Saturday, February 6 , 2016, 9:49 pm | Fair 51º

Larry Kudlow: Obama’s Declaration of Collectivism a Telling Sign

By Lawrence Kudlow | @larry_kudlow |

One of the least remarked upon aspects of President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech was his attempt to co-opt the Founding Fathers’ Declaration of Independence to bolster his liberal-left agenda.

Sure, Obama quoted one of the most important sentences in world history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So far, so good. But he later connected the Declaration with his own liberal agenda: “... that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.” (My italics, not his.)

He fleshed this out with his trademark class-warfare, income-leveling rationalizations. Such as: “The shrinking few do very well, and a growing many barely make it.” He also talked about “Our wives, mothers and daughters that earn a living equal to their effort.” He followed that up with, “The wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

Here’s what I take away from all this: Mr. Obama is arguing counter to the Founding Fathers that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of equality of results, not the equality of opportunity, and that he will do what he can to use government to make everybody more equal in terms of their income and life work.

That is exactly wrong. We should be rewarding success. We should be promoting entrepreneurship. We should be encouraging individual effort and opportunity.

But this was no opportunity speech. This was a redistributionist, income-leveling speech. And it completely missed the point of the Founding Fathers some 237 years ago.

They were talking about the equality of opportunity, not results. Theirs was a declaration of freedom, not government power or authority.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written expressly to begin a revolution against the autocratic monarchs of England, who used their government authority to tax, regulate and oppress the colonists without any representation or voting rights, thus denying them the unalienable rights of liberty.

So while Obama was on the one hand preaching “fidelity to our founding principles,” on the other he was saying that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.

Collective action? The Founders were talking about individual liberty and rights. Not the power of a collectivist government.

The “collective” is a socialist idea, not a free-market capitalist thought. And the story of the last quarter of the 20th century was of the absolute breakdown and end of the collectivist model. Collectivism was thrown into the dustbin of history by the weight of its own failure.

To me, Obama’s mistaken opinions regarding the Declaration of Independence, and his total lack of understanding of the thinking behind the Declaration, is more troubling than any of the liberal programmatic proposals he set forth. Fundamentally, you have to wonder if he really understands the American idea, and the American historical experience, beginning with the great wisdom of the Founders.

Collectivism also means, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” During his second-term inaugural speech, Obama actually said, “We do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” Were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates lucky? Was Henry Ford lucky? Was Thomas Edison just lucky?

How about they used their God-given talents of creativity, imagination and ingenuity, coupled with hard work, to create commercial ventures that financially empowered millions upon millions of people who were then able to live a better and more comfortable life?

That’s what the founders had in mind. Freedom.

It was bad enough that Obama had nothing to say about economic growth, or excess federal spending, deficits and debt. Nor did he show any interest in reforming the large entitlement programs that may bankrupt America. He did discuss the energy market. But rather than let market forces determine the most efficient and clean energy sources to power our economy, he insisted on more doomed green-energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer (like Solyndra).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., likened Obama’s speech to a declaration of the end of the era of small government. “One thing is clear from the president’s speech,” he said. “The era of liberalism is back.” I agree.

But again I say it’s Obama’s misunderstanding of the founders’ intent that is the most troubling. Equality of opportunity is the American ideal. Equality of results and income-leveling is foreign to the American ideal.

As conservatives and Republicans regroup, and as they seek to achieve a better America, I hope they keep the opportunity principle uppermost in their minds.

Larry Kudlow is economics editor at National Review Online, host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, and author of the daily web blog Kudlow’s Money Politic$. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @larry_kudlow, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

» on 01.27.13 @ 12:40 PM

Mr. Kudlow makes many statements is support of his opinion, but few are factual:
“the story of the last quarter of the 20th century was of the absolute breakdown and end of the collectivist model. Collectivism was thrown into the dustbin of history by the weight of its own failure.”
Does he mean the collapse of the U.S.S.R.?  Its major problem was too much spent on its military.  Which is a major problem for the United States, too.

“It was bad enough that Obama had nothing to say about economic growth, or excess federal spending, deficits and debt. Nor did he show any interest in reforming the large entitlement programs that may bankrupt America.”
Why didn’t conservatives rail against deficits during the Reagan era, during which the national debt tripled? Or the G. W. Bush regime, when it tripled again?  Obama has at least cut back on the deficits he inherited and has wound down our military excesses.

