By Ilana Freedman, SUA Kitchen Cabinet Member
The dramatic election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a turning point in American history. Not only was Obama the first black candidate to be elected President of the United States, but the change that he promised to Americans facing an increasingly bleak economic future brought hope to millions. Since his election, however, the dream has faded rapidly and his approval ratings with the American people have dropped to levels that put his re-election in question.
Not long ago, in the middle of the budget talks, when the President warned Congress that not reaching a compromise would cause the government to default on its loans, the blow-back from Congress was significant and the discussions were heated. A friend of mine asked me if I thought that the furor was due to what he called, ‘racism’.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that anyone was still thinking in those terms any more. More important, the issues were so clearly articulated around the sharp differences in ideology between the Constitution supporting Republicans and the socialist-leaning Democrats that the President’s ethnicity hardly seemed relevant. But the fact that the question was being asked, made me realize that the issues needed to be better understood.
So what are the issues that have compromised the President’s ability to achieve consensus in the Congress? What ideologies are so differentiating that they have created a massive political rift, not only in Washington but throughout the country? Here are a few of the key issues on which Obama has willfully failed to keep his promise to the people who elected him.
During the last presidential campaign, Obama promised to make his administration “the most open and transparent history.” And yet over the last three years, his administration has been one of the most secretive in the nation’s history.
Obama’s style of management – the appointment of “czars” (thus bypassing the process of advise and consent in which the senate must confirm agency heads) – has led to the most singular lack of transparency in history. It has also led to a blurring of the lines between the three branches of government. Designed to protect Americans from government abuse, the system identified the executive (the President), legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court), meant to provide a system of checks and balances in which no branch could overreach its limits of power as provided by the Constitution.
By circumventing advise and consent, the President has created a whole layer of bureaucracy that reports directly to him and eliminates oversight by any elected body. Since taking office, he has appointed 45 czars who are accountable only to him, and is said to have a list of another 18 whom he plans to appoint in the future. Although this unique process, supported by the President’s frequent use of Executive Orders to avoid Congressional input, has enabled him to push forward many parts of his agenda, he has nevertheless failed to deliver the overall package of hope and change which he promised to the American people.
Among the secrets that the administration has managed to put into program, none is likely to raise more hackles than the ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running plot, which was directly responsible for the deaths of two Border Patrol officers. As the scheme continues to unravel, it is becoming increasingly clear that both the President and Attorney General Eric Holder knew a great deal more about this insane program than either of them was willing to admit. They appear to have tried to insulate themselves from the fallout, providing themselves with plausible deniability, but the Congressional committee has been dogged about getting to the bottom of the scandal, and the latest investigations indicate that both Obama and Holder knew far more than they admitted.
As Congress continues to delve even deeper into the question of who knew what, how much they really knew, and when, this may soon come back to haunt both the Attorney General and the President. If it can be proven that Holder lied to Congress, the Committee will want to known how much is he covering up, and how high up the lying really goes. If it is discovered that Holder lied, he can be indicted. If the President also knew and lied, he can be impeached. If anything can bring down this government, this may be it.
President Obama recently called a joint session of Congress in order to make what he considered a speech worthy of such an unusual setting. The central theme of that address was the urgent need to create millions of jobs. In the end, the speech was nothing new, except that the President presented his plan for more construction jobs (similar to the Reconstruction jobs earlier in his term) and repeated that it must be passed immediately.
The reality is that the President’s job programs haven’t worked. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “In total, there are 6.9 million fewer jobs today than there were in December 2007.” According to the Economic Policy Institute it will take the creation of 11.2 million new jobs to bring America back to the pre-recession levels of unemployment.
Because the media has failed to present the unemployment problem accurately, with all its associated economically devastating consequences, the American people are largely unaware how truly serious the unemployment situation is. The numbers are quite alarming.
Although the Federal Government posts the current unemployment rate at 9.1%, this number fails to take into account the millions of people not on the unemployment roles, who are unwillingly underemployed, have never even gotten into the job market, or who have given up trying to find a job. The true unemployment figures are closer to 21.5% of the workforce. That represents 33 million people in this country who are unemployed or underemployed in jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. The social problems that accompany unemployment are increasingly evident in the incidents of over-consumption of liquor and drugs, clinical depression, domestic violence, suicides, and random killing sprees. The stress associated with unemployment is affecting society at every level. In other words, the President has not only not made the employment situation better, it has gotten considerably worse on his watch.
