By Mark Fidelman
President Obama has been attacked for not turning the economy around even after his promise to do so. Let’s cut him some slack. He probably believes Republican obstructionism is to blame, and he’s done everything possible during his first term. Just give him four more years, he pleads, it will all work out.
But don’t you get the feeling as I do that Obama’s new economic strategy resembles an infomercial pitch? Just a little of this, a sprinkle of that, and presto a new economy. Before, President Obama ran on hope and change, now he appears to be running on just hope: “We’ve come too far to turn back now,” he tells us.
I know Obama genuinely wants to grasp the economic strategies required to lead us out of a lousy economy and that if only government were to take charge, it could fix everything. Just sprinkle some green fairy dust across the energy sector, wave a magic job wand at small business, take the wealth potion from the rich and give it to the poor. The damsel is in economic distress, and Obama is relying on medieval enchantments for our survival.
Only in fairy tales are emperors advised that they are naked. And Obama’s advisors aren’t breaking with tradition. One gets the feeling they received the Berlitz learning method to business. They understand the language, but not the meaning. According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, while speaking to a group of us about Obama’s closest advisors: “there isn’t a single person with business experience amongst them.”
In 2008, no one dreamed the country would be left behind. We all thought we’d be better off; we’d be smarter, he’d bring the country together, he’d bring congress together for a bipartisan agenda. It hasn’t happened.
Obama has notably said, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” He’s not saying that anymore.
But there’s still hope. He can give a straight forward answer to the following bipartisan question - It’s never too late to keep a campaign promise.
What Will You Do Differently to Fix the Economy in the Next Four Years?
Obama seems to be taking his economic cues from Paul Krugman and the school of “Hope” economics. Krugman is who all left-leaning politicians point to in order to receive approval for their economic policies. He is their gold standard – and the gold plating they wrap around any economic legislation for which they want to insulate themselves from ridicule.
In reality though, there is no such person as Paul Krugman, there is only a shell containing the opinions of his cocktail party friends and the novels of economic fantasy worlds he had read. A man so responsive to compulsion that he has become a kind of compulsion himself to anything resembling a liberal economic idea. His instinctively leftist political agenda blinds him from being a truly objective economic advisor – and so he can’t be trusted to provide sound economic advice.
Take his 2008 article titled: The ComeBack Continent. In short, Krugman believed that the economic path forward resembled a European, nanny-state model, telling us not to worry because, “If you think Europe is a place where lots of able-bodied adults just sit at home collecting welfare checks, think again.”
Later in the article, Krugman goes on to call the situation in 2008 a European comeback, crediting its “big-government” approach to its success. Incredibly, he ends the article with, “But the next time a politician tries to scare you with the European bogeyman, bear this in mind: Europe’s economy is actually doing O.K. these days, despite a level of taxing and spending beyond the wildest ambitions of American progressives.”
But we should be scared. Shortly thereafter Europe’s economy started to collapse, and the most welfare-prone countries fell the hardest and fastest. Oddly, Krugman is still promoting the same naïve, ineffective policies that have Europe on the ropes.
As a kid, I used to believe in Robin Hood. I mean I truly believed in him. Krugman still does. He hasn’t learned how the story actually ends because he’s never participated in it. He’s been an academic, an author, an economist but never a businessman. He’s never built a business, worried about keeping the lights on or suffered hardship from taxing government policies. His solution to any economic issue is wealth redistribution. He’s of the “you didn’t build that somebody else made that happen” school of thought.
This is the kind of brainwashing you still find at the elite universities. The rest of us living in the real world know better. Because on our side we have reason, experience and concrete business strategies that work. For us, government gets in the way, it doesn’t pave it.
So Obama must move away from Krugmanomics and set a new course. One lined with less government and more business. Because in the final analysis, business leaders are held accountable for their success – not government bureaucrats. If business performance suffers, the government gets a free pass even if it’s the primary problem. This authority without responsibility situation is incompatible with a thriving economy.
Obama still needs to learn this lesson.
Mark Fidelman’s forthcoming, critically acclaimed book is: Socialized, How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.
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