President Obama Is The Same Person That We Elected in 2008

This article was originally written during February 2011 while the media was claiming that the President was mainstream.

On a daily basis much of the media tells us that the President is moving toward the political center. They feel he is emulating President Clinton and will triangulate. This is quite perplexing to the outside observer since they are different personalities. President Clinton had no ideological compass, while President Obama clearly holds strong progressive views. Perhaps the most striking comment made by the President on Sunday during his interview with Bill O’Reilly was his refusal to concede a move toward the center in recent months. He stated that he is the same person that the nation elected two years ago. This reiterates the statement made by Valerie Jarrett recently. So what is going on? The President has correctly stated the situation. Will the press stop trying the help him get re-elected by putting the most favorable light on his actions?
President Clinton held no true ideology, while being a liberal. Obama is a socialist and is trying to do a head fake as commonly used in basketball. A look at many issues reveals his concern for social justice and economic reform. His programs are not capitalist in orientation. While he claims an interest in small business protection and encouragement, the policies demonstrate antagonism. How can you share the wealth without taking it from those with it?
Obama rushed to pass the Stimulus Plan in March of 2009. He rushed to get the Health Care Reform bill to Congress. The Congress used questionable methods to pass the reconciled legislation in April 2010. He had no trouble with the procedures and signed the legislation. The President insisted on rushing the Nuclear Reduction Treaty with Russia through the Senate during the lame duck session of the 111th Congress. The President in conjunction with the overwhelmingly liberal and large Democratic majority Congress succeeded in passing Investment and Banking Reform legislation. The large number of new regulations continues the progressive effort to control the business sector.
The President is a master of the head fake. He constantly spins the mid-term election results as a vindication of the need for health care reform with cost control and availability despite pre-existing conditions. But this is not the lesson of the November 2010 elections. Instead, the change in direction demonstrates the electorate’s disapproval of the policies undertaken by the President and the Congress. Nobody can say for certain which policy is at fault, but the lack of job growth, soaring budgetary deficits and less certain future must be considered. The President is the same liberal/socialist who began his career as a community organizer. The political reality of the mid-term elections has forced his hand and style. As a result, the Bush era tax cuts were extended. However, the President negotiated a reduction in Social Security withholding taxes for the employee. This will not help in creating any jobs, since it is not a reduction for the employer. This is his version of the “rope-a-dope” in which he accomplished an increase in spending while transferring income or redistribution of wealth.
The left, though some may challenge him in a primary, has no other option in 2012. The President has sought to remake the Democratic coalition. The primary support comes from the unions and government workers. Seniors have traditionally supported the Democrats due to Social Security and Medicare. However, senior support of Democrats has waned in the past elections as other policies have moved too far to the left for their tastes. As a result, the President has not been a strong supporter of the elderly. Hence, the Social Security and Medicare have not gotten the increases in funding usually supported by Democrats. The President allowed a sacrifice of funding for Medicare to ensure adequate funds for the health care reform bill. Obama did not push for an increase in Social Security funding for inflation. This transfer of money toward the youth, immigrants, and uninsured may derive from the President’s desire for social justice, but also seeks new potential voters. A desire for a comprehensive immigration reform is an attempt to court Hispanic voters.
The President reaches out in public, as he did at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speech, but there are no changes in policy. In the speech the President offered to reduce business regulations, but failed to mention the great number his legislation added. Obama promised to “share the wealth” in 2008, but how does this create jobs? It does not. Any transfer of wealth from individuals will necessarily cost jobs, but that is the progressive approach to government. In one week the administration has unveiled several more programs aimed at government growth. On Tuesday a program to bail out states that borrowed money for unemployment insurance payments was proposed. This increase in costs for employers will not result in more private sector jobs. On Wednesday, the Vice President unveiled a program to spend $53 billion to expand rail service. Again, government solutions are offered rather than private sector ones. Our President is correct that he has not changed. Is this not socialism?
Members of the TSA are seeking unionization. The administration is behind this effort. Again, the policies are supportive of organized labor. The administration still wants to see the union “card check” legislation passed. The President still wants to see the petroleum industry limited. The EPA is still considering regulating the carbon-emitting industries. The administration has not obeyed the federal court ruling concerning the moratorium on deep water drilling. The President has chosen to ignore the rulings by federal judges against the health care reform bill. He has offered a small correction by eliminating the tax 1099 reporting requirement. This is hardly compromise.
A willing group of legislators may see a move toward the center, but this is a mistake. Watch the actions of the administration and do not let the words fool you. The President has offered a budgetary spending reduction of $600 billion over ten years, but is short on specifics. The only move toward the center can be found in style. The President is the same person the country elected two years ago. Believe him!


