The true heart of Obama’s speech wasn’t the faulty budgetary analysis or the demagoguery of attacking Paul Ryan personally.
So far, the analysis of President Obama’s deficit speech has focused largely on its vagaries, obfuscations, and outright lies. Charles Krauthammer rightly blasted Obama’s speech as “shallow … hyper-partisan … intellectually dishonest.” He cited Obama’s “numbers suspended in mid-air with nothing under them with all kinds of goals and guidelines and triggers that mean nothing.” Krauthammer wasn’t alone – many commentators ranging from David Limbaugh to Larry Kudlow have targeted Obama’s woefully un-mathematical statistics, his fiscal magical thinking, and his utter inability to move to the center with regard to deficit reduction.
But the true heart of Obama’s speech wasn’t the faulty budgetary analysis or the demagoguery of attacking Paul Ryan personally. It was Obama’s soaring rhetoric.
Obama is an odd politician. Most politicians see the cloudy phraseology of their speeches as mere throwaway stuff, cotton candy for the simple-minded. Obama sees such gibberish as the soul of his agenda. If we want to examine where Obama truly stands, we must delve into his soaring rhetoric.
And the soaring rhetoric is unvaryingly drawn directly from Saul Alinsky.
As Andrew Breitbart makes clear in his fantastic new book, Righteous Indignation, the father of the contemporary left is Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was an intensely clever fellow with no compunction about exploiting popular sentiment to achieve his ends. One of his favorite methodologies was to use America’s founders to back his own Marxism. As Breitbart writes, “Alinsky’s clever merging of fake founding philosophy with his own Marxism led him to internal contradictions that would have sunk a lesser ego. While championing ‘freedom,’ for example – he hated the idea of individual freedom the Founders loved – he [pushed for] ‘communal freedom,’ which is to say tyranny led by the government.”
Obama was raised in the Alinsky tradition, and he speaks with Alinsky’s forked tongue. Thus, for example, Obama opened his speech by stating that Americans have historically “put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity … we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.”
So far, so good. But Obama continues: “But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.” This is un-American, and it is a lie. American unity doesn’t occur in opposition to free markets, but in defense of them.
This is typical Alinsky. By purposefully confusing principled individualism with principled communitarianism, suggesting that Americans are characterized by both, Obama begins the slow march to fascism. In this section of his speech, Obama essentially turned Americans into corporatists – free marketeers ready, willing, and able to turn over that free market to a well-organized state.
But this is typical Obama. He is Hegelian in the extreme. He constantly suggests reconciliation between concepts that are irreconcilable, then suggests reconciliation in his person. Here, he presents a thesis – that Americans are capitalists. Then he presents an false antithesis – that Americans are communitarians. And finally, he presents a synthesis – that, believe it or not, Americans are both capitalists and communitarians! It is no surprise that a man who voted present so often in the Senate votes present on every difficult choice by ardently maintaining that no choice exists.
It’s a pattern that has marked his early presidency with astonishing regularity. Obama consistently rails about “false choices” between two obviously incompatible ideas, which he, as the Great Uniter, then bridges. So, for example, he told the Chicago Tribune back in 2009 that Americans didn’t need to face the “false choice” between “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” and an “oppressive government-run economy.” Of course this choice as phrased was false, since capitalism is neither chaotic nor unforgiving. But there was, and is, a quite real choice between capitalism and a government-run economy. Obama said the same thing about stem-cell research – it was a “false choice” between “sound science” and “moral values,” as though no serious person could suggest that science ever conflicted with values. He used that same pernicious phrase with regard to national defense, where he told us that we need not make a “false choice” between “our safety” and “our ideals.” In that case, even Obama was caught on the horns of that “false choice” – he was speaking about closing Guantanamo Bay, which is still open.
It ws not merely Obama’s attempt to paint Americans as good little Keynesians that rang false during his deficit speech. It was Obama’s attempt to paint pre-FDR America as hell on earth. Obama informed Americans that because we are humane people, “we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security … unemployment insurance … and Medicaid … We are a better country because of these commitments. I'll go further - we would not be a great country without those commitments.”
Nonsense on stilts. Were we a materially worse country before the FDR agenda came to pass? Certainly we weren’t bankrupt. Grown children were expected to take care of their elderly parents, religious institutions were expected to take care of the unemployed, and adults were expected to take care of their own retirement and health care. Why is that individualistic, personal-responsibility politics less morally praiseworthy than the position that random strangers are obligated to take care of your parents, that employers are expected to pay the unemployed for not working, that adults’ cash must be seized and redistributed to retirees and that nobody should make provision for their own health care, and instead rely on other people’s tax dollars?
Obama refuses to make the touch choices – he chose to punt on whether America ought to incur “a future of spiraling debt” and a future “where we forfeit investments in our people and our country” – so that he could dishonestly stump for higher taxes in the interests of redistribution. Then he has the gall to call us immoral for asking our government to stop wasting our money and return it to those who can create jobs and wealth.
In sum, Obama’s deficit speech was an exercise in ideological Marxism masquerading as moderation. Then again, his entire career has been just that.
Ben Shapiro is an attorney and writer and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center.