No less egregious was his handling of the financial meltdown in 2009. And this is where a difference in ideology has been most clearly apparent. Obama’s approach to the banking crisis was to bring the federal government to the rescues, providing a nanny-state solution to a free market problem. He bailed out the banks and two automobile companies to the tune of $787 billion in an economic stimulus package designed to quickly jumpstart economic growth, and save between 900,000-2.3 million jobs. At a time when a free market solution would create jobs immediately by enabling the nation’s small companies, who represent 99.7% of all employer firms, and employ half of all private sector employees, to hire again.
Rather than applying socialist solutions, pouring public funds into the coffers of the few huge banks considered “too big to fail”, reducing restriction on small business and allowing the free market to do its magic would have saved billions of public funds and allowed the private sector to create millions of jobs. The money given to the banks, which was intended to loosen the flow of capital into the private sector, did exactly the opposite – the money was held closely by the banks and it became almost impossible for small business to borrow at all. In fact, the Obama administration placed huge financial burdens on small business, stifling growth and creating a stagnating economy.
During the President’s campaign he promised to restore the PAYGO policy, which does not allow federal spending without a plan to make up for lost revenue. Yet since acquiring the oval office, the national debt has reached $14.8 trillion, and when he ran out of money, he had the US Treasury print more.
From the very beginning, Obama ran his foreign policy in a haphazard and inconsistent manner. His inability to follow diplomatic protocol was uncouth, rude, and embarrassing.
When he went on his first state visit to London, his gift to then-prime minister Gordon Brown was a 25-film DVD box-set, an NTSC set that cannot be played on the UK’s PAL systems.
He was ridiculed when he bowed inappropriately before the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan.
But these paled in comparison to his policy of courting the sworn enemies of the US (like Iran and North Korea) while marginalizing our allies (like Japan, England, and Israel). He turned his back on our former ‘friends’, the leaders of Egypt, Libya, and most recently Syria. They were, to be sure, tyrants. But they were partners who helped maintain the stability of that very volatile part of the world. It will be left to history to determine whether the ‘Arab Spring’ was a positive phenomenon, but the double dealing that this administration carried out was far less than honorable.
Obama ran on a platform to end the wars in Iraq within sixteen months. Not only has he not done so, he authorized a surge in Afghanistan, launched thousands of missiles into Libya in a “humanitarian” action in coordination with NATO, and now suddenly announced that he is sending 100 special operation personnel to Uganda as ‘advisors’. The Obama administration has also play a covert role in supporting the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Its lack of transparency and consistency in our foreign policy is shocking in both its naiveté and its dangerous lack of international savvy.
There are other areas where Obama has let down his voters during the last three years, but the most offensive is the extravagance that he and his wife, Michelle, display while the people he is supposed to represent are suffering the most difficult recession in recent history.
For example, in August, the first lady took a vacation in Spain with 40 of her closest friends. She also took a security detail of 68, her personal staff, and Air Force 2. The cost of the security detail for the week was $95,000 and the use of Air Force 1 is another $145,000 for the time in the air, not counting the down time during the week.
This was the first lady’s eighth vacation since arriving in DC, for which it is estimated she has spent $10 million of the taxpayers’ money. When so many of the taxpayers can barely have any vacation at all, the Obama’s show a singular lack of sensitivity flashing their new wealth and lavish lifestyle. They have taken conspicuous consumption to a new level at a time when Americans are forced to tighten their belts in a time of growing austerity.
The Numbers Go Down
Obama won his first election with 52.878% of the popular vote. Today, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, only 21% of Americans approve of his performance, while 43% strongly disapprove. With the next election over a year away, it remains to be seen how these numbers will change.
In 2008, Obama promised change and hope for a better future. The change happened in many ways, because Obama did not allow the constraints imposed by the Constitution or tradition to stand in his way, but the hope never came. He misused his power to create skirt Congressional oversight. He committed so much taxpayer money for his favorite government programs that in the first 19 months of his administration, the federal debt increased by $2.5260 trillion. This is more money than the cumulative total of the national debt held by the public that was amassed by all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan. The current debt has broken all records at $14.8 trillion and counting.
Obama’s political future will depend, in the near term, on Congress, as it begins to look into the secret operations, like Fast and Furious and the Solyndra loan scandal. It will be the American people, though, who in the end will decide whether Obama’s inability to keep his promises to the people will make him a one-term president.
Ilana Freedman is an intelligence analyst with over 25 years in the field. She currently serves as Editor of GerardDirect.com and is a member of the SUA Kitchen Cabinet.