Barack Obama has released a ridiculous little 20-page pamphlet — 20 pages with lots of pictures — detailing his agenda for a second term. He calls it the “New Economic Patriotism,” and if that name seems to you redolent of early-20th-century totalitarians, that may be because it is not the first N.E.P.: Lenin’s was the Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika. Mitt Romney published an economic-policy book, too. No pictures.
Apparently, Obama’s second term is to be a more or less precise repeat of his first term. In fact, the sixth item on his seven-point list merely touts Obamacare, which, if memory serves, already has been passed. He also wants to add six-figure numbers to the headcounts of the public-sector unions that finance and staff his campaign. And build batteries. There’s no picture of the batteries, but there are 17 photographs of the president, most of them centerfolds. In fact, photographs of the president gazing down benevolently upon children, doctors, oldsters, and one guy with a baseball cap on sideways account for about 80 percent of the space in the booklet. That is appropriate, inasmuch as the Obama campaign, like the Obama presidency, is not about jobs or economic growth: It is about Barack Obama.
Such scant substance as there is exhibits the president’s characteristic dishonesty. He repeats the canard about tax deductions for outsourcing, when in fact no special tax deduction exists. (Business expenses are deductible when calculating income for tax purposes — that’s it. No special benefit for outsourcing expenses exists.) He boasts that his policies have led to a dramatic reduction in oil imports, and he is in a sense correct: Demand for oil is down because the economy is stagnant. Demand for lots of things is down for the same reason, and Obama’s policies are an important part of the reason for that. He suggests that we will reduce our demand for foreign oil even further by investing in wind, solar, and clean coal. He is not very clear on how that will work, since those technologies are used to produce electricity, which is not what we use oil for. Perhaps he thinks the country runs on diesel generators. Cars that run on cool breezes and sunshine are not yet commercially available.
In truth, Obama’s policies are a dagger pointed at the heart of the American energy industry. Oil production on federal lands is declining, and his EPA is poised to pounce upon the natural-gas industry, threatening to squelch innovative techniques for recovering natural gas from shale deposits. In the unhappy event the president should win reelection, he will not be constrained by the thought of having to face the voters again, and his EPA will be off the leash.
The president also repeats his misleading statement about job growth in “the auto industry rescued by President Obama.” (Sure, you taxpayers may have played a role, too, but don’t expect a mention.) In truth, most of the growth in automotive employment has not been at the bailed-out firms, which still are significantly underperforming such competitors as Toyota and Volkswagen.
He boasts of the three free-trade pacts he has signed, every one of which was handed down to him by the Bush administration. In fact, he slow-walked the Colombia trade pact under pressure from his labor-union allies.
He proposes to cut corporate tax rates. It is our understanding that there is another candidate in the race with a similar idea.
He proposes to create 20 federal institutes for innovation in manufacturing, because innovation is the first thing most people think of when they think of the federal government.
He also promises to cut spending and to reduce the deficit, issues upon which he simply has no credibility. If he were going to adopt a deficit-reduction plan, he would have proposed one by now instead of torpedoing every idea sent his way for the last four years, including the recommendations of his own deficit-reduction commission.
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, what is economic patriotism? The last refuge of a man with President Obama’s record.