The Coming Battle of Ideologies
Asked to explain the growth of our business, my colleagues and I had a ready answer: "Success results from the confluence of preparation and opportunity. You cannot succeed without both." Our enterprise succeeded because, when an opportunity came, we were prepared to make the most of it.
Our success story represents but one anecdotal example in over 250 years of American free enterprise based on an ideology of individual freedom with limited government interference. However, since his election, Barack Obama has engineered another success story based on implementing Marxist ideology of forced wealth redistribution and central government control which now clearly shows potential to overwhelm private enterprise as we know it. And the American people -- like it or not -- will face a defining choice between the two ideologies this November.
While I'm sure the concept of success as a confluence of preparation and opportunity does not represent some grand new thought, it does lie at the heart of "The American Dream." Preparation is key -- be it from school, parental guidance, self-generated study, or on-the-job training -- because it sets one's mind to recognize an opportunity, and it steels resolve to work toward making the most of that opportunity.
The same concept of success applies to Barack Obama and far-left elements of the today's Democratic Party. The events of the last 44 months are no accident. The state of the current economy does not represent the unintended consequence of a well-intentioned leader "in over his head."
For over 70 years, leftists have been preparing to destroy free-enterprise capitalism and establish a statist-controlled Marxist society. Barack Obama has been preparing all of his life to advance that agenda. From his education and indoctrination by his mother and maternal grandparents; the lessons of uncompromising communism from his mentor, Frank Marshal Davis; a 20-year period spent under the guidance of Jeremiah Wright's version of Black Liberation Theology; and close association with unrepentant socialists, Barack Obama became steeped in "afrocentric Marxism," the racially motivated redistribution of wealth from the white power class to the poor black class -- essentially racial reparations disguised as achieving long-denied social justice. His years in college, post-graduate community agitation, and Chicago-style politics in the Illinois senate provided experience in using the levers of politics and government to achieve redistributionist goals.
Obama takes baby-steps when he has to, but in a favorable legislative environment, Obama's redistributionist impulses will have free rein, and a budget-busting war on poverty (not to mention entitlement spending) will surely rise again.
Clearly, the newly elected President Obama had a lifetime of preparation. All he needed for implementing his political policies was the opportunity. That, of course, came with the housing and banking crisis in 2008 as the presidential election approached. Following the inauguration of Barack Obama, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel gave the country fair warning.
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
And seize the opportunity they did. Aided by nearly two years of unstoppable Democrat voting majorities in the House and Senate, Obama and his allies went to work.
Following implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), with government purchase of equity interests in several banks, General Motors, and Chrysler, came the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The so-called "stimulus" bill distributed $840 billion across the country, including direct money transfers and tax credits to low-income individuals, to states to retain public sector employees, and to fund approved "alternate energy" endeavors -- many of which have since been lost to bankruptcy.
Even more troubling was that ARRA became a major basis of the 2009-2010 federal appropriations spending -- setting the "baseline" for continued federal discretionary funding each year. Refusal by the Democrat-controlled Senate to produce any subsequent federal budget has enshrined continuation of "stimulus" spending levels via simple budget resolutions ever since, creating a giant, multi-year slush fund to promote Obama's agenda, increase welfare spending, and reward supporters.
Again, using the opportunity afforded by unstoppable vote majorities in the House and Senate came the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- so-called ObamaCare -- a Democrat dream in preparation for decades. While the legislative timeline is far too extensive to cover here, the final product resulted from cynical exploitation of legislative process, political infighting, and promises soon broken. Signed into law in March 2010, the legislation offers financial incentives to eventually abandon private-sector insurance in favor of a government-administered single-payer system to control dispensation of health care.
Finally, the Obama administration seized upon a landmark 1984 case, Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., in which the Supreme Court held that arguments related to government policy should be settled by legislators and administrators, not judges. As such, great deference should be accorded administrators (in this court case, the EPA) to reconcile and promulgate policy with the full effect of law when shown to be operating within the general confines of a statute passed by Congress.
