"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Rise of Hoover-Carterism

Remember when President Obama was popular? Last year, when the media was spreading stimulus propaganda, the meme was "worst downturn since the great depression." As an incredible testament to the power of groupthink, that exact phrase returns more than 700,000 results on google.

Of course, when Obama enjoyed high approval numbers, the "worst downturn" trope was a good thing! By trumping up the scale of the disaster, liberal media types thought they were giving support to the argument at the time that Obama, in his exalted greatness, was going to rescue us all like F.D.R. supposedly did back in the '30's.

But now Obama is not popular. Instead of being "somebody else's mess" that Obama was going to clean up, the "worst downturn" is becoming a real political liability for the current administration. Even more tellingly, comparisons of Obama to Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter are becoming more frequent.  As Niles Gardinier put it in the Telegraph the other day:
In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiring Afghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.
Like a motorcycle daredevil, Obama promised us he could jump the moon only to crash and burn. Unlike the fickle opinions of media elites, the immutable laws of gravity--and of economics--are not swayed by flashy self-promotion and arrogant bravado. As a symptom of this, the New York Times includes this hilarious quote in an article about the dismal condition of the economy:
Mr. Herzon said that he was not expecting a double-dip back into recession, however. “It’s difficult to point to a shock that would be bad enough to put the economy back into a recession,” he said. “I just think it means that this recovery is going to be slower and more painful than we originally expected.”
In the words of Tanto, "Who do you mean 'we,' kemo sabe?" How could anyone have honestly expected to go from the "worst downturn since the great depression" to the "summer of recovery" within a year or even two years? The media's unaccountable optimism that massive Keynesian spending, increased regulation, higher taxes, and crippling uncertainty in the marketplace would somehow produce different results this time around is only matched by Obama's own audacity and self-regard. As Adam Smith wrote:
The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition, the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived, is frequently powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things towards improvement, in spite both of the extravagance of government, and of the greatest errors of administration. Like the unknown principle of animal life, it frequently restores health and vigour to the constitution, in spite not only of the disease, but of the absurd prescriptions of the doctor.
Ironically, Adam Smith's medical metaphor is especially apt when we consider that Obama's blind and irrational obsession with health care reform has done more harm to the economy than his inaction with regard to tax cuts. Like Adam Smith's quack doctor, Obama has given our economy a medical treatment far worse and more damaging than the disease it was meant to cure. We can only hope that Dr. Obama's euthusiasm for snake oil and liver pills does not kill the patient entirely before it has a chance to recover on its own.

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