The economic crisis was addressed by increasing the national debt, which had achieved the total of $10 trillion after 232 years of American independence, by 70 percent in four years, and by a false, euphemistically and flippantly encapsulated process of offering the funded debt at low-ball prices and, when large chunks were unsold, having the Treasury’s 100 percent subsidiary, the Federal Reserve, “buy” it by issuing notes for the purpose. Technically it is a debt increase, but in fact it is an increase of over 300 percent in the money supply in four years, straddling between the deflation that the inflation was designed to alleviate, and the inflation that only the tenacity of the deflation prevents from roaring out of control.
Like a charmed sleepwalker, this president has strolled along the tightrope distracting the voters with lofty disparagements of those who busy themselves with guns and religion, a faddish notion of ecology, a formidable conjuration of a Republican “war on women,” and spurious claims of an economic miracle in the making. The president was again fortunate in 2012 in having an ambiguous opponent who had no sense of how to go for the political jugular. Republicans may weep with nostalgia when they think of what Eisenhower, Nixon, or Reagan would have done with the opportunity to run against the Democrats in 2012 (they all recaptured the White House from the Democrats). But even the reinstalled Obama, who will never have to face the voters again, is still wasting the country’s and his own time with sub-presidential maunderings about race.
His initial interventions in the Martin-Zimmerman case were completely inappropriate and his avuncular lecture to the nation identifying Trayvon Martin as his younger self, up from the deceased’s previous status as the president’s unborn son, was an unscrupulous incitement of racial tensions through a masquerade as a racially handicapped person himself. All accessible indications are that the president was an unexceptional student who benefited from affirmative action to win scholarships out of high school and to Occidental College and Columbia University, and that that was also the explanation of his position at the Harvard Law Review, where he contributed no articles. It does not lie in the mouth of someone who has been the evocator and the beneficiary of majority decency and generosity in America to lecture those who have elevated him to the nation’s greatest office on their racial turpitude.
I dislike rhetorical questions, but does no one notice anything? Why are there demonstrations about the just and rigorous Zimmerman acquittal, and not about the spreading and deepening IRS scandal, about the cynical treatment of the Benghazi murders, or the crumbling economic recovery? And, on my second lamentation of the week, why is almost no one pointing out that the economy can’t recover as it did in the past until more people are adding value: mining, extracting, farming, manufacturing, or contributing real intellectual accretions, and not just generating transactional fees as stock-jobbers (Jefferson’s bugbear) and deal-makers, churning out legal invoices for compliance with proliferating regulations and frivolous or vexatious litigation, or feathering the overbuilt and overpopulated nests of academia?
The most frightening statistic in America, apart from the current and accumulated deficits and the numbers of the unemployed and underemployed, is that there are 440,000 students in the country’s business schools. Business is not an academic subject and few of the most capable businessmen, financiers, or industrialists are business-administration graduates. But the self-consciousness of businessmen at their inability to claim to be a learned profession drives them to devote billions of dollars of their shareholders’ and their own money to academic cathedrals of business study. Very few of the professors in them have ever actually run anything or made any money, and most of the curriculum is completely superfluous to a successful career in commerce. The resources should be devoted to giving back to society teachers who can impart to students the ability to read, write, and pass a grade-three arithmetic test of 50 years ago. As standards have collapsed in the public-sector education system, and an economic recovery fails to begin in an economy waterlogged with people pursuing redundant activities, the president continues to distract the population rather than lead it.
He should apply himself to the country’s real problems. The economy should be allowed to promote economic growth. Education should educate, and not put the educationally needful lethargically through the motions while the commercially successful use graduate studies as a receptacle for the placation of their psychiatric lacunae by turning out hundreds of thousands of graduates mistakenly conditioned to believe that they have actually learned something useful. Education isn’t really a federal prerogative, though successive presidents have tried to make it so, and, in America, ultimately only the president can lead. He is, as the longest-serving occupant of the position said, “the head of the American people.” This president should act like it and do the job he is paid to do.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, A Matter of Principle, and the recently published Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership. He can be reached at[email protected].