When President Obama became president in 2008, there was some cause for optimism. He was a Democrat, and Democrats had done good things in the past. John F. Kennedy cut high marginal tax rates, and Bill Clinton ran budget surpluses. Obama criticized George W. Bush for increasing the deficit and promised change. Perhaps a move away from the out-of-control spending, masterminded by House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, and permitted by Bush’s unused veto pen, might not be a bad thing.
By 2010 the change Obama had in mind was clearly not of that nature. Far from controlling spending, he let it balloon. Oblivious to the burgeoning federal government debt, he made it clear that if anything was to be done in that direction, it would by way of higher taxes. Even policymaking was done in the most expensive way possible. He avoided consulting legislative leaders, whom he seemed not to like.
Instead, at a cost to taxpayers of thousands of dollars, he’d board Air Force One and fly to a distant part of the country to make a speech. Invariably this would take place in front of a wildly cheering, hand-picked audience of people who would benefit if his policy became law.
As might be expected, this approach seldom resulted in a meaningful outcome.
He thought he could allocate resources better than the free market, but the odd thing was that government funds seemed to flow to his campaign contributors and to unionized companies.
The people who became known as the tea party were outraged. They wanted free markets and the smaller government that had served America so well in the past. As long as they focused on that limited goal, they did well.
Unfortunately, they tried to broaden their reach and expressed peculiar ideas about human female biology and the president’s birth certificate, turning themselves from reformers into objects of ridicule.
Clinton’s old campaign motto might be helpful to them. “It’s the economy, stupid” is even more relevant today than it was in 1992.