Economic Sanity for 2012
Obama and Romney should get serious about the debt.


Conrad Black


While the president is at it, though this would apparently be too painful a derogation from Obaman holy writ, he should stop trying to suck and blow at the same time on energy exploration and pricing. Since the first days of his campaign for his present office, Mr. Obama has regaled the country with what has proved an imperishable fairy tale about green jobs and renewable energy, accompanied, until any further continuation would have made his mental health a livelier issue than his place of birth, by cap and trade and his quest for a $100 billion–a–year Danegeld slush fund for economically failed countries, conscience payments from the West to the likes of Mugabe and Chávez. Everybody balked, and the president was left at the Copenhagen Conference talking to himself; eventually, even he didn’t buy it. The administration, even at this late date, should rescue his energy policy from its pitiful status as, in Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s words in the Wall Street Journal of March 12, “a subservient by-product of his radical environmental policy.”


Last week, the president campaigned in Maryland and elsewhere boasting that domestic oil drilling had expanded to record levels of activity in his term. Deep-water oil-drilling permits are still well below where they were before the BP oil spill, though safety precautions are naturally tighter. He should stop his ambivalence about fracking, stop threatening the oil industry with higher taxes, and do a complete rethink on his mindless desertion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which ties in Canadian heavy-oil production and would produce over 100,000 jobs. He should proceed with it before Canada commits the pipeline construction to its own west coast, and the production to the Far East.


While there has been slight progress on the current-account deficit, there has been almost none on the trade deficit. Any solution to the immigration shambles should include a special minimum wage that could be adopted with a view to repatriating some manufacturing at the medium-to-higher end of what has fled the country. As China moves to raise the pay of its disgruntled work force and manufacturing moves to Vietnam and Indonesia and India, as it previously moved from the U.S. to Japan and then to Taiwan, South Korea, and China, it is time to bring some of it back. This would start to rebalance the American work force away from the fool’s paradise of the service-industry economy and the snobbish disparagement of manufacturing (which has been a potent issue for Rick Santorum). And it would help liberate under-documented immigrants from picking lettuce and rolling the tennis courts of Hollywood limousine lefties for starvation wages.


It is already clear that the president’s feeble electoral pincers attack of soaking the rich while saving the women by assaulting the Roman Catholic Church isn’t working. Any incumbent should be able to defeat Mitt Romney, the clumsiest Republican candidate since his father professed to have been brainwashed in Saigon in 1967. But any challenger, even Mitt Romney, should be able to beat this feckless, posturing administration.


That is why a little policy originality could be decisive in this election, on either side. The administration has only two ways to win unless Romney parlays his wife’s two Cadillacs, his offer of a $10,000 bet during a candidates’ debate, his uninterest in the very poor, and his organizers’ coup in having him address 1,200 people in a stadium for 65,000 people, to an absolute show-stopper. Either candidate could still produce a real program of deficit reduction, but the president could do something about it and give sensible people a comfort level that he was finally taking the matter seriously. Failing that, the president’s best chance could be bombing Iran. He should have done it already; it is getting late and could look hokey. There is still no sign that he will act, but the terrors of a fragile incumbency could incite unsuspected boldness.


— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and, just released, A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at [email protected].


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