“rather than let market forces determine the most efficient and clean energy sources to power our economy, he insisted on more doomed green-energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer”
And how’s that working out for us?  The whole planet is endangered by letting the “free market” set energy policy.

Please, Mr. Kudlow, stick to the facts.

» on 01.27.13 @ 12:49 PM

What a dishonest twisting of words and meanings. Collective effort has nothing to do with communism, and everything to do with Benjamin Franklin’s assertion that we should “Hang together, or we will surely hang separately”

If fair wages are un-capitalistic, then so are fairness and justice. Kudlow’s version of capitalism favors a landed gentry and aristocrats.

And Kudlow’s version of success is apparently unobtainable without somebody being cheated out of a fair price for their product: labor. That sounds very distant from the idea of free market capitalism.

Finally, Kudlow’s dismissal of luck as a factor in business success is just plain ignorant, as anyone with experience in business knows.

Twisted pap for the ignoramus,that’s Kudlow’s product. I hope he gets a fair price for his work.

» on 01.27.13 @ 02:28 PM

I’m not sure just WHO is twisting words and meanings here. I guess different people put their own different meanings into the same statements.

For example, Benjamin Franklin wasn’t talking about a collective economy when he said “We must hang together, or we will surely hang separately.” He was talking about standing together politically against England when we declared our independence from the king and his rule. If you recall history, there was a significant faction in the new USA that was against independence when Franklin made that statement. That is the issue which Franklin was discussing.

And I didn’t read where Kudlow dismissed luck as having any impact at all on success in business. What I read was that it was not only luck; that people like Jobs, Ford, Gates, Edison were not JUST lucky. Their success also was the result of their hard work and the use of their intelligence.

There are several other twisted interpretations in the previous posts but these two are enough to make my point.

I think that Kudlow has accurately captured one of the key issues in our country today - either freedom or more government control of our lives - the nanny state concept (which you can call collectivism if you want). Apparently the perceived accuracy of what Kudlow has written depends on which way you would like to see the country go.

» on 01.27.13 @ 02:45 PM

He was referring to the Soviet Union, Cuba and Maoist China, these followed by the bankruptcy of Western Europe by commie light, al la socialism. Yes 70 years of cold war communist containment wasted tens of trillions of dollars globally on military spending. What a colossal waste. But the real failure of collectivism was discovered by the pilgrims 400 years ago when they tried it first. They damned near starved to death. The then tried a market based system and reaped plenty, hence our Thanksgiving Day celebration today. But don’t take my word for it, just go ask the communist Chinese what friggen works and why they are kicking the crap out of every other economy around the world. Oh, ya, its capitalism.

As for Obama, he has added more debt his first term the all the presidents before him, some cut back. But hey I agree the GOP became wild assed spenders during Bush and that’s why they lost in 2006 and 2008. Obama’s side rewards his excessive spending with another term, go figure that one out.

As for energy policy I suppose you are going to tell us that we will save the planet with wind mills and fair dust? Give me a break. First I’ll bet you know nothing about climate science but what you are told by big fat liar Al “sold my TV station to oil barons” Gore.

There is a difference between being a community and “sticking together” to help each other out and a collective where all your material possessions are “owned” by the community and all contribute based on ability rather than effort. Collectives don’t work. They never have and the reason is so damned obvious that even children can figure it out. If you get the same stuff as everyone else regardless of effort, you stop trying.

» on 01.28.13 @ 02:41 AM

How do you get communism from fair wages? No one was ever prevented from his pursuit of happiness by having to be fair, unless of course being fair makes that person unhappy.

It goes both ways, and the worker who asks for too much finds his efforts corrected by the market. But when a woman asks to be paid at the same rate as her male colleague, Kudlow and a few of our resident posters see that as communistic. That’s kinda creepy.

Maybe Kudlow, Art, and AN50 should redefine communism as any attempt by a majority of Americans to reduce injustices. Especially if those injustices result in a profit for somebody else.