The Two Political Sides Could Not Be More Different: The Socialist Left Versus The Capitalist Right

This was originally written in July 2011 as the Congress and the President agreed to raise the debt ceiling and put in place the sequestration that presently contributes to our fiscal cliff dilemma.

As the debate over the budget and the national debt rages, it would be illustrative to understand how different the opposing sides are. Liberals/progressives see the government as the solution to all big problems. The argument given by the liberal/progressive side is that in times of economic downturns the government must inject a stimulus to counter the effect of diminished employment. This is the essence of the Keynesian counter-cyclic theory produced during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Unfortunately, this misses the corollary part of the theory which states that during better times, the government should reduce spending. Therefore, though socialists often enlist Keynesian theory for their support, they miss that he was not a socialist and did not view government as an ever-growing entity. Keynes came to prominence after World War II when he warned against the onerous conditions imposed upon Germany by the Allies, which ultimately lead to the rise of power of Hitler and the Nazis. Few in the media remember that the Nazis were the Nationalist Socialist Party of Germany.
On the other hand, the conservatives/libertarians have developed their own dogma. Though they are closer to the essential Enlightenment era document which established our country, the Constitution, modern realities and Supreme Court rulings have complicated its observation. Most Americans would agree that they support the market principles of capitalism with government safeguards. Yet, conservatives, in the words of President Reagan, see the government as the problem. I would agree with this, but it limits our ability to resolve these issues. One can take Milton Freidman’s views to the extreme and seek individual freedom, at the expense of the national well-being. His “Capitalism and Freedom” sparked my rejection of socialism, which has been surreptitiously incorporated into the basic school curriculum over the past 100 years. However, we cannot undo every aspect of the entitlement culture that has resulted during this time-Social Security, Medicare, Anti-Trust legislation, government regulation of the environment, business, and social life, and the welfare state- because the general public is not ready to abandon all these programs.
Any deal that is reached by the two sides will not address the root problem-spending more than we can afford-while authorizing more debt. The national “AAA” bond rating may not be saved by these compromises. Divided government was the intent of our founders, but it is being used by the administration to continue spending beyond our means. The country must recognize that the only solution resides in growth of the economy in the private sector. If we taxed every one whose income exceeds $250,000 per year at a 100% rate, we only raise $900 billion per year at the expense of all the jobs they create. After all, have you ever gotten a job from a poor person? The only hope for our future is to encourage the private sector. The tentative plan reached on Sunday may not provide enough savings to satisfy the bond markets. (They wanted $4 trillion at Moody’s, while this plan is half that amount.) Of course in all this wrangling, it must be remembered that we are only discussing cuts in the rate of growth in spending that results from zero based budgeting with automatic increases.
The essential American cultural distinction from European nations which dates to our colonial period is the ability of our citizens to own land or property as a guaranteed right versus the grant of use that feudalism allowed previously. Socialists do not see this point as particularly American and do not value the final clause of the Fifth Amendment. This underlies their stark difference with the conservatives. This ownership right encourages entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking that has created much of our national wealth.
Add this philosophical difference to the political difference and you can see a difficult compromise. The Democratic Party has managed coalitions of many different liberal groups (environmentalists, abortion rights advocates, civil rights activists), while the Republican Party is organized around many conservative social, religious, and financial issues. If the cuts are real, then the result will help our future. Unfortunately, the triggers might allow for tax increases or massive military cuts during a time of war. This is only the first salvo in the battle over spending. Our Representatives must keep up the fight even as they reach agreement on this issue.
The ideological difference between the Democrats and Republicans results in stalemate. Compromise is only possible when common ground is reached. The President and the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, see increased spending and increased taxation as the means to accomplish redistribution of income and wealth. The Republican House sees wealth, property, and income as an individual right under the Constitution. Demagoguery of these differences cannot close the gap, nor ensure any solution. It is only through honest negotiation that any compromise can be reached. Sadly, the gulf is too wide to accomplish this aim.