Pushing this interpretation to previously untested limits, the Obama administration has, by one estimate, hired over 200,000 people to write and enforce top-down government control of individuals and businesses, with the EPA often cited as the greatest abuser. House Speaker John Boehner reports that the administration currently has 3,118 regulations in the pipeline, 167 of which will have a major impact on the economy -- on top of the 1,010 regulations already completed, including 45 with major impacts. Nearly 30 bills related to job creation passed by the House, with most intended to curb excessive regulation, remain stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate while President Obama steadfastly refuses to call for them to be brought forward for a vote.
Can anyone doubt that Barack Obama has used his lifetime of preparation and unprecedented opportunity to succeed in advancing his agenda? But what has the Obama success story meant for our nation?
Unemployment among those looking for work has remained above 8 percent for longer than any period since the Great Depression. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, 45 million people now receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp benefits. A survey conducted by the Associated Press indicates that the official poverty rate for 2011, to be officially announced next month, will definitely rise above 15.1 percent, putting poverty at the highest level since 1965 and erasing all gains from the War on Poverty initiated in the 1960s.
Over 100 million Americans now receive federal welfare. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute reveals that today there are 2.5 workers per Medicaid recipient and just 1.2 private-sector workers per 1 person on welfare or working for government. The nation has just 1.65 employed persons in the private sector per 1 person on welfare assistance.
These numbers clearly reveal the Obama plan for America. By making no serious effort to grow the private-sector economy in the midst of a serious recession, he seeks to get as many people as possible relying on government welfare to ease the pain. To pay for this redistribution of wealth, he seeks to raise taxes on all successful individuals and businesses. How ominous now are the words of an Obama July speech in Oakland?
Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked. That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
In an earlier AT article, I proposed that the coming election would be a referendum on clashing worldviews involving the conflict between freedom for individual wealth creation at all economic levels against government-enforced wealth redistribution. The depressed state of the nation's economy would play a role, to be sure, but only as a means of providing evidence that the Obama view doesn't work.
Since that article, battle lines have sharpened. In his now infamous remarks in Roanoke, VA on July 13, Obama demeaned the private enterprise model:
[I]f you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own.
Aside from the mocking tone, steeped in ridicule and delivered to an applauding audience chanting "yes" or "that's right" to nearly every sentence, the difference in ideology is stark.
Here is the rallying cry for the collective. Here is the agitating community organizer seeking to diminish the power of the prepared individual who seizes an opportunity. Instead, says the agitator, any success and its rewards also belong to those who played no direct role leading to "an America in which prosperity is shared." In the same Roanoke speech came this challenge:
In some ways, the stakes are even bigger now than they were in 2008, because what's at stake is not just two people or two political parties. What's at stake is a decision between two fundamentally different views about where we take the country right now.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has signaled with his choice of Paul Ryan for a running mate that he intends to defend the free-enterprise model as the solution for the nation's malaise. Romney offers this rebuttal to Obama:
The idea that somehow making a business profitable is different than helping people is really a foreign idea. Because the whole American free enterprise system is associated with creating success, making businesses profitable. That means they can hire more people and grow.
The coming debate of clashing ideologies will intensify in the days ahead. The stakes are high. Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman, an outspoken advocate of the welfare state at the heart of Obama's ideology, sees the situation clearly:
We know what we need to do - make the rich pay their fair share of running the country, raise the minimum wage, provide health care and a decent safety net, and the like. But realistically, the immediate challenge is keeping what we have.
A surefire politics of change would necessarily involve getting people in the middle - from the 30th to the 70th percentile - to see their own economic self-interest. If they vote in their own self-interest, they'll elect people who are likely to be more aligned with people with lower incomes as well as with them. As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than with those on the bottom, we are doomed.
Just days before his election, Obama promised to "transform America." It's now clear what he intended. Will enough voters want a return to self-reliance with freedom or accept life as determined by their welfare payments and entitlements?
Two ideologies locked in defining conflict affecting the nation's future -- which will prevail?
Mr. McLaughlin retired as vice president of a company producing special-purpose military communications equipment. He lives in California and may be reached at j-c-mcl @nccn.net.