By John F. Di Leo -
For one brief moment on Sequester Day – March 1, 2013 A.D., a day that will live in insolvency – President Barack Obama let down his guard. In one of his rare real press conferences, he accepted questions, and soon wished he hadn’t. Asked a very softball question – whether there was anything he might have done differently, or might do differently in the future, to break the gridlock and make progress on the government’s budget – Obama snapped back “Well, Julie, give me an example of what I might do!”
Simply incredible. All over the nation, people stared at their televisions, radios, and computer screens, and began to shout. This was more than just a moment of truth, in which he acknowledged how far he was out of his depth in this office, how unprepared he was for the job a gullible nation had twice granted him.
This was a virtual plea for captions, a straight line begging for a punchline.
I have not interviewed millions of people for this piece. In fact, I didn’t interview anyone; I didn’t need to. Because I know exactly what thousands of people replied, in their heads or out loud, in exasperation and anger:
“Well, Mr. President, you might stop golfing all the time and spend some time in the office.”
President George W. Bush, an avid golfer, quietly gave up the sport after Sept 11, just eight months into his presidency, out of respect for our armed forces. A president certainly can live without golf. He may not want to, but what a message it would send to the public, to show that he respects and understands their plight. And on that matter…
“Well, Mr. President, you might lay off the million-dollar vacations, or at least, when you do, travel along with the rest of your family so you don’t need two planes every time.”
Honestly, it may seem inconvenient, but millions of Americans take cheap vacations with our families. A normal father actually wants to take vacations with his own family. This president’s fondness for sending his wife and daughters on expensive vacations at massive taxpayer cost, while traveling somewhere else himself, strikes real Americans as not only criminally extravagant, but also incredibly peculiar.
“Well, Mr. President, you might lead by example, and cut your own staff a bit, encouraging Congress to do the same.”
It is well known that the Obama administration has padded the executive branch more than any previous administration. The White House staff alone is about 500 full time employees, over a quarter of them earning well into the six figures (and no, this does not count cabinet secretaries, whose salaries are reported within their respective departments). The first lady has a whole huge staff of her own, at an unprecedented size; this administration has been a veritable jobs program for the Chicago Machine. Many Congressmen and Senators have cut their own staffs by five to fifteen percent; surely the president could do the same, and show that he recognizes the need to reduce the unaffordable burden of this bloated government.
There are in fact many more such responses we could make. We could say that he could hire fewer, and travel less… work harder and campaign less… respect more and demonize less… speak seriously more and harangue less.
But as much as these too would be good ideas, and good advice for this living, breathing embodiment of the Peter Principle, even they don’t come to the heart of the matter. No amount of cutting of expenses will solve the problems plaguing the American economy today.
Even the desperately needed tax cuts – especially those on the small business sector, which have so depressed what should be the nation’s very economic engine that it has instead been sputtering for years – are still not the key to a solution.
This economy is in the doldrums, with pathetic sub-1% growth when there’s any at all, with real unemployment well into the double digits, causing this demand for unaffordable government benefits, for one simple reason: the executive branch of the federal government acts as a powerful brake on the economy.
The president and his hordes of bureaucrats have banned industry after industry; they have erected obstacles in the way of growth that stop many and slow most. They have brought more and more of the economy into the realm of executive control, requiring this agency’s permit or that agency’s blessing or this other agency’s approval of a costly and detailed plan that will take years of study to consider first…
This, more than anything else, is our problem. Thanks to Obamacare, companies can’t hire without the unaffordable additional costs of nationalized health insurance. Keystone Pipeline needs Washington’s blessing. New clean coal plants need Washington’s blessing. New nuclear power plants and oil refineries need Washington’s blessing. And ever-more-Godless-by-the-day Washington isn’t blessing anything or anyone these days.
In “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s classic foretelling of the Obama administration – so presciently written before the man himself was even born – there is a scene in which the man who was perceived to be the foremost economic thinker in the nation is forced to appear on television. He is forced into the room to announce a Plan, forced toward the dais, forced toward the cameras and microphones to make his remarks of salvation for an economy in freefall… and then, right at the perfect moment, just as the cameras are sure to unmistakably catch the image and as the handlers are unable to dare to react, he deftly turns aside, exposing the villain behind him with the gun at his back, and our hero says the immortal words, “Get out of my way.”
This is what we need our president to do. This is what we need his whole legion of political appointees to do. This is what we need the entire executive branch to do. And yes, the legislative and judicial branches can and should join them in this as well:
The government needs to get out of our way. The American economy can produce jobs, wealth, prosperity, and solutions faster than any economist or journalist can imagine it, vastly reducing the perceived need for government spending in the people’s behalf… but only if the crushing weight of the leviathan is lifted away, only if the jackboot of the Washington bureaucracy is lifted off the neck of the private sector, once and for all.
Mr. President, as long as you’re asking, it’s as simple as this. Get out of our way.
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance lecturer. A onetime campaign manager, precinct captain, and even, briefly, Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman long ago, he has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years (but like any addiction, you’re never really fully cured). His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.
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