Why the Jewish Vote Swings Toward Obama

Many acquaintances ask why Jews support President Obama in light of his treatment of Israel? Most people that I am familiar with recognize my dedication to Israel’s survival. I am also an unabashed capitalist. I have served as my synagogue’s President and I am presently on the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees. I also serve on the Executive Board of the local Jewish Federation. Generally, Jews have managed as a group to earn in excess of the national median income of $50,000 per household. They have the largest percentage of wage earners making in excess of $100,000. Some would expect the Jewish population to be overwhelmingly pro-business and Republican in party affiliation. However, this is not the case. Why does this incongruity exist?

During the long history of the Jewish people many disruptions have devastated their communities and created historic memories that are indelibly etched into the genetic persona of the present day members. In America the lack of prejudice and assimilation of population into the greater community has resulted in the modern voting trends. Most Jews are registered Democrats who tend to vote with the more liberal candidates. During the great migration (2-2.5,000,000) of Jews at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century most Jews migrated from Eastern Europe (known as Russian, Slavic, or Polish Jewish migration). They brought with them their collective experiences from their ancestors. In this case, the Russian tsars used the Jewish population as scapegoats for the inequities in Russian society. Feudalism ended in the Russian and Polish territories later than in the Western European countries. This left the peasants poor and without any sense of a financial future. Allowing pogroms (government sanctioned attacks) by disenfranchised Russian peasants with the approval of the Russian Orthodox Church kept the smoldering animosities under tap. Eventually this anger was expressed through the Russian revolution and communist takeover of society. Additionally, the early communist leaders encouraged support and participation by Jewish rebels. As with the purging of Leo Trotsky, eventually ancient animosities arose and the Jewish leadership was thrust to the side. Therefore, the socialist memories are those that resonate with positive undertones for American Jews.

As these poor refugees arrived at Ellis Island they sought jobs in lower Manhattan ghettos where they found jobs in the garment industry. These factories treated young girls and women badly. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire helped lead to unionization of the industry. Jews participated in this endeavor and rose to the leadership. In the earliest part of the 20th century this became a collective memory. It continued through the unionization of the teachers union in New York City. As Jews migrated to other parts of the country, they took this antipathy toward management with them. This trend would continue throughout the century with Jews supporting the civil rights movement as it moved toward helping to give African Americans greater equality in our nation. This bond between two formerly slave communities (Jews during the Biblical period in Egypt and Blacks until only 150 years ago in these United States) represents a shared experience of inequity. Though most Americans associate Jews with retail businesses, commerce and banking as the owners, this represents the minority of the population. As educational opportunities have afforded Jews professional (in accounting, law, medicine, dentistry teaching, journalism, entertainment, and management) careers, they have in large numbers gravitated away from traditional retail commercial ventures. Liberal or progressive tendencies have been cultural heritage from this experience. Many of the brain trust supporters of FDR were Jews with strong socialist leanings. Such motivated people have risen to higher positions in politics in both parties, but the press has emphasized those within the Democratic Party.

The earliest Jewish immigrants were Spanish or Portuguese Jews escaping religious persecution in Europe during the 1600’s and 1700’s. They numbered only 2500 until the 1700’s and reached 14,000 by 1800’s. Jewish immigration during the mid 18th century came from Western Europe, generally German speaking, which brought the number to about 250,000. These, predominately educated immigrants, escaped the discrimination and war torn countries, so they could leave the schtetls (or walled ghettos). They remembered that the offer of citizenship once came from Napoleon’s proclamations in the early 1800’s, but was halted with the defeat of his revolution. Yet, in France, many reforms remained despite the Restoration. Until the 1800’s most countries forbid Jews from ownership of property. Hence, commerce and banking were among the few careers opened to them. These Jews also created Reform Judaism in Germany as a way of giving the ancient religion a more modern feel and blending into the existing European culture. This religious liberalism helps underlie the willing acceptance of progressive ideology. Today in modern American synagogues, “social justice” underscores many programs. Most Jews support abortion, though orthodox Jews only permit this procedure to save the life of the mother. In 1921-24 immigration laws were changed and by the Great Depression migration of Jews was severely restricted. In the 1970’s thanks to the efforts of Democratic Senator Jackson, many Soviet Jews were allowed to immigrate into our country.

