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Barack Obama = Jimmy Carter?

It’s rare that President Obama acknowledges a viewpoint other than his own. So it’s worth examining the significance of a statement he made last week in his speech about the economy at Carnegie Mellon University.

The president said, “But to be fair, a good deal of the other party's opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government.”

A sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government regarding the economy is exactly what differentiates President Obama from his critics. The president believes that government’s proper role is to intervene in and usurp control of America’s economy.

From that belief Obama has brought us the government takeovers of General Motors and Chrysler; government bailouts of Wall Street, banks, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; government stimulus spending on a massive scale; government federalization of health care, impending government tax increases on income, capital gains, dividends and small businesses; and government debt of officially more than $13-trillion -- a growing figure that the International Monetary Fund says will surpass the nation’s gross domestic product in 2012. 

At various times, the spending and debt involved in all of this government intrusion has been called “unsustainable” by the heads of the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve, and the president’s own Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Yet, incredibly, in his speech Obama described these “dramatic and unpopular steps” as “reforms that will make our economy stronger and our businesses more competitive—reforms that will make health care cheaper, our financial system more secure, and our government less burdened with debt.”

In his speech, Obama claimed that, “I've never believed that government has all the answers. Government cannot and should not replace businesses as the true engine of growth and job creation.” 

But look at growth and job creation with government playing the role that Obama insists on: 

- Employment in federal jobs has skyrocketed since his election while private sector unemployment is at 9.7%. 

- In May, 90% of new hires were temporary government census workers. 

- Nearly one out of five Americans is only working part-time while seeking full-time work. 

- Using federal statistics, USA Today found that the average federal worker earns 77% more than the average private sector worker.

If the president’s sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government prevails, he will have, in just a few years, gone from a community organizer in Chicago to a community reorganizer of the American economy, way of life, and role in the world.

In his speech, Obama referred to “the last administration” (George W. Bush is the president’s economic voodoo doll) to disparage it for its vision of “the ownership society.” Obama said, “what it essentially means is that everyone is on their own.”

Actually, the interpretations of “the ownership society” include allowing people—rather than government—ownership of more of their hard-earned money and their choices about health care, retirement savings and the education of their children. That appears to offend Obama, who prefers “the ownership society” to mean “ownership by government.”

Some critics of the president’s speech said it reminded them of what was dubbed the “malaise speech” by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Let’s look at the bigger picture.

The actual title of Carter’s speech was “A Crisis of Confidence.” Carter said, “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”

Carter added, “Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation's life. The gap between our citizens and our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.”

The apt comparison between Obama’s speech on the economy and Carter’s is that “a crisis of confidence” persists today. There is the same anxiety that in Barack Obama we have another Jimmy Carter—a self-righteous ideologue who is in over his head, championing policies that are not only unpopular but also destructive.

What worked with Carter will work with Obama: Americans must begin by voting his supporters out of office, and then follow that up by making him a one-term president.

Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.

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Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.