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Our president knows it all about a subject he has no use for.
The same Barack Obama who earlier declared himself “a student of history” has more recently become “a student of economics.” According to reports out of the White House, the president combines an omnivorous appetite for the most arcane financial detail, with the ability to summarize and simplify economic issues in a way that causes those around him to gasp in drop-jawed admiration.
Let us drop in on the “economics” PDB, as they call it at the White House. This is the brainchild of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. It follows the Presidential Daily Briefing, and it typically includes Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, economic adviser Larry Summers, budget director Peter Orszag, and other brainiacs in a 40-minute jam session devoted to financial and economic matters.
Recently, for instance, some of the president’s advisers gave him a chart-filled briefing on “House Prices, Consumer Debt and Consumption.” At the end of this session, according to Emanuel, Obama rose from his chair—levitating in the lotus position—and declared, “Guys, this is a great research. But you’re telling me that people have been using their homes as ATMs. I could have told you that.”
According to this behind-the-scenes story, the president raises “questions about administration proposals to regulate certain derivatives, such as credit-default swaps,” and sharply questions his economic advisers on their methodology in calculating homeowners’ “loan-to-value” ratios.
What’s more, we are told that Mr. Obama invited Nobel laureate economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman to the White House for dinner, and may curl up at night reading their books—eschewing his normal preference for French novelists, German philosophers, and gay/black/feminist freedom fighters. “I’ve dealt with other people in that position—their eyes glaze over,” Professor Stiglitz recalls, his own eyes misting at the memory. “You can tell they’re waiting to get out of that meeting. With him, it was totally different.”
Where, one wonders, is the president’s newfound love of economics going to lead in his never-ending quest for self-fulfillment and enlightenment? I will hazard a few guesses:
1. Anything that the president “learns” will only strengthen his conviction that he already has all the answers.
2. Under the tutelage of scholars like Stiglitz and Krugman, his study of the “wishful science” (what used to be called the “dismal science”) will only reinforce his natural tendency, as an über liberal, to think of people only in the abstract…a blank canvas waiting to be painted, or a great mass of dough waiting to be shaped…as opposed to considering the possibility that they might be responsible, sentient human beings capable of thinking and acting for themselves.
3. He will remain hostile to the basic notion that free enterprise and individual choice are the primary basis for creating wealth and prosperity—in this or any other society. His belief in government as the great agent of innovation and change is rooted in a deep-seated dislike and distrust of the business world. He grew up thinking of business as a dull, soul-sapping activity with thuggish overtones.
CONSIDER THAT PORTRAIT that Mr. Obama draws of his maternal grandparents, with whom he lived as a young boy and again as a high school student in Hawaii. This is how he describes his grandfather, an unsuccessful furniture salesman, in his memoir, Dreams from My Father:
An old copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People still sits on his bookshelf. And growing up, I would hear in him the breezy, chatty style that he must have decided would help him with his customers. He would whip out pictures of the family and offer his life story to the nearest stranger; he would pump the hand of the mailman or make off-color jokes to waitresses at restaurants. Such antics used to make me cringe.
So the glad-handing grandfather was always something of an embarrassment. The grandmother, however, is a different story. Without the benefit of a college degree, she rose from secretary to become the first female vice president at the Bank of Hawaii. Surely, that was something to be proud of? Well, not really, it seems. Obama writes of “Toot,” the strict, commonsensical, and hardworking grandmother:
I came to understand that her career spanned a time when the work of a wife outside the home was nothing to brag about, for her or Gramps—that it represented only lost years, broken promises. What Toot believed kept her going were the needs of her grandchildren and the stoicism of her ancestors.
“So long as you kids do well, Bar,” she would say more than once, “that’s all that really matters.”
That’s how my grandparents had come to live…Gramps still wore Hawaiian shirts to the office, and Toot still insisted on being called Toot. Otherwise, though, the ambitions they had carried with them to Hawaii had slowly drained away, until regularity—of schedules and pastimes and the weather—became their principal consolation.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online