January 22, 2010

January 22, 2010 | Commentary on Economy

Obama Staggers Into Year Two

President Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of this great nation a year ago. He had earned an electoral mandate and boasted high approval ratings. His inaugural address included dozens of lofty promises, and won him plenty of good will from the American people.

But, then as now, people were mostly concerned about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Obama's approval ratings have plunged during the past few months because the American people don't see the hope and change he promised. Instead, we have 10 percent unemployment, a massive expansion of the federal government and a weakened standing abroad.

Let's review. The president kicked off the year with the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus. This was supposed to promote economic growth and create jobs. It hasn't. Unemployment has gone from 7.8 percent at the signing of the bill to 10 percent today. Furthermore, Congressional appropriators loaded the bill with special interest projects and earmarks.

The year ended with a ray of hope. The Obama administration has asked former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead efforts to get resources to Haiti to aid the recovery. This is the first glimmer of a bipartisan approach to governing.

The president promised change but, in crucial areas, delivered more of the same. The president effectively nationalized General Motors and allowed his secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, to continue the controversial Troubled Assets Relief Program. These actions are an expansion of the bailout policies of the Bush administration, which launched massive government intervention in financial markets and the auto industry.

Obama wasted billions more. The $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program didn't work. He simply must learn that the government cannot spend its way to prosperity.

Obama has been a failure by his own yardstick. He promised in April "to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent."

Yet the president submitted a $3.6 trillion budget, ran up a $1.4 trillion debt last year alone and intends to pile up $12 trillion in debt in the years ahead. The administration has no plan to address entitlement reform, earmark reform or any other efforts to restrain the growth of federal spending. As for transparency, the president ended his first year in office conducting secret negotiations on health care reform. He included congressional elites and lobbyists at the White House, but not C-SPAN. The president's words don't match his actions.

On foreign policy, Obama is projecting weakness around the globe. He spoke of American "arrogance" while on foreign soil. He has dismantled missile defense installations in former Soviet bloc countries, refuses to use the term "global war on terror," and his strategy calls not for victory, but for a "successful conclusion" in Afghanistan. Such rhetoric doesn't inspire confidence.

Furthermore, Americans don't want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to receive a civilian trial in New York City, but we do want Guantanamo Bay kept open. We want health insurance reform, but not the massive government takeover Obama and his allies are pushing.

The year ended with a ray of hope. The Obama administration has asked former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead efforts to get resources to Haiti to aid recovery. This is the first glimmer of a bipartisan approach to governing, and, by all accounts, the U.S. rescue efforts are going as well as can be expected under difficult circumstances.

Obama should follow that pragmatic model in 2010, or else get ready for another year of policy failures.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate relations at The Heritage Foundation .

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

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