» on 01.28.13 @ 02:43 AM

Plenty of people work very hard on very good ideas. The risks they take are far greater than most of us can afford. Sometimes the risk is too great for a rational person to take, and being willing to take it does not make the idea better or more valuable. But we idolize the ones who will risk their homes and their family’s safety, as long as they succeed. If they fail, then they are on their own.

The culture Kudlow would embrace does not favor the great idea or the entrepreneur, it romanticizes the high-risk gambler. It discourages the inventor and the entrepreneur.

In his inaugural speech, Obama talked about lowering the risk for people to develop ideas. It’s a valid approach, in an economy that is fueled by new ideas. Lower the risk. That’s not communism, and it doesn’t have anything to do with collective ownership of private property.

» on 01.28.13 @ 06:47 PM

Come on, Larry. Let’s get real.

It was Lincoln who did this Declaration of Independence pivot 150 years ago, and it wasn’t for “redistributionist” or “liberal-left” conniving.

It was to get both Congress, and the public, to reconsider some of the key values the Founders had in mind when the Revolutionary War began.

People choose to see or hear what they want in public speeches by public figures.

Conservatives like Kudlow, still reeling from broad losses in an election
they expected to win, imagine the worst slant on every word or phrase.

What most people I talked to heard was that Obama’s priorities were to wind-down the war, nudge the economic recovery forward, try to work some kind of
deal on immigration, take another look at “climate change”, and do something
on weapons proliferation.

He acknowledged, early on, that getting long-term National Debt under control
is very important, but that he wasn’t going to do it at the expense of Medicare
or Social Security, without new negotiations.

To me, that means he’s willing to move on some of this, but only after the Grover
Norquist choir in the House is willing to rehearse a new “revenue” song they can
all worship to, before trying to cut some kind of Simpson-Bowles deal.

With Kudlow’s Republican House caucus pulling the lowest polling ratings since
the earliest days of George Gallup, Senior, it’s fascinating that Kudlow is more
worried about his perception of ultra-cautious Obama as some “liberal-left”
subversive than he is about the core of his own Party not always willing to admit
that the earth is round, or that gravity has an influence on God’s creations.

With a semi-rational, fear-based, name-calling philosophy like that, how does
he expect to achieve anything for America, or his Party, in Obama’s 2nd term?

» on 01.28.13 @ 07:58 PM

As some one who engages in “name calling” I guess you should know Publius.

Communism, any system of government in which a single, usually totalitarian, party holds power and the state controls the economy, or collectivism, the system of control and ownership of factories and farms and of the means of production and distribution of products by the state are identical in meaning. They both impose state control and ownership of the economy. Is Obama a communist? Doubt it, no he is more the weak sister of communism which is private ownership and state control or socialism if you prefer.

Publius and Rambler can lie or bury their head in the sand as much as they want but Obama has already admitted his affinity for a state run economy. He is a actually more a statist than socialist, one who believes that economic and/or social control belongs to the state. His stated philosophy, his words not an interpretation by others. If you choose not to believe it fine, join the millions of dupes and blind who allowed the pontifications of mesmerizing charismatic leaders to lead them to slaughter.

However many of us studied this man long before his hat was thrown in the ring. As bad as Hilary is for us conservatives she was far less radical and far less inexperienced than the man your party chose to lead us down the road to extinction.

» on 01.28.13 @ 10:40 PM

To AN50—“He is a actually more a statist than socialist, one who believes that economic and/or social control belongs to the state. His stated philosophy, his words not an interpretation by others.”  This is NOT Obama in words or actions.  You’re way too paronoid.  Relax, let reality flood over you.

» on 01.29.13 @ 12:00 PM

Blindness can be bad for your health. I suggest you read his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ and a compilation of speeches he has given over the years. Of course many on the left that I know do not have the ability to discern political connotation. That is why I try to include the dictionary definitions when using politically charged words, so you won’t get confused. This is due to our nation’s one sided media and education system which has saturated the culture in leftist group think for two generations. We have moved the culture needle so far to the left that left of center is now considered right by most people.

While you’re dusting out your leftist brain, read about the JFK administration, his economic policies. You will be shocked to find that a popular democrat president was actually more right of center than GW Bush. That will illustrate for you the leftward creep we have experienced in the 5 decades following JFK. What you see as paranoia is actually reality snapping at that part of your brain that has not been entirely brainwashed.

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