Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama's Second Term Agenda

President Obama made things pretty clear to America in his second inaugural speech.

First, the president is foursquare behind the entitlements.
The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.  (Applause.)  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.  (Applause.)
Nothing there about what we are actually going to do about the spiraling maelstrom of entitlement-fueled debt.

Then the president committed himself to battling climate change.
 We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  (Applause.)  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.  
Not a whisper about the fact that the science is broken and the crony capitalists are cleaning up.

Finally, the president celebrated lefty activism.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall...
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  (Applause.)  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law  –- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  (Applause.)  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  (Applause.)  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity -- (applause) -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  (Applause.)   Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.  
Yes.  The non-stop liberal legislation of the past 50 years is merely the start.  We've got to chuck the women, the gays, the immigrants, the gun controllers under the chin.  There is still so much to do!

Back in 2009 I was really afraid.  I was afraid that the Democrats would capitalize on their political opportunity and move towards the center and co-opt the moderates and nail down a 30-year political majority coalition.  They might have oriented economic policy to appeal to the enterprising as well as to their base.  They might have done Obamacare to entice some Republicans into the deal.  They might have pushed through the Keystone pipeline.

But they didn't.  Instead, as Ron Brownstein has written, Obama and his people think they can now win elections just with their "coalition of the ascendant:" minorities, youth, and women, and without the old white centrists.

Maybe that strategy could work if it really delivered in economic prosperity.  But instead, with the huge costs coming up for Obamacare and the entitlements, we are going to see big-time economic stresses.

Obama is telling us that he proposes to do nothing about the government finances, not until disaster is staring us in the face.  In this, of course, he is a realist.  The entitlement beneficiaries--I am talking about you and me--are not going to agree to cuts until the crisis is upon us.  When it comes, we are going to see some kind of sovereign default: dollar inflation, debt "rescheduling", perhaps confiscation.  And we will see "cuts" in Medicare and Social Security, at least for the 401k classes who don't really "need" assistance.

It's all such a shame.  I just hope that what comes out at the other end is a better America and a better world.  Because otherwise the "coalition of the ascendant" is going to be royally screwed.

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