Is there an antidote to such nonsense? Meet New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
THIS JUST IN from the Obama White House: Good news on the polling front. Even though the president's job approval ratings have plunged into negative territory in every other poll, his score on the all-important PSA Index continues to rise. The president's rating on this index (nothing to do with the prostate) has now reached an astonishing 97% - up from 87% in late 2009, and is now at its highest level ever, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The PSA Index is the official measure of Presidential Self-Approval. It first came into existence in December of 2009, when the president appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and awarded himself a B-Plus for his first year in office. To be strictly accurate, Mr. Obama provisionally awarded himself an A-Minus. He said that the slightly higher grade would be justified if, as he expected, he secured passage of his omnibus health care/income redistribution bill in early 2010. And of course he did.
So let's boost the president's PSA score for year one from the high 80s to the low 90s. Give the man a pat on the back (or stand aside as he does so himself).
At the time of the Oprah interview, the president stopped short of giving himself a full A because of high and persistent unemployment. But now he's conquered that problem. Well, kind of. So he says.
Since mid July, the president and vice president have been on the road crowing about all the jobs they have "created or saved" -- some three million to eight million jobs in all, depending on who's talking (Biden and the administration's top economist go with the more conservative three million figure, while the president jacks it up to eight million). Either way, the number is way up from where it stood when the president appeared before the nation on the Oprah Winfrey show (the administration was then claiming to have rescued only about a million jobs).
Now this is a remarkable accomplishment, given the fact that the economy (I mean the real economy) has suffered a net loss of 2.35 million jobs since the passage of the National Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To paraphrase Marx (Groucho, that is), as the Wall Street Journal did in a recent editorial, who do you want to believe -- the White House, or your own eyes?
The argument that the president makes about "saving" millions upon millions of jobs is best summarized by a simple analogy. Remember the Gulf oil spill? The president was unable to swim down and, in his words, "plug the damned hole." But he now claims to have performed essentially the same feat in plugging an even bigger leak -- the economic hole that was causing the loss of 750,000 jobs per month at the time he came to office. This is how he explained it to Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar and others on the day-time talk show The View, which aired last Thursday:
When I was sworn in, we were losing about 750,000 jobs per month, the economy was shrinking at a pace of 6.5%, which is unheard of since the time of the Great Depression, and so the last 20 months have been a non-stop effort to restart the economy, to stabilize the financial system, to make sure we're creating jobs again instead of losing them.
To continue with this line of reasoning, let us assume -- sans Obama and sans the supposedly great restorative effect of last year's $862 billion stimulus bill -- this gusher remained uncapped -- spewing forth economic distress and joblessness. Where would this take us in four years? By the time of the next general election, it would push the unemployment rate up to 25%, which is exactly where it stood at the lowest point of the Great Depression.
Having realized that they made a mistake in setting the bar too high originally, when they predicted that its stimulus bill would keep the rate of unemployment below 8%, Obama and the administration have now reset the bar to the lowest possible level: They are now ready to call anything a success which is even slightly better than the most dismal economic conditions in our nation's 200-plus year history. This is shows how much faith (next to zero) Obama, Pelosi et al. place in the ingenuity of American business and the power of what used to be known as the American can-do spirit.
With considerable help, it must be admitted, from the financial meltdown that preceded his arrival in office, Obama & Co. have been remarkably successful in lowering expectations. They have persuaded a large part of the American people that we should count ourselves lucky if what was once -- and indeed throughout almost our entire history -- the greatest and most dynamic economy in the world drifts along in a semi-comatose state -- without totally collapsing. They continue to promote the idea that the American economy is no longer capable of functioning without massive and ever-increasing government intervention. In their view, we should accept this as a permanent condition. And be glad for it.
According to a recent Pew / National Journal poll, nearly two-thirds of the American people think that "Barack Obama's economic policies" have failed. That includes 29% who think the president's policies have led to worse results and another 35% who think they have had little or no effect.
The poll numbers on Obamacare are worse still. A Rasmussen poll shows that a 2-to-1 majority of voters are in favor of repealing the president's landmark health care bill. That includes a stunning 46% who "strongly" favor repeal, against just 25% who "strongly" oppose repeal.
Though people have turned against his policies, Obama remains a reasonably popular president. According to Gallup, opinion is almost evenly divided between those who say that they approve (46%) and those who say they disapprove (47%) of the president's job performance. By contrast, only 11% of Americans have confidence in the job that Congress is doing.
