Ideas Have Consequences—Even Stupid Ones

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When Barack Obama became president in January 2009, he began a campaign to weaken America. I’m not talking about military cuts; I’m speaking of America’s stature.  Barack Obama famously refused to acknowledge American Exceptionalism in 2009. He bowed to kings and princes, then denied doing so, then bowed again and again. His White House has driven down the dollar. Timothy Geithner, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, warns that the world economy must “rebalance” with less reliance on America.

Barack Obama is short-selling America.

The results of a US President talking down his own country are stark.  America is losing prestige, and the office of our president loses prestige right along with the rest of us. 

Asian Embarrassment

In the last week, Barack Obama got a taste of the new, devalued USA.  In South Korea and Japan, Obama was no longer treated as first among equals, but us the kid at the far end of the table.  Having trashed America’s swagger and replaced it with a lilting prance, Obama learned that it’s not so fun to be a relatively young leader of relatively young nation whose prestige has taken a major blow.

From a Wall Street Journal editorial, we see just how far the USA has fallen under Obama’s presidency:

Has there ever been a major economic summit where a U.S. President and his Treasury Secretary were as thoroughly rebuffed as they were at this week’s G-20 meeting in Seoul? We can’t think of one. President Obama failed to achieve any of his main goals while getting pounded by other world leaders for failing U.S. policies and lagging growth.

For Obama, now, there is nowhere to turn.  American voters have rejected his domestic policy. His base has turned against his handling of Afghanistan. The world leaders, seeing him as weak, are planning world economic policy more or less over Obama’s head.

Stagflation

But there’s more. Obama’s economic policies promise to do two things: 1) perpetuate high unemployment and 2) increase inflation.  In fact, the Fed’s stated policy, which Obama defended twice in Asia last week, is to use Demand-Pull inflation to grow the US economy. 

We’ve seen this before.  In 1978 to 1982, America suffered a malaise brought about by bone-headed economic policies from a president who believed America had gotten too big for its breeches.  Jimmy Carter’s policies produced high unemployment, flat growth, and runaway inflation.  The term for this economic condition is “stagflation.”

True, Bernanke is a Bush appointee and the Fed is independent from the White House.  But Treasury Secretary Geithner and President Obama are full participants in an economic policy that threatens to revisit the disastrous years of 1978 through 1982.  Being unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid is bad enough. When the cost of necessary goods and services rise quickly, things get worse fast for the economically challenged.  And signs of stagflation are everywhere.

Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute wrote in a WSJ op-ed that several inflationary signals surfaced in October:

Producer prices rose at an annual rate of 5.5% in September and 4.8% in August. The broad price index for GDP rose at an annual rate of 2.3% in the third quarter, up from 1.9% in the second quarter and 1% in the first.

For ordinary folks trying to make ends meet, the prospect of inflation is frightening.  Already the weak dollar has driven up the price of gasoline and food—the two things we all need to survive.  The two things the government omits from its consumer price index.  In the past week, gasoline prices in the St. Louis area jumped $0.25 overnight. 

The Next Congress

There is little the 112th Congress can do to repair the economic damage, but it can lay the foundation for the next president and the 113th Congress. I encourage all members of the next Congress to follow Arthur Laffer’s prescription of extending the Bush tax cuts, repealing Obamacare, eliminating incentives for idleness, and push free trade.