When Barack Obama sold taxpayers the Recovery Act in 2009 budget deficits from recovery spending were expected to soar to nearly $800 billion.¹ The spending came with lofty ambitions, so lofty that the hype made the expense sound worthwhile:
This Act is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, save and create millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so that our country can thrive in the 21st century.²
If we believe White House media releases and campaign trail promises America is on the brink, threatened with losing her edge to global competition infinitely more prepared to meet the challenges of the future. Republicans refuse to agree with the president that thriving in the 21st century is all that matters:
When you’ve got the top Republican saying his number-one priority isn’t creating more jobs, isn’t solving the health care problems, isn’t making sure that we’re competitive in the 21st century, but is to beat me, then you know things aren’t on the level.³
The Recovery Act had a lot less to do with putting America back to work than it did with forcing the same pro-union spending package that has been endlessly reinvented and resold to taxpayers. The bill laid the groundwork for the Obama vision for big government America by:
… modernizing our health care, improving our schools, modernizing our infrastructure, and investing in the clean energy technologies of the future.4
Hundreds of billions failed to do the trick. The same goals in different guises keep showing up again and again. Trying to sell us the ill-fated American Jobs Act, the president told us his bill’s infrastructure spending was a winner with big labor:
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue stated: “With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO standing together to support job creation, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will also join together to build America’s infrastructure.” (January 26, 2011).5
This is how Washington deceives us. When dangling hope in front of Americans damaged by bad economic policy fails, shame is the fallback. While explaining why he is not engaging in class warfare the president engaged in class warfare, blaming the GOP and the well-to-do for America’s decrepit condition:
We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.6
The sales pitch has been nonstop even while Recovery Act spending came and went, leaving us with December’s 8.5% unemployment and 5.6 million long-term jobless. When all else failed, the White House decided that illegal immigrants would secure our place in the 21st century (see: U.S. Needs Educated Illegals), and offered to send administration representatives to communities that agreed to host immigration roundtables (see: Are Obama’s Amnesty Organizers Coming to Your Neighborhood?). Immigration reform has always been about securing America’s future because rewarding illegal behavior sells poorly in Middle America (see: Will New Amnesty Scheme Sell in the Heartland?).
Citizenship and Immigration Services has come up with a new rule to cut the time it takes illegals to wait for extreme hardship waivers when they leave the U.S. to apply for legal status. The change is not about rewarding illegal immigrants who avoid detection the longest. Instead, it is about family unity and making our pitifully dysfunctional government more efficient:
Not only will this proposal further the Administration’s commitment to family unity, but the change would improve government efficiency by increasing the predictability and consistency of the application process.7
Government efficiency does not end with improving the lives of illegal immigrants. Last week brought us the Consolidation Authority Act. You know we are in trouble when you hear sweeping statements like:
The President will also lay out his first proposed use of that authority: consolidating six agencies into one more efficient department to promote competitiveness, exports and American business. The President knows this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. The President’s proposed reorganization would help small businesses grow and, in doing so, would help get more Americans back to work.8
Federal efficiency has been added to the list of 21st century necessities. The president claims that:
We’re living in a 21st century economy with a 20th century bureaucracy. Our economy has fundamentally changed but the government has not. The needs of our citizens have fundamentally changed but their government has not. Instead, the government has grown only more complex.9
No surprise that Mr. Obama refuses to take credit for making government more complex, or that this reorganization is about government efficiency, a laughable contradiction in terms. No surprise, either, that this is also about the same failed goals from three years ago, when Americans were sold the Recovery Act.
Once again it all boils down to jobs, small business, and the middle class. If the president had delivered on promises made to justify the spending binge back in February 2009 we would not still be talking about putting the unemployed back to work, or saving the middle class. We might even have time to think about some realistic, less agenda-driven ways to thrive in the 21st century.