The day after last year's presidential election, I was scheduled to meet with one of my professors about an academic paper. Our mutual interests in politics led to a spirited discussion concerning the election results of the previous night. Given my role on the Spiders for McCain group and authorship of numerous conservative columns in The Collegian, the professor correctly diagnosed my disappointment about the final election tally. As a supporter of Obama, she set about attempting to reassure me that everything would be all right. At several points in the conversation she told me, "Jarrett, Obama is NOT as liberal as you think he is." Stubbornly skeptical, I merely suggested that only time would tell.
Now here we sit more than a month into the Obama presidency and, indeed, time has revealed a lot. This past week Obama delivered an unofficial "State of the Union" address and submitted his budget proposal. The first returns on the new administration are in, and all signs point left.
The budget proposal for 2010 was described by the Wall Street Journal as "one of the most ambitious policy prescriptions in decades." Such sentiment is not isolated, as this new agenda has been nearly unanimously recognized as unabashedly liberal. Obama has called for a restructuring of the federal government that includes laying the groundwork for universal health care, overhauling our energy policy to cater primarily to the green movement and introducing an even more progressive system of taxation.
The area of greatest concern is Obama's spending plans (although he would prefer the more politically palatable term "investment"). Federal outlays are supposed to soar to $4 trillion in fiscal 2009. The 2009 deficit is estimated to balloon to a gargantuan 12.7 percent of the GDP. Apart from World War II, these numbers are unprecedented. Obama claims he will raise revenue for his expenditures by increasing taxation on the top 2 percent of income earners. Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes analyzing IRS statistics will recognize that the numbers don't add up, and Obama will get nowhere near accumulating the amount of money needed to fund his increases in spending. In fact it would take a 100 percent taxation level on all income levels more than $75,000 to raise the $4 trillion in revenue necessary to cover the aforementioned 2009 outlays. Needless to say, simply raising the top tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent is not going to cut it. For such a spending pattern to continue, the middle class will eventually experience higher taxes (not counting the higher taxes they will already be facing after the passage of the Cap-and-Trade Carbon system).
Some suggested that Obama would be temporarily stymied in terms of his domestic agenda on account of the struggling economy. Instead, he has deftly stolen a page out of FDR's playbook and is using the economic turmoil as a springboard for his policies. In a time of increased fear and paranoia, Obama is intent on growing the federal government in a way not seen since LBJ's Great Society. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, he concentrated on promoting the role of the private sector. His successors, even including Bill Clinton, continued to recognize the government as taking a backseat to the private sector. Indeed, this focus has driven the famous American entrepreneurial spirit throughout our nation's history.
Obama strays from this ideology by seemingly viewing the government as an engine to success. Whereas Reagan declared that government was not the solution, but the problem, Obama appears to believe in the exact opposite. Obama had many Americans believing in his bipartisan pledges and feigned moderate stances on many issues. He appeased his naysayers with a few across-party-lines cabinet nominations. But now, having dispensed with the formalities, the president is turning out to be exactly the man he portrayed himself as before -- and during -- the primaries.
Contact columnist Jarrett Dieterle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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