The Public Policy

Obimanable Theories

Barack's liberation economics would deepen the financial crisis.

By 9.17.08

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It doesn't matter if companies are making money for their shareholders or losing money for them. In either case, Barack Obama sees a "crisis." Profitable oil companies seem to horrify him as much, or perhaps even more, than unprofitable investment banks.

One moment he is calling for the government to confiscate profits; the next moment he is demanding that it generate them. The glibness of it all -- the feeling one gets that his popping off is based on nothing more than a morning briefing from David Axelrod -- is pretty reckless.

No matter: needing to regain his pep and divert attention from cultural issues, Obama sees good news for himself in bad economic headlines. But what does he really know about the economy? He has opinions about it, but that's about it, and they seem to all come from a grab-bag of quasi-Marxist theories he picked up either in left-wing classrooms or socialist churches.

His warming to the theme of redistributionism -- he thinks the government should just swoop down and take the profits of oil companies and give them to "the people" -- is explained by decades of tutoring in "liberation theology" at the knee of Jeremiah Wright.

Only immediate political considerations seem to blunt his instinctual calls for redistributionism. He is frustrated that Democrats always lose on the Walter Mondale, vote-for-me-I-will-raise-your-taxes platform. So he has to go through the rigmarole of feigning moderation as he clears his throat during lengthy answers.

"Everyone" will get a tax break, one of his staffers promised on Hardball this week, even though a moment earlier she had said that tax rates would be "restored" -- the Obama campaign's euphemism for bald tax-hiking -- for the top two-percent of earners. Apparently these Americans don't count as citizens to be included in the "everyone" category, even though they shoulder over a third of the federal government's revenues. It is now well established that his "tax cuts" are disguised government subsidies.

Obama has often said that he favors "tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation's wealth," suggesting that he is oblivious or indifferent to the steep tax rates of recent decades. His statist assumptions are automatic and he doesn't feel any need to justify them philosophically, immediately identifying the "nation's wealth" with the state and the point of "distribution" with government.

Taxation, under this thinking, exists not for the sake of financing the government's legitimate functions but for the sake of achieving "justice." This is the straightforward Marxist liberation theology piped into his Chicago church that has done such wonders for the Third World.

Liberation theology, which is supposedly designed to stamp out greed, only succeeds in finding new outlets for it. Not that Obama's high-minded social gospel isn't catching on: according to CNN, his campaign is "rolling out a new line of 'faith merchandise' -- the latest move in an ambitious effort to win over religious voters." So apparently not all merchants will be driven from his temple.

In his opportunistic finger-pointing criticisms this week, Obama spoke darkly about avarice on Wall Street, as if it is a conservative enclave. The truth is that Wall Street's fat cats have been voting for Democrats like Obama for decades. They like the Dems' corporate statism, knowing that any crisis created by it will result in demagogic calls for its expansion. A government-corporate alliance has gone bust? Well, we will have to create a new one, with even more regulations, etc., etc.

The claptrap is fatiguing, and every Obama speech is freighted with it. "Reform" means redistributionism. "Investments" mean increased government spending.

Shaky companies barely able to keep workers employed can look forward to helping his administration with its "investments" in failed public education, phony job retraining programs, and global-warming dilettantism.

Meanwhile, individual investors can look forward to making America more just by embracing his ratcheted-up capital gains tax rate -- an idea for restoring confidence to markets only a community organizer with considerable hubris could propose.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.