But now we turn right to see what conservatives think could occur if he wins. It’s a journey from sunshine into shadow, but it doesn’t have to play out that way. There are, however, lots of non-rosy scenarios, and plenty of facts to support them.
With the Heritage Foundation saying the United States has dropped to 10th place in the world in overall economic freedom, our nation faces a new challenge to its liberty that again comes from domestic political strife.
Yes, there continue to be many foreign challenges as well. But for today, let’s ponder the meaning of Heritage’s description of our current economy: “(The U.S.) score is 1.5 points lower than last year, reflecting deteriorating scores for government spending, freedom from corruption, and investment freedom. The U.S. is ranked second out of three countries in the North America region, and its overall score remains well above the world and regional averages.”
But, Heritage reports, “The U.S. economy faces enormous challenges. Although the foundations of economic freedom remain strong, recent government interventions have eroded limits on government, and public spending by all levels of government now exceeds one-third of total domestic output.”
The United States has fallen into Heritage’s second tier of nations, rated only “mostly free,” with Hong Kong (part of Red China!) taking the top rank among the world’s most-free economies. We have also fallen behind Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Mauritius (!) and Ireland.
To no great surprise, burdensome bureaucratic regulations are a big part of the problem: “The regulatory burden on business continues to increase rapidly, and heightened uncertainty further increases regulations’ negative impact. Fading confidence in the government’s determination to promote or even sustain open markets has discouraged entrepreneurship and dynamic investment within the private sector.”
But there’s more. Freedom covers a larger territory than that part of life denominated in dollars, and political analyst Michael Barone this week found in Obama’s scorn for the constitutional requirements for recess appointments an assertion of presidential power that betrays his contempt for established process: “What gives the head of the executive branch the authority to decide whether one house of the legislative branch is conducting serious business? Can the president decide that the quality of Senate debate is so poor on any particular day that he may deem it to be in recess?”
Obama, he concludes, is bordering on “one-man” rule, and adds, “The Framers thought it more important to limit power than for government to act quickly. Barack Obama disagrees. Republican presidential candidates have been praising the Founding Fathers, he has been defying them. Interesting contrast.”
Also seeing the contrast are a pair of academics writing for the conservative urban policy magazine City Journal. Fred Siegel of St. Francis College in Brooklyn and Joel Kotkin of Chapman University see “The New Authoritarianism” heading our way.
They quote Obama’s explanation that, “where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves,” as expressing “an authoritarian trend emerging on the political left since the conservative triumph in the 2010 elections.”
The conclusion on the progressive side seems to be that, as Joe Klein of Time magazine put it, Democrats are governing a “nation of dodos” that is “too dumb to thrive,” and needs the oversight, the authors say, “of a European-style governance by a largely unelected bureaucratic class.”
Supplanting the restrictions of the Constitution with the “needs of a changing political environment” and boosted by support from economic sectors such as labor unions and “Big Green” businesses dependent on high levels of government subsidy, Obama has a decent shot at re-election, Seigel and Kotkin conclude.
If that happens, “2013 could possibly bring something approaching a constitutional crisis,” with some Obama supporters, such as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., saying he is justified in taking power into his own hands because Republicans in Congress are in a “state of rebellion” similar to the South in 1861.
The mechanisms of control for a “soft version of the Chinese model” already exist, the authors say, in the form of new policy czars and regulatory enforcers put in place over the past three years.
“Whole industries — notably the burgeoning oil and natural gas sectors,“ now poised for a huge boom, could be “strangled” by the EPA, “dragging whole regions into recession.” Obama’s rejection of the vitally important Keystone XL pipeline from Canada this week is a form of stragulation, and serves to keep us heavily dependent on foreign energy sources.
In addition, “expansions of affirmative action, gay rights and abortion rights could become mandated from Washington” far beyond their current scope.
Without strong, focused opposition, the authors say, the exercise of “relentless executive power could lead to a nation mirroring the fate of California,” where “Obama-style progressives rule without effective opposition (and) the (political and cultural) clerisy has already enacted a score of regulatory mandates that are chasing businesses, particularly in manufacturing, out of the state.”
At the national level, that would become chasing business out of the country, and the result would be, not a return to growth and prosperity, but “growing pessimism and polarization.”
We may or may not “all be Keynesians now,” quoting the infelicitous phrase by which Richard Nixon once disclosed his lack of economic understanding.
But if things don’t change, it is apparent we all will share in the prosperity of Greece, the bright future of Italy, the dynamism of Spain, the moral authority of Sweden — and, worst of all, the political culture of Chicago.
It’s a well-trodden path, and the only way to avoid it is by not electing the people for whom it is a socialist’s dream and not a freedom-lover’s nightmare.
M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: