The Obama Watch

The Opportunism Society

Obama’s slippery state of the union.

By 1.29.14

UPI
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Obama doesn’t believe in opportunity so much as opportunism. In Tuesday night’s State of the Union, he made slippery use of the word opportunity as a euphemism for more big government. 

Other presidents would have said that a love of “freedom” united all Americans. But Obama changed freedom to “opportunity”: “what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”

Obama prefers the word opportunity to freedom, as opportunity implies a large government role in creating it. At the same time, trying to improve his slumping poll numbers with more moderate language, he didn’t want to talk blatantly about government-mandated equal outcomes. But that’s what “opportunity” essentially means under his political philosophy.

As usual, he treated conservatism as dangerously ideological and liberalism as harmlessly apolitical. He started his speech with this whopper: “For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate — one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people.”

In other words, suspend the debate and let liberalism reign. But it is precisely Washington’s refusal to resolve the debate under the principles of the founding and default to big-government liberalism that “prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy.”

Obama attributed the lack of economic opportunity to a lack of government action. The hordes of Americans out of work due to his actions would beg to differ. Nothing squelches real opportunity faster than government regulations and mandates, as job losses in the wake of Obama’s health care law and environmentalist decrees indicate. 

It is rich for a president who routinely blocks or stalls job-creating opportunities in the energy sector to present himself as the friend of the blue-collar worker. In the name of “climate change,” he is happy to close off opportunities for them. He even hinted at this in the speech amidst his insistence that catastrophic global warming is a “fact,” saying that the “shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.” Tough choices is a euphemism for laying people off.

Obama believes in the opportunism society, where those in trendy industries like solar energy get Solyndra-style government aid and politically reviled coal workers get pink slips.

The speech contained plenty of other dishonest touches: he blended legal and illegal immigration together in a high-minded tribute to those who come here to “study, invent, and contribute to our culture”; he called for throwing more money at the public school establishment, perhaps the most opportunity-denying institution of all (naturally, vouchers don’t figure into Obama’s opportunity society); he accused businesses of sexism, saying triumphantly against his phantom sexists, “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

In Obama’s fevered imagination, almost everyone is engaged in a war on women, including employers who refuse to pay women “equal pay for equal work.” Never mind that study after study shows that this feminist claim is utter nonsense, representing nothing more than an ideological insistence that employers pay men and women equally even when their hours are unequal.

Obama’s concern for youth opportunity was quickly canceled out by his calls for minimum-wage increases, which inevitably mean employers offer fewer entry-level jobs. He singled out two of Congress’s biggest leftists, Tom Harkin and George Miller, for proposing a minimum-wage hike that if enacted would kiss countless summer jobs away.

He concluded the speech with the usual assortment of feel-good platitudes and ostensible praise of America’s troops. But he couldn’t resist implying that America’s war on terrorism has been nasty and unconstitutional. He says that he is now ready to enact his 2008 campaign promise to “close the prison at Guantanamo Bay — because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.” Some example.

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