absent from his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address — a $183 million speech that meandered for 61 minutes as the nation’s debt grew $3 million a minute. He exhorted listeners to “win the future” by remembering the past.

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, in the Utah Territory, a golden spike was driven to celebrate the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. In the 1960s, the United States sent men to the moon. Obama said: Today’s government should take more control of the nation’s resources so it can do innovative things akin to building the transcontinental railroad and exploring space.

The nation heard: You should trust the government whose recent innovations include the ethanol debacle which, four days before the State of the Union, the government expanded. And you should surrender more resources to the government whose recent innovations include the wild proliferation of subprime mortgages.

Obama spoke to a nation limping into a sixth year of declining housing prices (housing accounts for about one-quarter of households’ assets), with another 10 percent to 20 percent decline likely. With 5 million households at least two months delinquent on their mortgage payments and 5.5 million households with mortgages at least 20 percent larger than the value of their houses, this year probably will see more housing foreclosures than the 1 million in 2010, when new home sales hit a 47-year low. It is indeed amazing what innovative government can accomplish.

The day after Obama told the nation that the key to prosperity is creativity defined by this government and propelled by more government spending (“investment”), the Congressional Budget Office said this year’s budget gap is widening to $1.5 trillion, making the national debt 70 percent of GDP, up from 40 percent in 2008.

But Michigan’s Levin brothers remain faithful to Obamanomics, which holds that prosperity is just around the corner — if government spends more on innovations it imagines. Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin have a combined 60 years of Capitol Hill tenure, and an innovation. Like most liberals’ new ideas, theirs is to make an old idea more expensive. The day of the CBO’s dark forecast, the Levins said the government should double the scope of its program to bribe people to buy a kind of car the government likes much more than do buyers of cars.

The government already offers $7,500 tax incentives for people who buy electric cars such as the $32,780 Nissan Leaf and, more to the point, General Motors’ $41,000 Chevrolet Volt. Obama’s goal of getting 1 million such cars on America’s roads by 2015 cannot be met unless innovative government rigs the market. Introduced in 2008, the $7,500 bribe was limited to the first 250,000 cars. Under Obama’s stimulus, it was expanded to 200,000 per manufacturer. The Levins, uttering liberalism’s timeless rallying cry (“More!”) want it to cover 500,000 per manufacturer.

The Levins’ applied liberalism is regressive because it conscripts all taxpayers into subsidizing a fortunate few: As Whoriskey reports, the subsidy would flow to “early adopters” of a new kind of car, and they “generally tend to be affluent.”

It represents, among others, people who sell electricity and related products, and who want to sell electric cars. The coalition’s leaders include Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, and Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO and (simultaneously) chairman of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Diamond says electric cars will help prevent America from being “hostage to one fuel source produced in the world’s unstable and often-hostile regions.” America’s two largest sources of imported oil are Canada and Mexico. Both Levins oppose tapping the large oil reserves in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Levins’ innovation could cost $19 billion over 10 years, but if it does, says Sander, “it means that the program worked.” So, a program “works” if it pays people enough to get them to do something they otherwise would consider irrational — to buy something so overpriced it would fail in an unrigged market. If it “works,” the cry will be: “More!”


Liberty_One 7 years, 1 month ago

Prediction: ljworld.com Obama supporters won't defend Obama and the Dems' reckless spending but instead attack Will by asking where was his criticism of Bush's spending.

Meanwhile this government continues to be destructive, diving deeper into this chasm of debt which we'll never get out of . What are we to do when government has become destructive of the ends for which it was instituted?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

Some will point out the complained reckless spending is only necessary because of the absolute failure of the bush tax cuts to produce the promised beneficial effect on our economy.

The destruction has been the consequence of consolidating wealth in the hands of the few and allowing the military/corporate elites to upset the prosperity producing balance of power of the leftist New Deal and Great Society policies.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

But others have this to say--

Bush On Jobs: The Worst Track Record On Record

"President George W. Bush entered office in 2001 just as a recession was starting, and is preparing to leave in the middle of a long one. That’s almost 22 months of recession during his 96 months in office.

His job-creation record won’t look much better. The Bush administration created about three million jobs (net) over its eight years, a fraction of the 23 million jobs created under President Bill Clinton’s administration and only slightly better than President George H.W. Bush did in his four years in office.

Here’s a look at job creation under each president since the Labor Department started keeping payroll records in 1939. The counts are based on total payrolls between the start of the month the president took office (using the final payroll count for the end of the prior December) and his final December in office.

Because the size of the economy and labor force varies, we also calculate in percentage terms how much the total payroll count expanded under each president. The current President Bush, once taking account how long he’s been in office, shows the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records. –Sudeep Reddy"


Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

Bubble, buble, toil and trouble.

