The President’s statement about the importance of the public sectorat a stop in Roanoke, VA has received a lot of attention, mostly for hiscomment about private sector businesses. But there’s a lot more in this speech which deserves scrutiny. To wrap up his praise of the public sector, Obama had this to say:
I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I wasjust so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must bebecause I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something– there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there…
[E]ver since the founding of this country, you know what, there are somethings we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’show we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden GateBridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’show we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nationand as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president -because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re inthis together.
Some have noted that this line of thought is very similar to one expressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in a viral video clip. It’s also quite similar, at least in part, to an MSNBC promo Rachel Maddow filmed to promote her “lean forward” network:
The federal government did fund the construction of the Hoover Dam(though the work was carried out by a conglomerate of six privatecompanies). And going back to Obama’s list, it did fund the GI Bill, themoon program, and the creation of the Arpanet, precursor to the Internet. The lesson Obama seems to be drawing from this is that all thebig and important things that happen in our nation stem from thegovernment’s ability to tax and spend.
The problem is that President Obama hasn’t proposed any moon shot. He isn’t planning anew Hoover Dam or funding the creation of a new Internet. What he hasgiven us is the cancellation of the manned space flight program, theregulation into extinction of coal power plants, and a string of failedgovernment investments with names like Solyndra.
But putting aside the particulars, Obama’s speech seems spectacularlytone deaf. In the midst of a great recession, with Social Securityalready spending more than it is taking in, with Medicare racing toward asimilar fate, with states deeply in the red as a result of publicsector pensions and health care costs, with American cities declaringbankruptcy, with Europe on the brink of collapse from decades of biggovernment policies, and with $15 trillion in national debt for which wehave no retirement plan–in the midst of all that, Obama comes to praisebig government and badmouth innovation and hard work. It’s just sort ofstunning, really. Has there ever been a man less suited for the momentthan Obama is for right now?