The results deficit

Rep. Stephen Scalise (R-LA), who now chairs the Republican Study Commission, is once again talking about the rather glaring gap between President Obama’s 2009 promises and 2013 reality.  “Bigger government is the problem, not the solution.  In the wake of the stimulus, Americans have suffered through higher taxes, a weak jobs market, and the worst economic recovery seen since the Great Depression.”

This is a devastating point: just compare our grinding unemployment and stagnant economic growth to Obama’s lofty stimulus promises.  We’re nowhere near where he promised we would be, if we just gave him $800 billion to “invest.”  No private investor could survive such a degree of failure – and of course, none of them gets $800 billion to play with.  At the very least, it’s highly likely that the clients of such a lousy investor would take their business elsewhere.

But nothing seems to matter less than Obama’s broken promises.  There was only lukewarm enthusiasm for holding him accountable during the 2012 election; the most charitable interpretation of the results is that a sufficient number of voters decided that other factors were more important.  Depressed turnout, including terminally low Republican turnout, suggests an electorate that just doesn’t expect any better.

We hear a lot of talk about “bipartisanship,” but the true source of bipartisanship among the electorate should be the establishment of high standards.  If Obama couldn’t correctly diagnose the economy before plowing $800 billion into “stimulus,” why should even a Democrat trust him to perform better in the future?  How many second chances are you supposed to get, at something like that?  And if he never really expected the stimulus to perform as he claimed, why were so many people willing to re-elect a fraud?

No election was ever as clean and simple as nostalgia retroactively paints it, but I think we used to have higher standards for the office of the Presidency.  Now we give out second terms as participation medals for extra super heartfelt effort.  The deficit between promises and results is killing us as surely as our fiscal deficit… and really, aren’t they directly related?  We have such a titanic government precisely because no degree of failure is sufficient to cause the termination of any program.  Instead, it’s just like Obama trotting up to his second inaugural microphone to demand even more stimulus bills, and even more Solyndras: failure is an argument for more funding.