Jews clearly care about Israel. However, this is not their primary affiliation. Further, they have willingly allowed ideology to blur their vision regarding political treatment of Israel’s future. This can be seen as the development of lobbying efforts on behalf of Israel. AIPAC, a traditional entity, has been considered too bellicose and conservative by many liberal Jews. As a result, J Street was created to offer a more peaceful alternative viewpoint. The conflict is significant since they often disagree on issues related to the Palestinians and Islam. In 1968, the Six Day Way was seen as an effort for survival. However, complacency has resulted in a lessened fear for Israel’s survival. Today, most American Jews see Iran as a threat, but don’t expect the mullahs to attack a militarily strong Israeli. This may be foolishness.

In 2009, Norman Podhoretz tried to answer the question, “Why Are Jews Liberals” in his book. He concluded that liberalism does not flow from admonitions of the prophets to care for the community, much as others argued. Progressives have been willing to conflate these ideas, but this is a simplistic analysis. The Me’ah program created by the Hebrew College of Boston (which I attended), detailed the four phases of Jewish history: Biblical or ancient Israelite religion (with redemption provided through a sacrificial Temple) , Rabbinic or Talmudic Judaism (which created the present prayer based religion with redemption through “acts of loving-kindness”), Medieval (with the establishment of legal restraints), and modern era (with new freedoms and the restoration of Israel by non-religious Jews). The complexity of the question as to why Jews are liberal is matched by the conundrum as to how they survived two millennia of Diaspora (loss of homeland), discrimination, and many battles for survival. The most powerful empire two thousand years ago (Rome) destroyed Jerusalem (in 70 CE) but did not survive the Visigoth invasions of the 5th century. No doubt the Jewish vote for Obama which was 78% in 2008 will be lower this year. The principal cause may be the poor state of the economy and not the future of Israel.

A Plea to Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff Trap

The President and his advisors have set a trap for the House Republicans. The President plans to ensnare them into voting for greater federal spending and wealth redistribution in return for extending the Bush era tax cuts. Republicans have already agreed to raise taxes on the upper 2% of income earners. The Speaker, at great political risk, acquiesced to the President’s original proposal to raise taxes about $800 billion over ten years on the wealthiest Americans. As a result, the fight is over the method: rate increases or closing loopholes. This tax increase of $80 billion per year cannot close the budget deficit which exceeds $1 trillion annually.

The President sent Secretary Geithner up to Capitol Hill to outline the administration plan. Senator McConnell broke out in laughter after hearing the White House plan; it is clear that the President is not offering a “balanced deal”. Three weeks ago, the President offered a similar proposal: An increase in taxes of $1.6 trillion over ten years, more stimulus spending for several years, a permanent debt ceiling increase, and unspecified and non-guaranteed cuts to entitlements amounting to $400 billion (which is less than the increase in spending). With time eroding before the January deadline, the President’s open gambit is an endgame.

The President hopes to split the Republicans, which has happened. He is not going to offer real compromise. Real spending cuts have never been his aim. Four years ago he told them that “elections have consequences” while meeting at the White House over plans for health care reform. Now Representative Nancy Pelosi has reaffirmed this admonition. Tax and spend politics has allowed Democrats to secure scores of interest group voters since the FDR days.

Some pundits advocate that the Republicans walk away and let the nation go over the fiscal cliff. Original concepts of this cliff included automatic tax increases and federal spending cuts resulting from the 2011 sequester agreement. Fears abound that this would put the country into recession and some advocate more intensive talks. Talks can occur when both parties are genuinely interested in compromise. Sadly, this is not the case.

Unemployment is sure to increase whether we go over the cliff or not. New taxes in Obama Care and a restoration of the total employee withholding for FICA payroll taxes (an increase of 2%) are coming. Layoffs and reductions in working hours resulting from businesses’ attempts to reduce overhead under requirements of Obama Care will reduce economic growth. The President has successfully decoupled tax increases from spending cuts in the electorate’s perception of the fiscal cliff. The House leadership can continue this decoupling since time and leverage are minimal.

