The Gipper on Obama’s Cold War mind warp

How about that Democratic National Convention?  While the Left heaped praise on Bill Clinton’s speech, media generally opined that President Obama’s was muted and relatively unimpressive.  No promise of a sweeping agenda, but a plea to hang on because things are moving in the right direction.  Never mind that, per the historical record, the recovery should be moving much more briskly.

One of the most memorable moments of the President’s speech came when he attacked Mitt Romney for being “stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”  As he tells it, Governor Romney wants to return to a time of “blustering and blundering.”  This is a rather unfortunate way for President Obama to describe the most significant–and a greatly triumphant–chapter in American history.

Think of the man who had the biggest role in leading America to victory in that nearly five decade showdown between freedom and tyranny: Ronald Reagan.  His greatest speech (transcript and YouTube) was called “A Time for Choosing.”  In it, he reminded Americans of their country’s exceptional worth and the tremendous stakes of a prolonged conflict with the Soviet Union.  In retrospect, Americans today can rightly claim a fulfillment of what Reagan called “our rendezvous with destiny.”

But for the media and Democrats, “blustering and blundering” suffice for a label.  The tendency on the Left has always been to trivialize national security concerns.  At the heart of the liberal worldview, communists, jihadis, and so on are ultimately well-meaning, misunderstood types.  But Reagan had it right.  There have been and will continue to be dire times when serious foes will work to end our way of life.  Appropriately, these moments are “a time for choosing.”

This past Spring, Mr. Obama made a choice of sorts when he announced his flexibility for Mr. Putin after the election.  Granted, Russia is not the committed ideological foe it once was, but it has hardly been a global Boy Scout either.

There is another way in which Obama erred by his “mind warp” comment.  The Cold War was not just an arms race, but the ultimate game of statist one-upmanship.  Recall Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.”  The world’s superpowers were out to win prestige in every arena, including who could build the biggest, shiniest welfare state.  In large part, the heavy expenditures and extensive central planning required for this contest buried the Soviet bloc.  Even social democracies like the once mighty Great Britain had to change their tack.

In America, the 1970s shocks of the OPEC crisis and stagflation disabused many of the welfare state utopia.  President Reagan proclaimed the following decade: “In this crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”  And in the 1990s President Clinton conceded, “the era of big government is over.”  And in the time since, conservative governments from Scandinavia to Canada have improved their economic fortunes by shifting policy to the right.

Of course there are those who still haven’t gotten the memo.  It would seem that President Obama, who has yet to demonstrate meaningful concern for the debt, is one such person.  When it comes to engorging the superstructure of the welfare state, Mr. Obama has shown himself to be the one stuck in a Cold War mindset.

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California Rust Belt?

Election day is less than two weeks away, and political ads are saturating California’s airwaves.  And since both Democrats and Republicans have exhausted their brand credibility in recent years, candidates are reluctant to even mention their party affiliation.  But the discerning listener need only catch a few buzz words to know who’s who.

Anytime I hear an ad slamming Wall Street bonuses, billionaire tax breaks, or Texas oil companies, I know to vote the other way.  Castigating big business and playing up class war are the bread and butter of liberals and Democrats.  They proclaim that some big, wealthy person or corporation does not have your best interests in mind.  The implication is, then, that some Democrat will be the altruistic champion of your cause.  But Democrats have no incentive to be responsive or responsible; they have a lock on unions, youth, academics, and self-perceived victim groups.  As Amity Shlaes reminds us in The Forgotten Man, they have been working with the same basic backscratching coalitions since FDR’s 1936 reelection.  This unpleasant fact aside, altruism is not something we should be looking for in a candidate anyway.  As Ronald Reagan said, the ten most dreaded words in the English language are, “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

What then, is the answer?  Mutual self-interest.  Adam Smith observed more than two centuries ago the synergistic effects when two people agree to cooperate not on the basis of need or compulsion, but willingly and in their own interests.  With the exodus of talent and capital, and our overextended public liabilities, its time for Californians to stop buying the idea of a free lunch.

In debate and in ads, Jerry Brown harps on Meg Whitman for advocating an easing of taxes on billionaires as if she was only looking out for herself.  And in a local U.S. House race, an ad for Jerry McNurney accuses David Harmer of helping out his “Wall Street buddies.”  These allegations don’t bother me one bit, because I know that we need business friendly policies here in California.  We don’t have the luxury to be envious, jealous, or spiteful against high-income earners.  They provide the jobs, they put their capital on the line, and they get milked by Federal, state and local taxes.  Their money does not go into some vault they swim in like they were Scrooge McDuck.  Through stocks, bonds, or directly, productive people reinvest their money in productive enterprise to make even more money.  And that’s where we can hope to benefit with new private sector jobs–only if our state’s policies are lucrative enough to attract those investments.

Its time for Californians to wake up from the deadly myth that big business and high-income earners can be tapped without limit for progressive causes.  If we vote in people like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, we can turn the corner and keep California from becoming the newest Rust Belt state.  But if we fail in that measure, you might as well pack your bags for North Dakota.

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