To give credit where credit is due, then, he is better able to defend and (I would add) to soft-pedal a ruinous and quite cynical set of economic policies than anyone else in the Democratic Party. This set of policies discourages hard work and risk-taking, makes dependence on government handouts the norm for more and more people, denigrates success and promotes class envy and resentment, and seeks to turn government over to the Democrats for the long haul as the party of choice for a growing number of people who cannot or will not fend for themselves, or who (like the teachers and public employees unions) look to the government for special benefits and security not given to others who toil in the private sector.
For all it talks about social justice and greater equality, the Democratic Party under Barack Obama, like every other left-wing or socialist party that has gained power, goes about passing out enormous and ongoing benefits to some groups at the expense of others, and the favored groups just happen to be the party's most reliable supporters and activists. One example: the two big teachers unions. From wages deducted from teachers' paychecks, the two unions made nearly $60 billion in campaign contributions over the past two decades. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the American Federation of Teachers gave 98% of theirs to Democrats. For the National Education Association it was only slightly less at 92%.
Here's what the president had to say about teachers (and in a moment I will contrast his remarks with those of another political leader) in a speech last Thursday on "Education Reform" at a National Urban League conference:
I want teachers to have higher salaries. I want them to have more support.… I want to give them a career ladder so they've opportunities to advance, and earn financial security. I don't want talented young people to say I'd love to teach but I can't afford it. (Applause)
So I am 110 percent behind our teachers. But all I'm asking in turn -- as a President, as a parent and as a citizen -- is some measure of accountability. So even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we've got to make sure we're seeing results in the classroom. If we're not seeing results in the classroom, then let's work with teachers to help them become more effective. If that doesn't work, let's find the right teacher for the classroom.
What comes through stronger there -- the "110 percent" support for higher teachers' pay and benefits, or the president's asking -- not demanding, but asking -- for "some measure of accountability"?
There is a giant con game going on here. The Republican Party needs a leader who is onto it and who is capable of attacking it in no uncertain terms. And more than someone who can criticize the wrong policies, it needs someone who can lead the country in an entirely different direction.
Calling Chris Christie
In her column in last weekend's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan pointed to the outspoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as the one Republican leader who is not afraid to talk hard sense about real issues and who does so in an exceptionally forceful and compelling manner -- without recourse to talking points, a script or teleprompter, just straight from the shoulder. To borrow a well-known line, Christie knows how to suit the action to the word and the word to action. As governor he has succeeded in closing an $11 billion budget gap through spending cuts rather than tax increases. I, for one, am more than happy to second the motion that Christie could be the Republicans' man of the hour. He is nothing less than outstanding when it comes to punching holes in the bad arguments and policies advanced by the other party, and he also has the capacity for inspiring people with clarity of his own vision. This vision, I might add, will be familiar to most people even if it is expressed far more pungently than they are accustomed to hearing.
Here is a sampling of Governor Christie's views presented in Noonan's column:
"There were a lot of hard cuts and difficult things to do in there, but the fact of the matter is we're trying to treat people like adults. They know that we're in awful shape, and they know that no one else is around anymore to pay for the problems that won't hurt them."
What about the argument that in a recession we need stimulus spending? "It's dead wrong. More spending with what? The federal government continuing to print more and more money and leaving that debt to our kids? It will only grind the economy down further."
On public schools: Teachers complain when they're getting "4% and 5% salary increases a year in a 0% inflation world. They get free health benefits from the day they're hired for their entire family until the day they die. They believe they are entitled to this shelter from the recession when the people who are paying for that shelter are people who've been laid off, who've lost their homes, had their hours cut back. And all we ask them to do is freeze their salary for one year and pay 1.5% of their salary for health benefits…. As much as I love teachers, everyone's got to be a part of the sacrifice."
It is not just Christie's rhetorical skills that set him apart as leader (and would make him fascinating to watch in a debate with the president). Despite his naturally pugnacious manner, he has also shown himself to be a skilled negotiator with a remarkable capacity for getting a Democratically controlled legislature to sign up to painful but necessary reforms. Now there's a huge different between Christie and Obama. The man who billed himself both as "a post-partisan politician" and as a "transformative" leader has lived up to the second part of that promise, but not the first. He has become one of the most divisive presidents in our nation's history.
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