The Greater of Evils
President Barack Obama is on Tuesday’s ballot, seeking four more years as president of the United States. Like many Americans, I find that prospect deeply troubling — downright scary.
Some say the nation cannot survive another four years of Mr. Obama. Though that belief probably underestimates our resilience as a people, there is something about the Obama Administration that I find more frightening than the menacing administrations of presidents past.
Weeks ago, a friend suggested that we American voters have simply received the government for which we have cast our ballots. The enormous debt foisted on us by the various political gangs in Washington had somehow been all our own idea, and the corruption and cronyism that seems to be the federal government’s standard operating procedure has been a pretty solid reflection of the hopes and desires of the American electorate.
I did not merely beg to differ; I adamantly demanded to differ. The very idea that the federal government’s overspending, overstepping, waste, sloth and corruption had been somehow wished for and even chosen by voters (and was emblematic of the people’s same bad behavior) is patently absurd.
And easily refuted.
So, I began to present the simple case that every president, Republican or Democrat, from Gerald Ford on, had promised not more government, but less. They pledged from both the right and the left to streamline the bloated federal government and to balance the national budget. And they said these things to win our votes:
- Jimmy Carter defeated President Ford in 1976 with a commitment to pare back the federal bureaucracy and balance the budget. Carter ran into fierce resistance, especially in his own party, and though he managed some important deregulation, the budget only became more out of balance.
- President Ronald Reagan famously and repeatedly proclaimed, “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” For all his successes, federal government spending grew precipitously during his eight years.
- George H. W. Bush moved from serving as Mr. Reagan’s Vice-President to the presidency in 1988 with the now infamous line: “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Clearly, he did not think citizens should pay more for more government, but rather that we should pay less for less. Little did the nation know that HW had his fingers crossed when making his pledge.
- Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992 after campaigning on a middle-class tax cut. That cut was quickly abandoned once Clinton took office, alas. Then, two years into his presidency, Mr. Clinton announced, “The era of big government is over.”
- George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 on a platform of a more humble foreign policy that would steer clear of nation-building efforts. The idea that he might engage the nation in two wars that would not be paid for except by the simple swipe of the national credit card and stuffing our generation’s IOUs into the diapers of newborns never occurred to anyone.
So, I thought, the record is mighty strong: those seeking to be president have, indeed, promised us a leaner federal government, though their promises have, admittedly, gone consistently unfulfilled. But the people cannot be blamed for being defrauded by lying politicians — especially since our other most notable choice was an equally lying politician or even a once-in-a-while truth-telling but tax-increasing big government politician.
As I detailed, smaller government promises got Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton and Bush (43) elected, though they nevertheless pursued many big government policies once in office. Then, it occurred to me that President Obama is really different.
Sure, Obama did promise a smidgen of “middle-class” tax relief in 2008, though his emphasis then and now is on hiking up taxes on the “wealthy.” He certainly didn’t run against the excesses of Washington. No, he instead sought to make the case that the federal government could and should do more in our everyday lives.
Barack Obama is the first president in my adult life to embrace the idea of a bigger, more intrusive, most costly federal government that does more for you . . . or to you.
When someone builds a big business, Obama is quick to remind us that it could not have been done without the assistance of big government.
Sure, I could quote chapter and verse of Obama’s harmful, disastrous policies from Obamacare to raising taxes, but it is his entire philosophy that government is the answer to every problem (even those created by government) that makes him so frightening.
Note that I’ve not said a word about former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (as my Mother always instructed). There are only two things Mr. Romney has going for him: hope and change.
November 4, 2012
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.