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Obama Inaugural: Full of Audacity, but Little Hope

Comment

Commentators both left and right agree that Barack Obama's second inaugural speech Monday was highly partisan, with shoutouts to his constituencies on the left and defiance of his critics on the right.

Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and made brief reference to Abraham Lincoln's sublime Second Inaugural ("blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword"). But there was not much in the way of "with malice toward none, with charity for all."

There were more references than in many inaugural speeches to specific programs and policies. One interesting question is what the practical effect they will have in the next few years.

"We reject the belief," Obama said, "that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future." Later in the paragraph, he specifically mentioned Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Practical effect: No entitlement reforms in the next four years. House Republicans can pass budgets with long-term Medicare fixes, but they aren't going anywhere.

That's quite a difference from 16 years ago, when Bill Clinton pursued serious entitlement reform with Newt Gingrich.

"I see the current American left as rapidly losing what it once knew about the need for entitlement reform," economist Tyler Cowen writes on his Marginal Revolution blog.

"I see it happening right under my nose, day by day, article by article, blogpost by blogpost." And in Obama's second inaugural.

"We will respond to the threat of climate change," said Obama, citing anecdotal evidence of unusual weather. Put this in the category of soothing a constituency that's not going to get what it wants.

Democrats were unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate when they had a 60-vote supermajority. They won't get one through either house in the next two years.

"We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries." Another shoutout to green Democrats.

Obama regulators may stymie the booming hydraulic fracking industry, but Congress isn't going to fund half-trillion dollar "green jobs" boondoggles like Solyndra.

"Security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war." No, they don't, and it looks like American troops will leave Afghanistan, as they did Iraq, under terms that give the bad guys leverage they didn't gain in conflict.

But otherwise we will lead from behind, as we did in Libya and may be doing in Mali, with unfortunate collateral damage like the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi and American hostages in Algeria.

"The love we commit to one another must be equal, as well." This was preceded by a graceful reference to Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, in which Americans protested government deprivations of different rights.

But the next day the Obama White House admitted that same-sex marriage is an issue for the states, where it's been making progress. It's not clear the federal government can do much to help.

The courts may overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Bill Clinton), which allows the federal and state governments not to recognize some states' same-sex marriages. But Congress is unlikely to give same-sex marriages equal status in tax or other laws.

"A better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants." Here, Obama did suggest one measure that could get bipartisan support, calling for "bright young students and engineers (to be) enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country."

There's a powerful argument that we should tilt our system, as Canada and Australia tilt theirs, toward high-skill immigrants.

"We cannot," Obama said, "treat name-calling as reasoned debate." Yet Obama does this constantly.

Perhaps he just feels that, since Republicans are slime who want old people and children to starve, saying so is just stating an obvious fact. It may not occur to him that not everyone feels that way.

"An economic recovery has begun." That was all Obama had to say about the macroeconomy. Ways to increase sluggish economic growth? Nada.

Obama did increase the size and scope of government in his first term, through stepped-up spending and Obamacare.

Now, beginning his second term, he is freer to enunciate liberal principles, but seems content with stasis going forward. No entitlement reform, soothing words for greens and gays, disdain for Republicans, leading from behind abroad, maybe immigration reform.

Lots of audacity, not much hope.

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... I will bet you have some good ideas to increase economic growth even though our international capitalism is bogged down with all the other capitalist economies that like our own have sucked all of the value out of the people so that in the rush to ever higher profits it has robbed itself of consumers... And of course; there is the little problem of government and consumer credit that has kept the cycle of boom going far longer than it ever would have that now will keep the bust going longer than any one wants to endure...
You can fiddle with the economy, but if the wealth is gone out of the people, it is like salt that has lost is savor, and who will put it back??? If you have some idea of giving the rich even more of our commonwealth, or of taxing people more who could not afford taxation to begin with as a way of capitalizing the very people who have made the export of our capital, and the import of our poverty their special project, then I will not go for it...
The problem is not that our rich are not rich enough... Our problem is that our rich have all the wealth, and now they think to rid themselves of all democracy... We could easily have Feudalism in this land, all held together by personal fealty to the rich... Since the rich own the commonwealth, we have no basis upon which to claim equal rights but the most basic one, of necessity...
The rich, and you- might remember that people do not engage in revolution for sport, and barely engage in it at all... Only stark necessity makes revolutions or revolutionaries... And then people do not change themselves, but only change their failed forms rather than following them into the grave...But people never really correct themselves, right themselves, in the words of Jefferson; but simply replace a failed form with a new and better form as open to perversion and corruption as was the form they made history... People are corruptable, and because of this, they make their forms corruptable, and if perfection were possible of people they would build perfection into their forms...
So we should not expect perfection of our governments, our economies, or our religions; but should simply trash them like the pampers that they are for the rich to crap in, and make poor humanity founder in...
Sir; a man, any man, any single man even in control of one department of the government is in no position to fix an economy on its death bed...We are all a part of the economy, even the world economy; but the wealth must come from some where, and to a great extent- must remain with the people...When the rich take too much in their haste and greed, they ruin the game for everyone, even themselves... And while they look back with envy to that age when kings were two 'a penney, and peasants were as common as commoners, people will realize in the end, that the reason those forms were trashed is because they trashed humanity...So it is with capitalism...We need to trash capitalism before it trashes us completely...
Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:24 AM
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