One of the reasons why Barack Obama is regarded as the greatest orator of our age is that he’s always banging on about some other age yet to come — e.g., the Future! A future of whose contours he is remarkably certain and boundlessly confident: The future will belong to nations that invest in education because the children are our future, but the future will not belong to nations that do not invest in green-energy projects because solar-powered prompters are our future, and most of all the future will belong to people who look back at the Obama era and marvel that there was a courageous far-sighted man willing to take on the tough task of slowing the rise of the oceans because the future will belong to people on viable land masses. This futuristic shtick is a cheap’n’cheesy rhetorical device (I speak as the author of a book called “After America,” whose title is less futuristic than you might think) but it seems to play well with the impressionable Obammysoxers of the press corps.
And so it was with President Obama’s usual visionary, inspiring, historic, etc., address to the U.N. General Assembly the other day: “The future must not belong to those who bully women,” he told the world, in a reference either to Egyptian clitoridectomists or the Republican party, according to taste. “The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians,” he added. You mean those Muslim guys? Whoa, don’t jump to conclusions. “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” he declared, introducing to U.S. jurisprudence the novel concept of being able to slander a bloke who’s been dead for getting on a millennium and a half now. If I understand correctly the cumulative vision of the speech, the future will belong to gay feminist ecumenical Muslims. You can take that to the bank. But make no mistake, as he would say, and in fact did: “We face a choice between the promise of the future or the prisons of the past, and we cannot afford to get it wrong.” Because if we do, we could spend our future living in the prisons of the past, which we forgot to demolish in the present for breach of wheelchair-accessibility codes.
And the crowd went wild! Well, okay, they didn’t. They’re transnational bureaucrats on expense accounts, so they clapped politely, and then nipped out for a bathroom break before the president of Serbia. But, if I’d been one of the globetrotting bigwigs fortunate enough to get an invite — the prime minister of Azerbaijan, say, or the deputy tourism minister of Equatorial Guinea — I would have responded: Well, maybe the future will belong to those who empower women and don’t diss Mohammed. But maybe it’ll belong to albino midgets who wear pink thongs. Who knows? Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see. But one thing we can say for certain is that the future will not belong to broke losers. You’re the brokest guy in the room, you’re the president of Brokistan. You’ve got to pay back $16 trillion just to get back to having nothing, nada, zip. Who the hell are you to tell us who the future’s going to belong to?
The excitable lads around the globe torching American embassies with impunity seem to have figured this out, even if the striped-pants crowd at Turtle Bay are too polite to mention it. Obama is not the president of the Future. He is president right now, and one occasionally wishes the great visionary would take his eye off the far-distant horizon where educated women and fire-breathing imams frolic and gambol side by side around their Chevy Volts, to focus on the humdrum present where the rest of us have the misfortune to live.
In the America over which Barack Obama has the tedious chore of actually presiding, second-quarter GDP growth was revised down from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent — or, in layman’s terms, from “barely detectable” to “comatose.” Orders of durable goods fell by 13.2 percent — or, as Obama would say, the future must not belong to people who own household appliances. Growth of capital stock (which basically measures investment in new equipment and software — or, as Obama would put it, investment in “the future”) is at its lowest since records began. There are 261,000 fewer payroll jobs than when Obama took office — in a nation where (officially) 100,000 immigrants arrive every month. A few weeks ago, an analysis of government employment data by the nation’s oldest outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, discovered that, of the 4,319,000 new American jobs created since January 2010, 2,998,000 — or about 70 percent — went to people aged 55 or older. This is a remarkable statistic, even in a land of 31-year-old schoolgirls like Sandra Fluke. You’d almost begin to get the vague, unsettling feeling that the future does not belong to Americans aged 54 and younger.