Trouble, indeed, as we all found out. Destroying the middle class and taking money out of the hands of those who spend it in their communities here in our country and consolidating more and more of it in the hands of those who instead choose to invest it China and the rest of the world has had disasterous consequences for our country and our fellow citizens.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Indeed Liberty. Glad to see you recognize the hypocrisy of Will's column so easily that you can predict that others will comment on the obvious as welll.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 1 month ago

"...I wish to no longer take part in inflammatory word-games of insults and put downs against others who do not share my opinions. It is just that simple..." Well, we see how long that lasted.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Are you saying it isn't hypocritical to point out the excesses of one administration if you failed to do so with another? That is an example of hypocrisy.

Corey Williams 7 years, 1 month ago


May the deity of your choice improve your spelling.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 1 month ago

Because he tries to argue and not shout, I tend to agree with Mr. Will more than some of the other 'conservative' columnists. He has some good points here. It strikes me as odd he recently promoted a national set of education goals (One goalpost) as a cure for the problems some large, underfunded urban districts face. I doubt this approach would reduce the influence of the educational behemoth he so often criticizes. Good points, however, and a reminder it's hard to be 'pure' in ideology when arguing about complicated systems.

Kendall Simmons 7 years, 1 month ago

I think Paul was saying that George Will actually presents arguments for his positions, rather than simply shouting buzzwords and/or insults at people, which makes it far easier to actually think about Will's positions and assess their value.

I, too, find myself agreeing with Will at times for that very reason...his argument actually makes sense.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

There's absolutely nothing wrong with deficit spending as long as it's used in a very restrained way, and any debts run up are paid off as quickly as possible.

Of course, that hasn't happened in decades, primarily because of the need to fund the military-insdustrial complex and other forms of corporate welfare. And since the wealthy and the corporations they own have been declared off limits for taxation, deficit spending is their only option (and conveniently, they also get to make a tidy profit off the bonds the government sells them to make up for the taxes they can't levy.)

Corey Williams 7 years, 1 month ago

Don't throw stones. Just because you can't doesn't mean no one can.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

It depends completely on what the money is spent on. It needs to be spent on things that bring an economic return so that the deficit can be paid down in a timely manner.

Deficit spending is really nothing more than a form of borrowing. Unfortunately, too much of the stimulus money was spent on maintaining the binges of Wall Street and other forms of corporate welfare, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This sort of irresponsible borrowing is what has crashed the economy, and the wave of "austerity" sweeping the country and the world is designed to stick the middle and working classes with the bill, now, and far into the future.

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago

I think that's not true.

Even in a service based economy, money circulates.

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago


We go out to eat, and the restaurant makes money, pays their employees, who then shop and spend money at Wal-Mart (for example). Wal-Mart makes money and pays their employees, who then shop and spend money, etc.

Or, if you think of Wal-Mart as not service based, imagine people simply going out to eat, or to bars, etc.

As long as people spend money, it circulates.

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago


I agree that we would be much better off if we hadn't lost so much manufacturing.

And, that stimulus programs would work better if that were the case, and more of the money stayed in this country.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Once it's spent, it's pretty much gone."

It's gone from you, but it doesn't just disappear, as jafs already explained.

"Hard to imagine high speed rail yielding any kingd of return. I would imagine that fairs would at least approximate the price of an airplane ticket. "

The cost of the ticket probably won't be cheap, but high-speed rail is intended for intercity travel, and it would replace air travel, which is quickly becoming economically unfeasible. It would also supplant a good deal of intercity travel by private car.

Its economic return would be precisely the same that intercity travel by car and plane currently provide.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

I don't like the massive trade deficit with China, either. Nor do I like all the unnecessary deficit spending that's used to finance the military-industrial complex and other forms of corporate welfare. If we'd end that, and institute Medicare for all, those two measures alone would allow us to eliminate the national debt within a decade or two.


What sources do you need? If intercity travel has an economic benefit, it really doesn't matter what form it is, does it? And since high-speed rail would be cheaper and more efficient, the return would have to be even greater.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

Amid the din of conservative criticism , strangely absent during the Bush years, comes the call . " We don't believe in investing(spending) on America." Research & Development, Education, Infrastructure, are all a waste of taxpayer funds. For they will not spur economic development . The " Free Market" on the other hand will. Next we will credit the " Free Marketers" for creating the interstate highways, NASA, maybe even the internet. Let the "nattering nabobs of negativity" run on that. Good Luck. Obama and dems will take the optimistic approach. Time to innovate, not stagnate.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

Dude, the Bush years sent us over the economic cliff. Been there. Done that. Now give Obama a chance. He is the President we elected. And that was one big hole the republicans left for him to fill. So try to be patient. Change will not happen overnight. The left and right will ctrique along the way as it should, hopefully with sound reasoning. But one thing is obvious , maybe not to you, but to me. We are better off now than even two years ago. And I expect most voters will realize the same come 2012. Cheers!

