President Obama’s State of the Union address set the stall for the November election and confirmed, if any confirmation was necessary, his socialist credentials.
Of course the word ‘socialist’ is seldom used in the US, and then only to describe Europeans. Americans are never socialist; they are ‘liberal’, a misnomer if I ever heard one. A US liberal is someone who believes that the big state should increase its power at the expense of the small individual, which is about as illiberal as one can get this side of concentration camps (actually, our LibDems are liberal in exactly the same sense — something to ponder there).
Yet even when an American ‘liberal’ himself insists he’s actually a socialist, he’ll still be called a liberal by everyone else. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote a whole book explaining why he was proud to be a socialist, but every review still described him as a liberal.
At the heart of such a liberal’s understanding of economics lies egalitarianism, which for reasons of subterfuge masquerades as ‘fairness’. This Obama illustrated by using the word ‘fair’ three times in the same ungrammatical sentence (everyone should do his ‘fair share’, Mr President, not their — laws of grammar shouldn’t be repealed for the sake of political correctness) and by calling for an ‘economy that works for everyone’.
Whenever this abortion of an idea is put into practice anywhere in the world, we find out the hard way that an attempt to create an economy that works for everyone only ever succeeds in creating an economy that works for no one. Fair, as defined in this way, is most unfair. But never mind the thought; it’s the word that counts.
A sure way of putting clamps on an economy is to overtax the rich, thus trying to equalise down (the only possible direction). That’s precisely what Obama wants: ‘if you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.’ What if you reinvest $900,000 into your job-creating business? Do you still pay 30 percent on a million? But then you’ll simply take those jobs elsewhere, which would be a shame in a country where over 13 million people are officially unemployed already, and God only knows how many more unofficially.
In the USA over 50 percent of all taxes are paid by the wealthiest three percent of households; 90 percent are paid by the wealthiest 10 percent — how much fairer does Obama want to get? And how much more damage is he prepared to do in the name of this pseudo-fairness?
On his watch the US government debt has increased by 50 percent, from $10.6 to $15.2 trillion, dwarfing in per capita terms our own mere £1 trillion and a bit, though the gap is closing. This millstone around the economy’s neck will continue to pull it down, no matter how good other indicators seem to look.
Obama’s address exudes self-confidence, which belies his approval rating of less than 50 percent. But then he’ll probably win the next election anyway, considering the sideshow that the Republican primaries are turning out to be. Obama will continue to downplay the debt and the unemployment, while overplaying those indicators that are edging northwards. At the same time, whether the Republican contender will be Romney or Gingrich, Obama has a clear line of personal attack.
With Romney, it’ll be his taxes first and his Mormon religion second. In fact, it was probably Romney’s revelation that he pays taxes at only 13-odd percent that made Obama rediscover his affection for fairness. Never mind that Romney pays millions of tax-deductible dollars to charities, which lowers his taxable income. To a socialist, charity is the state’s business (hence the $15.2 trillion of government debt), whereas demagogic populism is the domain of a presidential candidate. If you want to be charitable, Mr Romney, give money to the government, not the needy.
And with Mormonism, as November draws nearer, Romney will be made to come clean on whether he does share some of the Mormons’ more bizarre beliefs, such as only Anglophone people being saved (on a remote planet) or Jesus having already come to America. If he confirms he shares such beliefs, American evangelical fundamentalists will cut him to shreds, and they’ll get a lot of secular helpers. If he repudiates the views he is known to hold, he’ll be accused of hypocrisy. Damned if he does; damned if he doesn’t.
With Gingrich, his colourful sexual past will make even an easier target: Americans expect their presidents to be monastically pristine. Someone like Mitterrand or Berlusconi or even our own Paddy Ashdown wouldn’t be elected proverbial dog catcher there — unless the press were willing to hush a few indiscretions down, as it did with JFK. Republicans, however, tend not to receive the same compassionate understanding in the predominantly ‘liberal’ press.
Neither Romney nor Gingrich gives one much grounds for optimism. It’s not immediately clear how either will make a better president than old Dubya, who said all the right things while campaigning and then turned out rather disastrous in office. And yet either man would be preferable to a second term of an unabashedly socialist president.
If Obama managed to add 50 percent to the already staggering public debt while keeping an eye on possible reelection, just imagine what he’ll do when he has nothing to lose. The 2008 crisis in the US economy brought the global economy to the brink of disaster — a repeat performance could push it over the edge. And make no mistake about it: the main culprit in the ongoing crisis is governments wasting billions to promote ‘fairness’.
If Obama doesn’t feel he even has to disguise his socialist, which is to say big-spending and high-taxing, intentions, the reality will be worse. Since the US hugely affects the whole world, this kind of reality doesn’t bear thinking about.