Pictures at an Exhibition — September 10, 2012

Watching the Democratic National Convention last week, a succession of images came to my mind, illustrating for me some of the stuff that was occurring on stage.

The first image was that of a Beautiful House.  Five thousand square feet, manicured lawn, pool and barbecue deck in back; kids in private schools, Mom dripping in diamonds, Dad’s Porsche in the garage, vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard.  The neighbors wonder how they can afford it all on a manger’s salary, and of course, they can’t – they are up to their eyeballs in debt.  It’s only a matter of time before the bank comes and takes that wonderful lifestyle away.

That’s what I though of as the Democrats greeted their plans for ever more spending – “investments” in education, infrastructure, clean energy, etc. – with loud huzzahs.  How do they think they are going to pay for all that?  In cheerful denial, the lot of them.  The Chinese hold the mortgage, and one day they are going to come calling.

Another picture was that of a Baby in a Pram – my English friends’ word for baby carriage – throwing toys out in a temper.  This came to me as I watched Sandra Fluke flaunt her invented reality to the delight of the convention.  How is it, I asked myself, that a spoiled, entitled 30-year old student, with a degree in Feminist Studies, gets prime time play at the DNC to claim that she has a right to free contraceptives?  Quite apart from the Constitutional question that really lay behind the issue of religious organizations forced to provide abortifacients and the like, it struck me as so off the point.  Don’t these people realize that we have a financial crisis on our hands that threatens our way of life (see Beautiful House, above)?

The next image is that of a Pleading Boy telling his mother: “It’s not my fault!”  Nearly four years into the worst economic recovery in history, and Team Obama is blaming the Republicans.  They stopped everything the President tried to do! they cried.  But think this through: even before 2010, when the President’s health care plans were running into loud and widespread resistance, practical heads like Rahm Emanuel were suggesting Obama scale back the plan and opt for a piecemeal approach that could attract Republican votes on specific provisions.  More ideological advisers like Valerie Jarrett pushed for him to go big – he’ll never have the Congressional clout to do it if he doesn’t do it now, they said.  And Obama followed their advice – pushing through a highly unpopular entitlement with no Republican support whatsoever, abusing process along the way.  That was his choice.

After the 2010 shellacking, he deliberately chose not to emulate Bill Clinton, and tack toward the center.  Instead he doubled down on the liberal agenda, and when he found he could get nothing through Congress started to implement it through executive decisions – lightening the work requirement for welfare reform, instituting a version of the Dream Act, imposing regulations on coal-fired generators that effectively ruled out any new ones.

He deliberately chose these courses of action.  Consider this: if Obama’s policies were so good for the country, he should have been able to pick off more than a few Republicans representing this vast and diverse country whose constituents would thank them for helping pass them.  That’s what a successful President does.

Next image: Snake Oil Salesman.  That’s Bill Clinton, and boy is he glib.  I’ll give you one example – after extolling the virtues of across-the-aisle cooperation, and castigating the obstructionist Republicans for having none of it (see Pleading Boy, above), he offered examples of Obama’s supposed willingness to work with the opposition: he had a few Republican cabinet members, notably Robert Gates as Defense Secretary; and he took people into his administration who had worked for his Democratic opponents in the primaries (“Heck, he even hired Hillary!” Clinton said to wild applause).  There ensued a discussion of foreign policy with Hillary.  But note what’s missing – any evidence of actually working with Republican lawmakers.  Yet, I’ll bet you thousands walked out of that hall convinced that Clinton had nailed that particular point.  How’s that oil tasting, mate?

Next image: the little boy earnestly declaiming with Crossed Fingers behind his back.  This applies to virtually every speaker on every subject – the whole three night extravaganza, with the possible exception of Michelle Obama’s paean to her husband, was an exercise in distortion, misrepresentation, and outright falsehood.  From the accusations leveled against Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals – there is no “voucher” involved, for instance, and seniors will not be affected at all, let alone be forced to pay an extra $6400 a year – to the supposed success of the GM bailout (note where the stock market puts GM’s prospects, down 50% in the last year), it was all a bunch of hooey.  After the Republican convention, the fact-checkers made a big deal out of Ryan’s entirely factual claims about Obama predicting a 100-year life for a GM factory that closed within a year – it was supposedly an example of Republican “lies” despite its veracity.  One wonders where they would even start with this set of speeches.

Final image: an elephant.  Not the Republican elephant, but the proverbial Elephant in the Room: the economy; the debt.  Not that they ignored the former – one after another, they did their best to try to make it seem like the economy was in good shape and getting better.  Obama had “laid the foundation” Clinton said, for solid economic growth going forward – we just haven’t had time for all that foundation-laying to bear fruit.  We are better off than we were four years ago, swore Joe Biden, because we have universal health care, because “GM is alive, and Osama bin Laden is dead!”

The reality is that, not only are we worse off than four years ago, we are worse off than one year ago.  More jobs were created each month, GDP growth was faster, mean wages were higher, the price of gas was lower in 2011 compared with the present.  And the last jobs number had nothing good about it: nearly three times as many people quit looking for work as actually found a job.

But the big pachyderm is the national debt, which fittingly crossed a milestone while the convention was in session: sixteen trillion dollars in debt.  An astonishing number.  A number that will hobble our children’s and grandchildren’s prospects.  A number that may well bring an end to the great American experiment (see Beautiful House, above).  And here’s what the Democrats had to say about the most pressing issue of our day:

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