President Obama took some chances this past week to stem what has been a progressive crumbling of support for his chances for re-election in 2012. He embarked on a bus tour through the midwest to mingle with the people and try to stem the tide of bad karma. At one of the stops he stated:
“We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, got the economy moving again. But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.”
Putting aside the President’s rather than generous opinion of his role in “reversing the recession and avoiding a depression”, the line that has seized the attention of commentators has been President Obama’s comment regarding the defining of his fate by “bad luck”. Charles Krauthammer dissects the President’s record and responses to the economic conditions he was presented with upon election and sees the outcome more as bad excuses rather than bad luck. The sympathetic good vibes that surrounded this President with ascension to the presidency at a difficult time have dissolved with the recognition of his inflexible and ideological instincts in favor of a command economy. Wielding a top down stimulus approach, the President has poured over 4 trillion dollars of deficit spending, selective industry protections and investments formed on ideology not productivity, and overbearing regulation in the space of three short years, and the result has been “bad luck” – persistent unemployment at over 9% (twice his predecessor), sluggish economic indicators despite the cheapest credit available in history, and a world wide sense of a second economic contraction.
It is an unfortunate reality of modern politics that the last two presidents “of the people”, Presidents’ Clinton and Obama, have both been among our most narcissistic and self absorbed personalities. In President Clinton’s case, his enormous political skills saved him from his worst traits of assuming he was always the smartest one in the fight and was always right. He could recognize when he had a “two fisted death grip on a loser” and adjust his bombastic tendencies accordingly, moving away from strangulating universal health care and permanent welfare as a right, and working with the congress to achieve welfare reform. He was rewarded with a second term, despite his visible personal foibles. President Obama has no such selective antenna, no personal work experience to balance his “smartest man in the room” self absorption. He continues to plow ahead with policies that have come up flatter than a pancake in responding to the economic stagnation. Classic for narcissism, both presidents have been quoted as saying that, “no president has ever faced more difficult circumstances”, but in President Obama’s case, the lack of acknowledging failure has taken the natural response of a capitalist economy to retrench and recover out of play, and cemented those “difficult circumstances”. There is every indication that because he is sure he knows better, he is going to push ahead to create the ideal world he has envisioned for us, whether we like it or not, and will struggle to tell the man he sees in the mirror to recognize the answer lies in gettting out of the way.
Bad luck has its way of forming as a response to bad policy. Industries that are not “chosen” are unlikely to risk growth when such growth is sure to be punished. Enemies that are told no longer to fear American reactions to their bad behavior are likely to behave badly. Friends who have been told they can no longer count on America are likely to look to others for friendship. Countries that recognize that your word is no longer your bond are unlikely to have the faith to invest in your future. Your countrymen who have seen your disdain for their hard work, incentive, and risk taking are unlikely to see you as their standard-bearer.
It comes down to the fundamental principle of time immemorial. In problem solving, doing what doesn’t work and hasn’t worked and will never work, is unlikely to work. Mr. President, what it comes down to is – in this life, you make your own luck.