False choices. Populist bromides. A lecture on values. President Barack Obama treated us to some of his greatest hits this week.
Speaking before the United Auto Workers union in Washington, Obama, champion of the working man, challenged auto bailout “naysayers” to “come around” and admit that “standing by American workers was the right thing to do,” as bailouts “saved” the auto industry. (You have to wonder whether downtrodden citizens appreciate just how close they came to having to roller-skate to work.)
“They’re out there talking about you like you’re some special interest that needs to be beaten down,” Obama told cheering union members. And those who claim that bailouts were just a labor payback are simply peddling a “load of you-know-what.”
I do know what, Mr. President.
Because actually, the United Auto Workers union is a special interest. Like other unions, the UWA regularly lobbies Congress, funds Democratic candidates across the country with millions of dollars, and advocates for public policy that undercuts competition and free trade. And, as The New York Times recently reported, the UAW and other unions will “put their vast political organizations into motion behind Mr. Obama.” (Nothing like a few strategic taxpayer “investments” to get labor inspired.)
And if by “be beaten down” the president means “compete in the marketplace like every other sucker in America,” well, he’s right. If by “be beaten down” he means “go to bankruptcy court — even if you’ve ‘played by the rules’” — and honor contracts you’ve signed rather than have a friendly administration rip them up and rewrite them in favorable terms for others, then heck yeah.
Yet Obama claims, “I” — “I” — “placed my bet on American workers.”
Now, it’s your bet, technically, of course, Mr. President. And let’s be honest, all my favorite bets are made with other people’s money. But you didn’t bet on the American people. That would mean betting that the marketplace and those in it have the capacity and the smarts to find increasingly productive and innovative ways to produce the things that consumers demand. You bet on a politically convenient corporation that believes it’s entitled to eternal state-sponsored protection. Too bad Woolworth’s and Pan Am couldn’t hold out until you came along.
Then again, it’s not just an economic duty but also a moral obligation. “You want to talk about values?” Obama went on to explain. “Hard work — that’s a value. Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together and I’m my brother’s keeper and sister’s keeper — that’s a value.”
Thank the secular spirits we don’t have one of those Bible thumpers in the White House. They tend to get preachy, you know.
But ponder this: The same week our greed-averse president sends a fundraising letter demonizing the Koch brothers — dubious self-starters and risk-takers who employ about 70,000 people without bailouts and hand out billions of dollars in noncoerced charity — he is busy celebrating policy that forces taxpayers to be their brother’s keeper, even though their brother continues to make terrible decisions free of consequence.
Now, the auto bailouts began under President George W. Bush — abandoning free-market principles to save the free market since 2001 — but Obama seems to believe that pumping money into failure is an economic starter kit. Some unpatriotic rube might even ask: If bailouts can really save jobs, grow the economy and cost taxpayers absolutely nothing, why not bail out more industries — or every industry? Why not bail out every corporation that’s headed in the wrong direction?
What, you don’t care about your brothers and sisters?