Obama's Shrinking Unit of Account
What Bill Clinton did for fidelity, Barack Obama has done for honesty and is now doing for responsibility. Using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), I'll explain.
Unit of account is a GAAP concept that refers to an entity for which results can be clearly distinguished and accountability logically required. It might be an operating segment, a reporting unit, the whole company, or all of the above. Whether a company comprises one unit of account or several, in the business world, executive management is responsible for them all.
This concept of a large unit of account and broad responsibility for senior executives (with its implications for both credit and blame) is the standard Michelle Obama had in mind when she said, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country." She linked her husband's achievement with the entire country -- a big unit of account. The Japanese would agree with this standard. From hara-kiri to the more modern resignation in disgrace, they have a broad view of responsibility.
Unfortunately, ever since candidate Obama promised receding oceans (a global unit of account) and the new first lady expressed her pride (a national unit of account), the president's actual unit of account has been shrinking.
This shrinkage is highly correlated with Obama's mistakes and has been enabled by the press. For instance, once it was clear that the president was making no headway with the economy and employment, the nation-Obama linkage had to be broken and the president's unit of account downsized.
Shrinkage enablers like Paul Krugman reported for duty and promptly detached we the people, and our economic condition, from the "administration" (by way of Bush-blaming). This has been standard operating procedure for the last four and one-half years. The move from a big unit of account to "administration," an entity separate and apart from the nation and the country, indicated that we were no longer in this together.
You may or may not have noticed, but "administration" will no longer do. The problem is that the State, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Treasury Departments, along with the CIA, are part of the administration -- and they now own the IRS, Benghazi, press wiretapping, and HHS private funds solicitation scandals. And so, more shrinkage was required. "Administration" became "White House" or "Obama campaign," as in, "Pfeiffer said no one at the White House was aware of the situation at the IRS" or Ezra Klein's "There continues to be no evidence that the targeting was directed by agency higher-ups, much less anyone related to the Obama campaign."
Except, due to more recent developments, neither "White House" nor "Obama campaign" now suffices. You see, senior White House staff members were aware of the IRS scandal (we are still waiting to learn about senior staff knowledge and participation in the other scandals). And so, more shrinkage was required. "White House" has become "senior staff other than the President."
"It was the judgment of counsel this is not a matter she should convey to the president," Carney said. "Her opinion that this is not the kind of thing that requires notification to the president."
Things have really changed. The president's unit of account is very small now -- almost undetectable. He could, however, go one step farther and invoke Dualism. He could claim a complete mind-body separation and avail himself of the defense that although he participated in the various scandals, he is innocent. Don't laugh. It's a Gnostic move, but one already in use.
Consider Lois Lerner. Senior IRS official Lerner (in Ezra Klein's words, a "higher-up") recently invoked the separate mind-body defense. She signed the letters targeting conservative groups and claimed both that she had done nothing wrong and that targeting was the work of rogue agents. Likewise, Attorney General Holder signed the warrant naming Fox journalist James Rosen a criminal "co-conspirator" and is very concerned that the investigations could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. For other examples of the Dualism defense, see Charlie Rangel's tax planning, shovel-ready jobs, Solyndra, and "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
The Lerner, Pfeiffer, Holder, and, by implication, Obama scandal responses have thus far been Gnostic and haughty, undoubtedly self-righteously buttressed by the belief that ends justify means. But these responses also pull back the curtain on the irreconcilable contradiction of modern liberalism, that being an unshakeable faith in the manageability of big government and a demand for non-accountability (usually justified by self-reported good intent).
So GAAP accounting, of all things, shows us that the rest of us are held to and generally abide by significantly higher standards than those of the Obama administration, Obama White House, Obama campaign, Obama senior staff, Obama body, and Obama mind. Said differently, we have bigger units of account.
This rejection of standards is at the core of the modern liberal project, and therefore Barack Obama, with his thoroughly diminished unit of account, is the quintessential liberal man. Although by invoking Dualism the president might eliminate his unit of account altogether, such a move is a bad one. A disappearing unit of account is a symptom of a lack of courage and fortitude. It is neither virtuous nor responsible, and it corresponds to the loss of manhood.
Plus, such a double standard is unacceptable because, despite elite vanity, we are all still humans of the same class and thus must be held to the same standards. Of course, the majority of the electorate may or may not see it that way. A virtuous electorate would demand accountability, but a liberal electorate would shrug, which brings me back to the start.
What Bill Clinton did for fidelity, Barack Obama has done for honesty and is now doing for responsibility. The key to the liberal project is to persuade a majority of voters to join the race to the bottom by adopting similarly unchaste, dishonest, and irresponsible lives -- and by shrugging. Therefore, at the root of the scandals and our responses thereto is the existential question, "Who are we?"
Many of us are hopeful, but frightened, about the answer to that question. Only time will tell.