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

Bozo on the bus was right about defict spending.

" good money after bad"? So bombs are a better investment than bricks? You seem to know "fuzzy thinking" well.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

The last ten years really doesn't leave a credible leg to stand on for the republicans. Best to wrestle Tea Party control from the establishment GOP before having any credibility. Otherwise it is sound and fury signifying nothing. Likewise, congress needs to repeal their own government provided healthcare along with everyone else's to not appear hypocritical. Good Luck.

Kendall Simmons 7 years, 1 month ago

I found it interesting to read that only 4 Senators attended the Tea Party caucus Thursday. And that, in the House, representatives are backing away from the House Tea Party caucus.

That on top of the fact that 70% of T.P. candidates actually lost in the elections...well, I don't know how much continuing influence the tea party will have.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

I bought a suit to interview in when I was a new graduate. Spent money I didn't have and got a job. Come to think of it, I went in to some debt to get my education too. That investment was pretty good. Bought my cars on credit for a while and am glad I did, they got me to my work and allowed me to develop a career. Bought land and a house on credit. Sure was an improvement over some of the rental dumps I lived in in Lawrence. My employer uses debt to finance our operations and I am sure glad they do, it allows them to take the sorts of careful risks that are needed to innovate and prosper. I use an AmEx credit card almost every day and pay in full every month. Sure do enjoy the rewards I get.

No, BAA, prudent investment has been a pretty good course for me in my life.

Of course, I never financed invasions of foreign countries on debt, or prescription drug giveaways, or never bought military hardware I didn't need on credit, but I do know a criminal and political party who did.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

It is simply not true that the $3T spent by the government has not, and will not have, a result.

If given the choice between spending $1M to build a bomb to dentonate in the mountains of Pakistan, or spending $1M on a jobs program for out of work Americans to engage in public works (say cleaning a polluted river, or improving existing roadways, or building high speed rail lines, etc.,) I'd prefer that our spending priorities be shifted from wasteful and destructive military spending to productive and beneficial domestic infrastructure spending

Boosh 7 years, 1 month ago

Hey Agnostick, whatever could of happened to matthewlyons/arminius? He doesn't seem to be around anymore:)

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

Pennies cost 4-5 times more to manufacture than they are worth. Ironic isn't it? Some spending cuts, some increases in revenue seems to be the answer. IMHO. Lets eliminate the penny for starters.

camper 7 years, 1 month ago

"The word “entitlements” was absent from his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address" Most politicians do this because it is politically incorrect to say you want to address social security and medicare/medicaid. From a 2009 pie chart of the government budget:

Social Security - 20%, 678 Billion Medicare/Medicaid - 19% 676 Billion Defense - 23% 782 Billion TARP - 4% 151 Billion Interest 5% 187 Billion Discretionary 12% 437 Billion Other Mandatory 17% 607 Billion

Welfare assistance is included in other mandatory and it is a large # ($191 Billion or 5% of the budget). I say large so as not to minimize it, but there are much larger elephants in the room.

overthemoon 7 years, 1 month ago

Any list like this that does not take revenue into account is misleading. For instance TARP monies are LOANS...to be paid back with interest.

It is also not mentioned that the deficit was REDUCED over the past two years...very small amount but it was not growing. Projections for the coming year show an increase...due to the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy and the resulting loss of revenue. Thank you Republicans for causing the deficit reduction to be reversed.

sr80 7 years, 1 month ago

winning or losing the economy or the election isn't going to matter to pres. obama. he's got it made for the rest of his life.look at clinton.enough said.

camper 7 years, 1 month ago

Earmarks seem insignifigant, but they really may not be when you add them up. They are small slices of the pie that are more or less favors granted. Ethanol is a good example. Most studies say that this is a poor energy strategy for relevant reason. Diverting corn production to energy raises food prices and paradoxically consumes more fossil fuels (and chemicals) to produce. A miniscule segment of producers support these subsidies, and because it is small, it goes thru. Politicians favor it because much of the support comes from Iowa. And Iowa is one of the 1st states on the primary. Even congressional politicians who vote against this, adopt it when they step into the election process (like Bradford I think).

But for example, there are many examples out there just like ethanol. Ethanol politics is not right wing or left wing so this is not cherry picking

For the record, President Obama supports ethanol subsidies, while to his credit, McCain does not.

Liberty275 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe obama can innovate a machine to print money faster.

MyName 7 years, 1 month ago

And in other news: Worthless Conservative Columnist Unmoved by Successes. Film at 11.

jonas_opines 7 years, 1 month ago

Meh. It's only an unmoved disregard if you don't agree. When it's something that you also believe, then it's called Taking a Principled Stand or Sticking By Your Guns.

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