President Barack Obama's second inaugural address on Monday was mostly what one would have expected: A paean to the wonders of statism and how great America could be if we would just overcome our unhealthy legacy. In Obama's world, we would all be so much better if we could get over obsessions like rugged individualism and the true meaning of the words contained in our nation's Constitution, and let a benevolent, all-knowing government take more control over our everyday lives.
But in the midst of his "we know better" exercise, Obama made the most stunning admission of abject failure I have heard a president utter in my lifetime. I’ll have more on that shortly.
In his speech, Obama made a pretense of paying homage to our Founding Fathers, but followed it with a clear indication that he believes their wisdom is passé by claiming that "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." Other than our involvement in wars, which he falsely claims will soon be coming to an end, I can't imagine what he could be thinking of. Obama even added a dose of coldly calculated and contemptuous ridicule to the mix by including an insulting reference to the modern wartime inadequacy of "muskets and militias."
Though it was indeed, as the Politico's Glenn Thrush correctly noted, "the most liberal speech he has delivered as president," it clearly disappointed some of those in the establishment press who wanted to hear Obama go for his opponents' jugulars. That group includes John Dickerson, who has been Political Director at CBS News since November 2011.
Dickerson put on his best game face at Slate after the speech, but it's clear from reading his previous 2,000-word battle plan disguised as a column on Friday that Obama didn't go as far as he would have liked.
The column's headlines called for Obama to "Go for the Throat!" and "declare war on the Republican Party." In his content, Dickerson claimed that Republican recalcitrance meant that "Obama’s only remaining option is to pulverize," and that the president "can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP." Slate was so thrilled with the piece that it amped up its "most popular" tease list title to read: "Why Obama Should Seek To Destroy the Republican Party." Dickerson's occupation of such an influential perch at CBS and the presence of so many others like him at other news outlets largely explain why last year's establishment press coverage of the GOP primaries and the general election was so ruthlessly biased against Republicans and especially conservatives.
Given the content of the rest of his speech, it was astonishing to hear Obama say the following five words: "An economic recovery has begun."
We're just three weeks shy of the fourth anniversary of the passage of the February 2009 "stimulus plan." It was supposed to turn the economy around after the evil George W. Bush ruined everything. Obama's Keynesian economists told us that without the stimulus plan's immediate implementation, unemployment would rise to an unacceptable 9 percent by the summer of 2010. But if we would just pass this monstrosity which nobody read, unemployment would peak at 8 percent in just a few months and gradually fall to 5.2 percent by the end of 2012.
What really happened is that despite the plan's passage (actually, largely because of it), the unemployment rate hit 10 percent before 2009 was even over, stayed above 8 percent for a post-World War II record 43 months, and is still at 7.8 percent. The Obama government, set into fiscal motion by the Democratic Congress of 2009-2010 and running on autopilot ever since, has run up $5 trillion in supposedly stimulative budget deficits and has been the beneficiary of four years of supposedly stimulative near-zero interest rates courtesy of Ben the Betrayer Bernanke's Federal Reserve.
Now, after all of that ruinous stimulus, the best our president can say is: "An economic recovery has begun." It's almost as if he wants us to believe that this strange, uncontrollable beast called the economy has finally decided to get better on its own.
Unfortunately for those who are unemployed, under-employed, and discouraged, there's still reason to believe that the economy, after so many false starts during Obama's first term, is once again sputtering.
Economists have been wearing out their erasers and "delete" keys writing down their estimates of economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2012. The rough consensus is that gross domestic product will grow by an annualized 1.5 percent, down from 3.1 percent in the third quarter -- if we're lucky.
Seasonally adjusted job growth has only averaged 130,000 during the past ten months. That's below the 150,000 jobs needed just to keep pace with growth in the adult population. Additionally, in a sign that the trend is in the wrong direction, the raw number of jobs changes before seasonal adjustment has been lower than that seen in the same month of the previous year during three of the past four months.
Finally, in perhaps the most ominous sign of decay, last week's report on initial jobless claims told us that the raw number of claims filed (i.e., before seasonal adjustment) was greater than the comparable week a year ago -- the first time this has happened in a truly comparable non-holiday week since October 2009.
The way things are going, Obama's successor may very well use those same five words -- "An economic recovery has begun" -- in his or her inaugural address four long years from now.
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