A lesson can be gleaned from President Reagan when he refused to end defensive missile systems while meeting with Gorbachev at Reykjavik in 1986. Eventually Gorbachev agreed to missile reductions but not Reagan’s entire proposal to eliminate nuclear weapons. A compromise should not violate strong principles. The Speaker should not agree to any increase in spending that his caucus opposes. He can offer to extend the tax cuts for the 98% and negotiate the details of the increase. The President will blame the Republicans for any future problems regardless of agreement. After January 1, 2013 there is no guarantee that he will agree to extend the Bush tax cuts for anyone.

When the Bush era tax cuts expire, the tax rates instituted by President Clinton take effect. During the campaign Obama said that he wanted to hearken back to those days. He needs more revenue to close the deficit and keep Obama Care from devastating the gap further. The middle class will shrink either by loss of income or by higher taxes. The Republicans have no choice but to reduce taxes on the 98%, since he will not sign a bill he opposes. This will result in some reduction for the wealthiest since the lower brackets will be taxed at a reduced rate. If they walk away, then all rates increase giving the President more revenue, harming greater numbers of citizens.

However, the President intends much more: He wants to remake the national Democratic coalition for several generations. He has forged an alliance between unions, public sector workers, young unmarried women, minority ethnic groups, and younger voters through targeted government spending programs. He will endeavor to increase the numbers of dependent persons. He wants to transfer wealth from the producers to the indigent. Already some on the left are calling for wealth redistribution during his second term. Saul Alinsky, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be proud.

Speaker Boehner can take a page from Speaker Tip O’Neill who stalled legislation that would help President Reagan. The next four years are going to be a political holding pattern. The economy will be flat during the period as taxes increase and many companies dump their health insurance plans. Employers will convert full-time employees to part-time as a way of avoiding the rules of Obama Care.

Boehner has a chance to forge a new coalition for the Republicans. Emphasis should be on the debt reduction for the next generation, which is an opening with youthful voters. Bankruptcy of the Medicare and Social Security systems is a consequence of underfunding and excessive spending. Blame can be laid at the President’s feet as he has spent these years creating a new health care system instead of repairing the existing ones. The rhetoric should be to “save” these programs.

The other aspect of the fiscal cliff is the spending issue. The agreement of 2011 to raise the debt ceiling has resulted in an automatic sequester of domestic and military spending amounting to over $1 trillion over ten years. The Republicans fear devastation to the military preparedness when additional $500 billion cuts delay weapon systems and deployment of forces. The President used this approach to guarantee cuts to the military that the Republicans would never knowingly approve. They fell into the trap he set in 2011. They cannot compound the insult with another mistake. Instead, use this opportunity to reorganize the Pentagon and reduce the numbers of civilian and uniformed bureaucracy, creating a leaner and more nimble planning structure. The Congressional power over the purse must be utilized to maintain the most effect force projection.

Other entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Aid to Dependent Families are safety nets. However, the constituency groups that support these programs generally vote for Democrats. The House should work to block grant these programs to the states depriving them of federal bureaucracy and cutting into their interest groups. This will give greater flexibility and reduce costs.

The Republicans can pass small pieces of legislation that improve the situation. If the Senate under Harry Reid’s leadership rejects these efforts, then continuing resolutions might include these changes. Continuing resolutions should be at 2008 levels, not present ones. The Senate has not passed a budget in three years to allow the President’s 2009 stimulus spending to continue unabated.

Speaker Boehner has an opportunity to expand the Republican coalition through programs aimed at specific interest groups as Democrats have done. These include saving necessary programs and cutting wasteful ones such as the Rural Electrification Program. Small ball is the approach to take when leverage is poor but offensive action is warranted.

Last year I wrote that the divided government offers few good choices. The media supports the President. The public voted for this division. During the past two years stalemate with the House opposing the President’s initiatives resulted in continuation in the 2012 elections. The Republicans can moderate, but this will lead to their defeat. Their supporters want to stall progressivism. It was the intent of the Constitutional framers that competition between the federalist parties would restrict growth of governmental power. This is how Madison, Jay and Hamilton envisioned the process.