Phony, make nice talk and extending hands across a partisan divide too fractured to be crossed are not going to fix the mess Barack Obama has created. Years of inaction, waffling, and neglected policy decisions have done too much damage.
Two simple questions, two impossible policy decisions
Everyone is talking about a new start now that Congress has shifted to the right. Post-election talk is easy. Work is hard. Before we can even think about putting this country back on course we need to answer two simple questions. Then we need to make hard policy decisions based on our answers. Simple enough, right? Wrong.
Policy decision 1: what is the point of government spending?
This is a tough one after last week’s election. We’re still not sure what the people want. They don’t want Democrats in office, but we have no reason to think they want Republicans, either (see: Consent of the Governed. Why Did We Withdraw It?).
We know what Obama wants. Despite offering compromise to his opponents as he prepares to enter political exile, when the president talks about a “new course forward”¹ the only thing new is that his party no longer has any clout. Otherwise, his new course sounds just like the old one:
So I plan on spending every moment of the next two-plus years doing my job the best I can to keep this country safe and to make sure that more Americans share in its prosperity.²
That pipe dream is not all he has up his sleeve. The president continues to insist that he will act on his own on immigration, a move that may turn Obama into a political martyr. Is government really the president’s private playground, a place for him to try out his views on social engineering no matter what the cost to taxpayers? Government spending was never meant to redistribute our money because Washington knows best how to run our lives.
Harry Reid now claims that voters “want us to work together,”³ the best he can hope for after being demoted. Sure, we want members of Congress to work together. They can’t. Policy decisions should be based not on who has the power to reward their supporters, but how little spending government can do and still provide vital services, defense, and the two entitlements Americans are forced to pay for, Social Security and Medicare. Does this sound like something our two warring parties can agree on?
If the purpose of government spending is to make welfare payments, to support illegal immigrants, to pay subsidies to Americans so they can buy government-mandated health insurance, to elevate the bottom to the middle, and to find reasons to punish wealth so we can spend more, then we’re on the right track. This is what we are buying:
… by CBO’s estimates, federal debt held by the public will reach 74 percent of GDP at the end of this fiscal year – more than twice what it was at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950.4
Winners and losers alike say they are on a mission to please the voters. John Boehner assured the country that “Your Priorities Will Be Our Priorities.”5 How will a marginal shift in power accomplish that? It won’t. With no consensus on the purpose of government spending and a president and Democratic minority determined to engage in as much pointless social spending as possible, this economy is not going anywhere.
Policy decision 2: what is America’s place in the world?
You can’t lead the world while you bow your head in shame any more than you can fight an enemy you are determined to respect and tolerate no matter what it does. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t over because the war against Islam, a battle we refuse to admit is taking place, has little to do with any one country.
With Veterans Day around the corner, White House media staff are going out of their way to show how much Mr. Obama supports our troops. His remarks about ending the war in Afghanistan reflect the narrow thinking that guides policy decisions in the war on terror:
For more than 13 years, we have been at war in Afghanistan. Next month, our combat mission will be over, and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end.6
For good or ill, our combat mission was supposed to be ending in Iraq, too. Sending 1,500 military personnel back to that country and calling them advisers instead of combat troops is a sleight of hand that avoids admitting the disaster created by Obama’s less than responsible withdrawal. We’re not done in Iraq. With ISIS stealing the show, we may never be.
When Obama decided to take military action against ISIS he talked of America leading the world, but since he took office the world has been leading us around by the nose. The essence of leadership, that characteristic that gives your words the force of action, is nonexistent. That’s the difference between what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Chinese harassing U.S. air force jets, Iran continuing down its nuclear path, North Korea developing ICBM capability, Russia flexing its muscle, and the Middle East turning into a terrorist free for all while we sit back, watch, shake our heads, and try to find reasons to placate and even defend our enemies (see: Countries That Hate America Could Be Our Best Friends).
America can only have one place in the world. We used to lead it. That means we can never back down. Can Republicans force policy decisions to put us back on top? Let’s see how they handle Obama’s next executive order first.