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November 15th, 2011 2:20 pm
Obama Favors the Big Guys

Fred Barnes has a hugely important column out at The Weekly Standard, about how the leader of Occupy the Oval Office (my title, not Barnes’) has a long-running habit of favoring large interests over small groups and individuals. He sets the theme right here:

[T]he winners in the nearly three years of Obama’s presidency are the big guys​—​big business, big labor, and big government. Corporate profits have reached record levels. The influence of the biggest labor unions has surged in Washington, where it matters most. The federal government has grown in size and reach. Meanwhile, the weak economy has hurt small business, the country’s number one job creator. Temporary tax breaks haven’t helped, and the threat of new taxes and a fresh barrage of regulations have put a crimp in expansion and hiring.

Barnes is absolutely right.

Now, I don’t want to ascribe these next thoughts to Fred Barnes, because he probably wouldn’t want to be associated with their connotations even if the analysis on a factual basis is fair and in context. But this same favoritism for the big guys was part and parcel of my argument in the single most controversial column I’ve ever written, one that made Chris Matthews start sputtering on air (and that caused Tony Blankley to pile on rather than defend me) about how obscenely over-the-top I was. The columns was called “Il Duce, Redux,” and it very carefully outlined the ways in which Barack Obama’s economic approach, and some of his organizational/self-hagriographical tactics, followed the same path as Benito Mussolini.

I carefully distinguished my point from the facile tactic of using a Nazi boogeyman as a straw man:

To be clear, none of this is to even come close to equating the Obama administration with Nazism. The conflation of Nazism with fascism is a gross misunderstanding of history; the original fascism and Nazism are entirely different breeds of vipers, with the latter being far more deadly.

No matter: Some of the media went ape, as if I had used incendiary rhetoric even though I was making a a valid historical point while taking pains to keep the rhetoric down. It is worth noting, again, that my major point of comparison came from Wikipedia’s description of economic fascism:

Trying to handle the crisis, the Fascist government nationalized the holdings of large banks which had accrued significant industrial securities. The government also issued new securities to provide a source of credit for the banks and began enlisting the help of various cartels…. The government offered recognition and support to these organizations in exchange for promises that they would manipulate prices in accordance with government priorities. A number of mixed entities were formed… whose purpose it was to bring together representatives of the government and of the major businesses.… This economic model based on a partnership between government and business was soon extended to the political sphere, in what came to be known as corporatism….

Back to Barnes:

“If you are big in today’s Washington, you lead a charmed life,” Washington consultant David Smick says.

In Obama’s case, there’s more to the gap between what he professes and what his administration has produced than meets the eye. Yes, his hypocrisy is breathtaking. But it represents the way he prefers to govern. Dealing with a few big institutions, even if they are dinosaurs, is easier than consulting more widely. So is relying on government to remedy every national ill, rather than letting markets, private groups, and individuals play pivotal roles.

“What an irony for an administration that claims populist roots,” Smick says. “Policy prescriptions for the most part use the top-down approach. Bring out the GE guy and various big labor bosses to deal with the jobless nightmare when the bulk of the solution involves fostering small business start-ups.”

Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric’s CEO, happens to be chairman of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. GE is famous for having paid no corporate income taxes in 2009 and 2010 and shipping thousands of jobs overseas. The council’s membership consists of 23 corporate chiefs, two labor leaders, one economist, one biologist, and zero representatives of small business.

For contributions to his reelection campaign, Obama has tapped the segment of big business he’s referred to as “fat cat bankers”: Wall Street. According to the Washington Post, he has raised more from financiers and bankers than all of the Republican presidential candidates combined. He’s raised more at Bain Capital than Mitt Romney, who cofounded the firm.

Whether or not one wants to compare this approach to the economics of Italian fascism, it certainly should be worrisome for all of us.

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