WASHINGTON — The media herd is stunned to discover that Barack Obama is a man of the left. After 699 teleprompted presidential speeches, the commentariat was apparently still oblivious. Until Monday's inaugural address, that is.
Where has everyone been these four years? The only surprise is that Obama chose his second inaugural, generally an occasion for “malice toward none” ecumenism, to unveil so uncompromising a left-liberal manifesto.
But the substance was no surprise. After all, Obama had unveiled his transformational agenda in his very first address to Congress, four years ago (Feb. 24, 2009). It was, I wrote at the time, “the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president.”
Nor was it mere talk. Obama went on to essentially nationalize health care, 18 percent of the U.S. economy — after passing an $833 billion stimulus that precipitated an unprecedented expansion of government spending. Washington now spends 24 percent of GDP, fully one-fifth higher than the postwar norm of 20 percent.
Obama's ambitions were derailed by the 2010 midterm shellacking that cost him the House. But now that he's won again, the revolution is back, as announced in Monday's inaugural address.
It was a paean to big government. At its heart was Obama's pledge to (1) defend unyieldingly the 20th-century welfare state and (2) expand it unrelentingly for the 21st.
The first part of that agenda — clinging zealously to the increasingly obsolete structures of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — is the very definition of reactionary liberalism. Social Security was created when life expectancy was 62. Medicare was created when modern medical technology was in its infancy. Today's radically different demographics and technology have rendered these programs, as structured, unsustainable. Everyone knows that, unless reformed, they will swallow up the rest of the budget.
As for the second part — enlargement — Obama had already begun that in his first term with Obamacare. Monday's inaugural address reinstated yet another grand Obama project — healing the planet. It promised a state-created green energy sector, massively subsidized (even as the state's regulatory apparatus systematically squeezes fossil fuels, killing coal today, shale gas tomorrow).
The playbook is well known. As Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus once explained, environmentalism is the successor to failed socialism as justification for all-pervasive rule by a politburo of experts. Only now, it acts in the name of not the proletariat but the planet.
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