The Summer of Americans’ Discontent with Obama


071913-politics-barack-obama-550x309Barack Obama isn’t very popular anymore. Gallup pegged his job approval rating over the weekend at 41 percent, twenty-seven points below his Inauguration Day numbers. It’s not Obama’s approval nadir—he dipped below 40 percent several times last year—but one can’t help but notice the downward trajectory. If Obama were a stock, America would be short selling.

Why doesn’t Obama provoke the thrill up the leg that he once did?

The answer can be found in a new book, Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Be Stopped?, by James Antle. Therein, Antle, a veteran reporter who serves as an editor for the Daily Caller, chronicles the expansion of the federal government during the Obama presidency. “Big government has never looked so invincible,” he contends. But as the summer approaches its end one might revise: big government has rarely looked so vulnerable. At least that’s true for the once-formidable political figure who personifies big government. Obama isn’t popular because his animating philosophy doesn’t work.

The president has grown the state. The economy? Not so much. And as the previous successful Democratic presidential candidate reminded itself, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

On the economy, Obama launched his presidency by signing the largest spending bill in human history into law. The stimulus worked as a sleeping pill.

The president’s health care law, has similarly unleashed unintended consequences. Examples include employers reducing worker hours to avoid paying for their medical coverage and insurance rates that “could double or even triple” for healthy people who buy plans on their own, according to Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal. The Affordable Care Act makes care less affordable.

The administration’s fetishization of public “investment” in private projects has harmed both sectors. Green jobs have been a boondoggle for crony capitalists, perverting entrepreneurship toward pleasing the bureaucracy instead of the market. To put the federal government’s foray into auto manufacturing in perspective, Antle points out that Ford sold ten times as many Edsals as General Motors has sold of its Volt. For whatever reason, Edsal is a punch line and Volts still roll off assembly lines.

Such failures often prompt Washington to double down when they should fold. “Big government is the only institution that is touted as the solution to its own failures,” Devouring Freedom explains. “If there is a major national security breach because some government agency didn’t do its job, the immediate response is to give the agency more power. It’s as if, at the height of the Enron scandals, people concluded that the problem was that Ken Lay didn’t have enough authority.”

The effects on the economy, health care, and the cars driving on the roads weren’t what the administration hoped for. Neither was the effect on the deficit, which has skyrocketed from under $11 trillion to almost $17 trillion during the Obama presidency.

The president, who brought a wealth of experience in government and the classroom to his office, never worked in private enterprise. Not familiar with what it takes to create a job, Obama unsurprisingly appears obtuse to the concerns of job creators. With unemployment at 8 percent or more for in excess of three years of his presidency, Obama oversaw the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression. The gross domestic product expanded at 1.7 percent for the second quarter after growing by an anemic 1.1 percent during the first three months of 2013. Stocks approach record highs. So do the number of young people living at home. If Obama were a Republican, this would be an opposition talking point. He’s a Democrat, so it remains an unspoken irony.

At various times during his tenure, the president has blamed his predecessor, amorphous “headwinds,” the Arab Spring, European instability, the Japanese tsunami, and Republicans in Congress for the stalled economy. The man historian Michael Beschloss labels the “smartest guy ever to become president” surely isn’t the most introspective person to hold the office. Considering whether his policies cause his, and the country’s, problems seems beyond him. The pivot never comes for those stuck in their ways.

That’s why the morass in which Obama finds himself, much like the morass in which many Americans find themselves, may be the new normal—at least until a change of administrations. Surely the president isn’t about to change his mind on the virtues of an activist state. “As government grows beyond its constitutional boundaries,” Antle concludes, “it really does devour freedom.” It eventually devours job approval numbers, too.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game (Regnery, 2013).

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  • Arf

    But blacks love him!

  • William James Ward

    As long as American Idol is still on and other useless programming
    Americans will have imaginary land to live in and with copious amounts
    of beer and other inebriants all will be OK. More I Pad aps to eat up
    the brain power if we can call it that will surely obviate the need to
    see our house is on fire, the American Dream lost, a giant headache
    in it’s place and lunatics running the show being touted by the
    mainstream as competent and wonderful. It seems a depression of
    massive proportions is all that is in front of us as more of the same old
    same old by ever growing government will change nothing for the good
    and carry us downhill to the bottom, deserved of a Nation of Godless,
    hedonistic and perverse longings. I hold out the possibility that
    those rare but few individuals that still hold to traditional American
    values with ethically pure intent can somehow pull us out and up
    from Obamanism and loss………………………William

  • William James Ward

    As long as American Idol is still on and other useless programming
    Americans will have imaginary land to live in and with copious amounts
    of beer and other inebriants all will be OK. More I Pad aps to eat up
    the brain power if we can call it that will surely obviate the need to
    see our house is on fire, the American Dream lost, a giant headache
    in it’s place and lunatics running the show being touted by the
    mainstream as competent and wonderful. It seems a depression of
    massive proportions is all that is in front of us as more of the same old
    same old by ever growing government will change nothing for the good
    and carry us downhill to the bottom, deserved of a Nation of Godless,
    hedonistic and perverse longings. I hold out the possibility that
    those rare but few individuals that still hold to traditional American
    values with ethically pure intent can somehow pull us out and up
    from Obamanism and loss………………………William

  • okokok
    • Ellman48

      The nuttiest right wing statements always come from those most sympathetic with the Left’s point of view. Some people are referred to as ‘right wing’ by the leftist media and their followers who are anything but conservative. It takes a real conservative to recognize one and ‘okokok’ is definitely NOT a conservative!

      • okokok

        We can agree on that! Lol lol

  • popseal

    Regardless of our rage, 11,000,000+ new Democrats from Mexico seals the deal against Americans of the future knowing the dignity that grows from personal industry and responsibility. There is no dignity in a nanny state, and there seems no way to avoid it. Who believes the McCains and RINOs will raise a finger of objection?

  • Joe Biden

    let’s impeach the butt hole

  • Ellman48

    “Surely the president isn’t about to change his mind on the virtues of an
    activist state. “As government grows beyond its constitutional
    boundaries,” Antle concludes, “it really does devour freedom.” It
    eventually devours job approval numbers, too.”

    We can only hope that government and its unintended consequences will eventually ‘devour’ Obama. He certainly will never be eliminated by the Congress or the Supreme Court, so like Obamacare, we have to hope he implodes on his own defects.

  • Christopher Riddle

    OBOZO has got EXACTLY what he WANTED!He is out to DESTROY Capitalsm,Free-Markets and replace those with Humongous Government”One Size Fits All”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • tanstaafl

    Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this son of York;
    And all the clouds that low’r'd upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.