What have voters wrought with Obama?

For Barbara Amiel the president remains an enigma: an elegantly mannered man who behaves abominably

Canadian Press

Anything can be found on the Internet, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a brisk business in sites proclaiming President Barack Obama as the Antichrist and Satan incarnate. More surprising are the regular folk who see Obama as Mephistopheles. American businessmen, including some who raised money for him, arrive here in Florida for a weekend of golf and spend their time exchanging tales of the Obama Shoah.

Never mind the proposed new financial regulatory agencies, Obama’s kiss of life to American unions is sending shivers around. On March 27, Obama made recess appointments—beloved of virtually all presidents—and put Craig Becker on the National Labor Relations Board after bipartisan rejection in the Senate. Unsurprisingly, Becker was not seen as even-handed. At the time of his appointment, he was lawyer for both the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Service Employees International Union. Unions have been unsuccessful in getting rid of the secret ballot in organizing employees, but only just. Now those U.S. industries which have chugged along without unions, like some of the largest coal-mining companies, see different times ahead.

Pissing off businessmen has always been easy for Democratic presidents, but this seems to be an equal opportunity piss-off. There were cheers among America’s prison population when Obama was elected. Given that about one in every 31 American adults is ensnared in the justice system—whether probation, prison, jail or on parole—and three out of four prison admissions are either African-American or Hispanic, they thought the day of liberation was at hand. Barack Obama, a community organizer and one of their own, would speed sentence reform and reinstatement of parole (federal prisons don’t have parole, just a possible 15 per cent good time allowance). Instead, Obama’s okayed the building of more prisons, which pleases the powerful correctional officers lobby. Currently, the U.S. Department of Labor lists the job of correctional officer as a growth occupation stemming from “rising rates of incarceration.”

Remuneration for correctional staff begins as low as US$29,490, which reminds me of one of the statistics beloved by America’s doomsday theorists: namely, around 47 per cent of the working population pay no federal income taxes while the top one per cent of earners pay 40 per cent of the income tax revenue. This is not a happy state of affairs, I grant you, but it isn’t quite as stark as it seems. Most of the people paying no federal income tax earn less than $30,000, which gets them under the line for the tax but they do have Social Security payroll taxes deducted. Still, a country cannot be healthy when 47 per cent or more of its adult population make no contribution to the cost of federal infrastructure—such as defence, health and interest on the national debt.

Behind the satanic label is the fear of what Obama’s desire for “change” really means. Is this the “socialist utopia” that Americans fought so hard to defeat in other lands, now arising golem-like inside its own borders? Obama stirs up class warfare against the rich while rapidly creating a nomenklatura of bureaucrats, lobbyists and union leaders in Washington, complete with a presidency having more centralized power than any before him. Astonishingly, 18 states are already challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare, but the cold fact is that Americans will have to buy health insurance whether they want it or not. If they don’t, they get punished by the IRS. In Washington, always a template for federal rule, the school voucher program that helped minority kids has, to the delight of the teachers’ unions, not been renewed.

Obama remains an enigma to me on every level. He has the appearance of an elegantly mannered man but behaves abominably. Ejecting the Epstein bust of Churchill from the Oval Office is one thing, but sending it back to the British after they offer to extend the loan is simply a wilful child’s nose-thumbing. Leaving a political leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cooling his heels in order to have dinner with Michelle and the kids is not moral suasion, it’s schoolmarmish pettiness. Nor would any mannerly person announce that his grandmother was a racist (inaccurate on the basis of his account, anyway).

What have the voters wrought with this man? The founding fathers wanted to create safeguards against the capture of the country by one system or person, and that became the checks and balances of the constitution. Earlier societies relied on preventing centralization of power by splintering it: city states, regions, warlords or families held power. This was often lawless, but it prevented one person from grabbing everything. The genius of America was to create a system that prevented the power grab but not at the cost of lawlessness. Yet Obama, the man from nowhere, seems poised to single-handedly “change” this very essence, all in the name of levelling inequality in America.

De Tocqueville may have got Obama’s number over 150 years ago. Writing about democracy in America, he praised “the manly and lawful passion for equality,” but warned, “there also exists in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality in freedom?.?.?.?in a state where the citizens are all practically equal, it becomes difficult for them to preserve their independence against the aggression of power.” Difficult but not, one prays, impossible.

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