|As Economy Flounders, Obama Focuses on What Americans Eat, Smoke and Drive|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, July 07 2011
Delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress in February 2009, Barack Obama told the assembled legislators that his plans for a federal spending binge of nearly a trillion dollars was “not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.” Rather, he said, the stimulus plan was intended to “put people back to work and put money in their pockets.”
More than two years after that speech, two things are clear: Obama’s empirical projections were inaccurate and his ideological protestations were disingenuous. Indeed, the stimulus plan was not, as Obama tried to frame it, a triumph of supposed pragmatism over ideology (ala George W. Bush’s “I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system”). Rather, it was a leading indicator of the fact that Obama not only believes in big government, but in fact believes in virtually nothing else.
Consider America 29 months after Obama’s bold initiative to “put people back to work and put money in their pockets." Unemployment is over nine percent. Fuel and food prices are skyrocketing. The housing market is still in the doldrums, with most economists expecting a further decline as the year moves on.
Yet despite the continued misery, Obama shows no sign of relenting. In fact, he shows little sign of doing anything at all. His big-spending budget was voted down by the Senate 97-0 earlier in the year – and that after more than two years in which congressional Democrats refused to pass a budget of their own, lest they be held politically accountable. Meanwhile, the nation rapidly approaches its debt limit, inflation nears Jimmy Carter levels (when using the same methodology used in Carter’s day) and long-term unemployment is worse than it was during the Great Depression.
And what fiddle has the emperor chosen during the conflagration? Obama, ever the blunderbuss, has invested his energies in a troika of nanny state initiatives aimed at intervening in the minutia of everyday American life.
First, there’s the endless quest to nose around in Americans’ eating habits, a crusade led by First Lady Michelle Obama. Were this the kind of feckless Rose Garden rubbish we’re used to hearing from first ladies, it might be benign through force of inertia. But – as always with the Obamas – there’s a price tag attached. The First Lady’s concern over so-called “food deserts” – urban areas where grocery stores are supposedly too far afield for the indigent to have access to fresh produce – has inspired her push for $400 million in federal spending to remedy the ill. The only problem? A report from Obama’s own Department of Agriculture shows that poor Americans actually live closer to grocery stores than wealthy ones.
Then there’s the endless progressive jihad against smokers. Leave aside for a moment the unseemly irony that liberals castigate the tobacco industry while relying on its customers for an endless supply of tax revenue. Now they’re adding shame to confiscation by having Obama’s Food and Drug Administration unveil grisly new warning labels featuring images of corpses and a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole. As with the obesity issue, however, the vast majority of Americans are already well aware of the health risks associated with smoking. And, yet again, a study prepared for the Obama FDA indicated that the labels have little real effect on smoking habits.
Finally, there’s that most sacrosanct of American possessions: the automobile. When the Obama Administration isn’t busy carpet-bombing subsidies into hybrid vehicles, it’s trying to get the rest of the nation’s auto fleet to more closely resemble their green brethren. That’s why the White House is currently pushing for a 56 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard by 2025 (by point of reference, the Toyota Prius doesn’t even go that high). But the moral purity of Obama’s goals can’t obviate the unintended consequences. Higher fuel efficiency standards generally mean lighter, less safe vehicles. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that increases in fuel economy in the 1970s and 1980s led to 1,300 to 2,600 more auto accident fatalities per year.
Two years ago, the president told us that he doesn’t believe in big government. At this point, however, it’d be something just short of reassuring if he admitted that statement was a lie. At least then we’d understand why he proceeds apace while all the facts point in the opposite direction.
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