President Obama Delivers the State of the Union Address

President Obama likes to brag. I guess it’s part of the job. Presidents have to speak up for themselves: no one else will do it. I didn’t watch the State of the Union address, but I hear he’s at it again. He saved the U. S. auto industry by keeping General Motors and Chrysler in business. Let’s take the case of General Motors. He fires the CEO while the company is nominally under stockholders’ control, uses our money to keep its doors open while it files for bankruptcy, and boasts that through his decisive action he saved our country’s automobile industry. I’ll bet Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns,  Countrywide, IndyMac, and hundreds of other banks small enough to fail wish they had received the same favor.

This love from Washington put the General Motors marketing people in a tricky position. After their shotgun bankruptcy, they wanted to let the country know they were back, without actually acknowledging why they were back. In all of the dozens, or perhaps hundreds of GM commercials I’ve seen over the last two years, in all the muscular public relations material they churn out about how Chevy runs deep, and Chevy trucks run even deeper, I don’t remember one ad thanking the taxpayers for their generosity. Well perhaps one of the early ones slipped a bit of gratitude in. If the taxpayers bailed out my business, I don’t suppose I’d publicly thank them, either.

Let’s not make a mistake about what’s going on when the leader of a political party saves one automobile manufacturer while he lets so many other businesses close up for good. You want to send a message to your supporters that you are not going to let them down. The UAW and public employee unions are a reliable source of money and votes. If you were a Democratic politician, would you let the UAW go out of business?

The same goes for the teaching jobs Obama thoughtfully saved with his so-called stimulus funds, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or even more euphemistically as a jolt to the economy. When you see the Treasury open up its vaults with semi trucks backed up to the doors, think again about what is going on. The Treasury made big payoffs to organized groups who support Democrats. The White House PR operation has relentlessly touted the jobs they’ve saved. You have to make up a number to make it sound good. No government statistician can accurately count created jobs. How could you even distinguish created jobs from uncreated ones? One thing you can do in a crisis is spend lots of money. Whatever else you say about it later, say it worked.

The same goes for all the green initiatives the Democrats funded when they came into office. Solar panels at Solyndra, electric car batteries at Ener1, wind power, high speed rail: one business initiative after another receives millions of dollars. These are business initiatives that would have received private capital long ago if they had good prospects. In fact, they did receive private capital, and they didn’t turn a profit. That’s why they needed an infusion of taxpayer money from the Treasury, right? Public money would yield a different result because it comes in such large quantities. We’ve seen the results: bankruptcies and boondoggles, not business success or new jobs. While the federal government uses all its regulatory muscle to kill nuclear power, it funds new technologies that cannot replace established technologies in the near term.

All of these funding initiatives have something in common. They reward Democrats’ reliable supporters, people who will come to the polls and reelect President Obama when November comes around. We worry lest the money that flows into politicians’ campaign coffers should corrupt public policy, but even worse is the amount of taxpayer money that flows out of the Treasury to reward favored groups. If donors want to buy a lot of television ads to get their favorite politician elected, I’m not sure that’s a form of political speech we want to restrict. If elected politicians want to spend taxpayer money to reward favored groups, we want to extinguish that form of political corruption immediately. We citizens did not pay taxes to see the money used as a reward for favored groups.

If you belong to a union, run a well connected renewable energy firm, or belong to some other favored group, you’ve had it good under the Democrats. If you’re among the millions of people who lost a job during the country’s economic collapse, and you don’t belong to a favored group like the United Auto Workers or the American Federation of Teachers, forget it. The government pays unemployment benefits until everyone forgets about you, while you watch your family’s prospects and spirits shrivel. Meantime your own hopes of ever getting a good job again, of ever buying another home or improving your children’s prospects, dry up as well. Talk about the American Dream: you just saw it shoveled out the door in the form of political corruption.

Does that sound a little too bitter? It’s not bitter enough, by my reckoning. Suppose Obama says in his campaign rhetoric, “Look, here’s how the system works. You turn out the votes, and I pay you off. It doesn’t matter where the dollars come from – you’ll get some.” At least that would be honest. Instead, he pays off his supporters with our tax money and claims he’s creating jobs! In my memory, other politicians who’ve made it to the White House managed to be less blatant about the operation.

The country faced a large-scale collapse when Obama took office, so he thought he could mount a large-scale payoff, give it a marketing name like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and call that job creation. You just have to make your supporters believe that what you did worked. If you claim you saved or created one million jobs, who’s to challenge you? No one, except the Occupy Wall Street protesters, a disfavored group if ever we saw one. After some equivocation, the mainstream media let Occupy Wall Street wear the establishment’s black stamp of public disapproval. The Tea Partiers know the process.

So now we listen to President Obama tout his party’s success in his third State of the Union address. The Democrats have acted just the same as the Republicans, except they pay off different groups. If after all the corruptions we’ve witnessed, the Democrats still claim they saved the auto industry, and by extension most of the manufacturing sector of the U. S. economy, let them. Let them call it job creation! The millions of families who have lost their jobs and their homes, who have that pressing sense of insistent, low-level anxiety about the future that saps your energy and your hope, know better.

Note though that the payoffs did work, but not as the Democratic tout machine claims they did. The Democrats still enjoy support from public employees’ unions. They still enjoy support from the envrionmental movement. They might even enjoy support from General Motors. To take one instance of prominent political conflict, go to Wisconsin to ask teachers and other public employees which party they favor. Ask how they’ll vote in the governor’s recall election. Those voters know which side their bread is buttered on.

Then ask an unemployed engineer, a new college graduate with loans who can’t find work, or any of the millions of people who are idle now, who want to work but can’t. Ask them who they support. They’ll likely reply that they don’t support anyone who gives away their money. They just want government to stop doing things to impede small businesses that want to grow. Given the choice between fairness or equality or whatever the latest Democratic buzzword might be, and a job, a person will take a job every time. When the White House claims that it wants jobs, too, you have to give it credit for believing its own talking points. Look at its actions, and you can see what it actually wants. It wants reliable support from Democrats in the next election – and it’ll give away your money to get it.


Steven Greffenius is the author of Revolution on the Ground, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and here at the The Jeffersonian.