Robin From the Hood
Yes, we all want what the president wants: a better job market, a better economy, a stronger middle class, a better educational system. In short a better, fairer way to a robust system in which we all get our just deserts. Yes, we want the American way to be the fair-shot-fair-share way. Boilerplate stuff Obama can make sound like profound insights, gussied up in the patois of left-wing university-speak.
But make no mistake about it. The president is a man with a mission. He is the champion of social justice. This is hardly a secret. Obama has proclaimed as much many times. For example, in his recent Townhall article (3/2/13), Bill O'Reilly writes:
Above all, the president is a social justice man... It must be hard for the president to cozy up to people who spend $20,000 on a weekend vacation after his experience in the South Side of Chicago. True compassion for the underprivileged must extend further than celebrity fundraisers at Spago, and the president knows it... He has seized [ upon the greed and excesses of capitalism] to fund his dream of a level playing field by demanding the wealthy pay "their fair share." The president is going to take as much money from the affluent as he can before he leaves office.
The other side of the coin is that, however noble the cause of social justice and however admirable the goal of leveling the playing field, his skill set is limited to his mission or vision. Obama is limited to the skill set he developed as a community organizer in pursuit of social justice and he has indeed touted that as a qualification to be president.
Byron York has an excellent piece of investigative reporting on Obama's years as a community organizer in National Review. York describes the work of a community organizer as follows,
Perhaps the simplest way to describe community organizing is to say it is the practice of identifying a specific aggrieved population, say unemployed steelworkers, or itinerant fruit-pickers, or residents of a particularly bad neighborhood, and agitating them until they become so upset about their condition that they take collective action to put pressure on local, state, or federal officials to fix the problem, often by giving the affected group money. Organizers like to call that "direct action."
He also notes that Obama cites his work as a community organizer as being a qualifying experience for being president,
Barack Obama often cites his time as a community organizer here in Chicago as one of the experiences that qualify him to hold the nation's highest office. "I can bring this country together," he said in a debate last February. "I have a track record, starting from the days I moved to Chicago as a community organizer."
Obama worked as a community organizer from 1985 to 1988, after graduating from Columbia ('83), and then eventually went on to Harvard ('89). After Harvard, Obama spent four plus years (1995-1999) as founding chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). The challenge was to "remake" the public schools of Chicago. Here is an account of his record in which he basically used the same MO as he did as a community organizer. Identify a problem, only this time instead of hustling money from government agencies he used Annenberg money to fix it. Repeat as needed. The results were not impressive.
Now the president has the ultimate grant machine to play with as champion of social justice and community organizer of the United States -- the U.S. Treasury. But he still identifies the problems facing the economic and social life of U.S. citizens (or should I say denizens) through the fair-shot-fair-share-social-justice lens of the community organizer.
Let me then summarize the community organizer modus operandi (CO-MO). Identify a cohort of citizenry which is undergoing economic hardship and faces a future with bleak prospects. Cast the problem as a raw deal problem in which the system was rigged against the cohort (by villains if possible). Hustle conscience money from private foundations (Annenberg Foundation) and especially government agencies to redress the situation by providing (key word) better housing, better education and greater opportunity.
Keeping the CO-MO in mind and looking past the boilerplate stuff in the last SOTU address about jobs, the debt, and the middle class and instead looking at the plans that lie ahead as laid out by the presidential website (whitehouse.gov) we find there are listed three principle problems facing the nation which will actually be addressed.
(1) To Provide High-Quality Early Education for All Children
(2) To Ensure Hard Work Leads to a Decent Living
(3) To Revitalize American Manufacturing
Notice that there is no mention of the national debt or cutting back on government spending.
Now let me single out some of the most specific, directly implemental proposals in (1)-(3).
Provide all low and moderate income four-year old children with high quality preschool... the U.S. Department of Education would allocate dollars to states...
Provide federal programs and resources to focus intensely on 20 communities hardest hit by the recession.
Provide training for American workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs.
End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
Reward hard work by raising the minimum wage.
The first three involve additional government spending and programs. Raising the minimum wage is a fairness imperative. Anyone who works hard deserves a "decent living." And ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas is a punishment imperative for bad behavior. None of them are motivated by purely economic considerations or realities. Conversely, all are prime examples of the CO-MO.
Not mentioned is a proposal for a network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes at a cost of $1 billion. One was set up in Ohio last year, and the plans are to launch 3 more by executive order and the president wants Congress to fund an additional eleven. The institutes are "partnerships" of government, business, and local colleges that will "develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities." While this may seem to be an economic initiative, it involves pumping government money into businesses willing to situate in economically depressed areas.
Moreover, there are a myriad of other social justice initiatives being undertaken by the Obama administration not mentioned above. One eyebrow raising initiative is "encouraging" banks to make subprime loans to unqualified applicants from whatever cohort the administration sees as not getting a fair shake. Even after the sub-prime debacle of 2008 the president, along with Lew and company, are at it again. Never mind the consequences the first time around. It was the social justice thing to do to force banks to make subprime loans. The evil Wall Street securitization schemes mucked it up. It was the right thing to do then and it is right now.
Except for the last case, I have deliberately avoided bringing up the coercive tactics used by ACORN and other social justice groups involved in many social justice initiatives associated with the work of the community organizer.. So while it is no intent here to criticize the objectives and intent of the CO-MO, at the same time this is not to gloss over the strong-arm, Mafia-like tactics used to force their implementation.
The adage that if one's only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail is most apt here. Obama's skill set is that of the community organizer. Confronted with the issues facing the nation, from whatever realm, from economic to educational and even military (the military needs more gays and women), Obama will always construe those problems as at root social justice problems. Unfortunately, reviving economic growth and redressing the problems of the nation's balance sheet is not a function of rooting out the evil gremlins that are mucking up the system. Wisdom and stupidity are no more derivative of good and evil than double-entry bookkeeping is at the root of the nations' debt problem. Meanwhile, we can expect the president to mount his social justice steed and slay the evil dragons of injustice while economic realities close in on the flanks and choke of the economic health of the nation.
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