- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

In the wake of Scott Brown’s stunning victory in Massachusetts and in an attempt to halt his declining poll numbers, President Obama is reinventing himself as a champion of the middle class. He seeks to be another Harry Truman: an economic populist who is willing to stand up to Wall Street and the big banks. His administration even has engaged 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe to revive some of the old Obama magic. Mr. Plouffe has advised Mr. Obama and the Democrats to “fight” for their ambitious domestic agenda: redouble efforts on passing health care reform, have the government “create jobs,” implement cap-and-trade legislation and impose another expensive economic stimulus plan.

Mr. Plouffe wants Mr. Obama to continue his socialist revolution. Yet instead of doing this from Washington, he recommends a series of speeches across the country. The White House’s strategy is to return to campaign mode and retake the public relations offensive by more effectively communicating Mr. Obama’s message.

The linchpin of Mr. Obama’s new populism is class warfare. He is calling for a massive $90 billion tax on large banks, limiting their size and regulating how they can diversify their investments. He is demonizing Wall Street, denouncing large bonuses for executives and bankers.

Moreover, in his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama demanded tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees or purchase equipment to expand production. He supports more child care tax credits for middle- and lower-income families. To rein in skyrocketing budget deficits, he proposes a 2011 spending freeze for 17 domestic agencies. The savings would amount to $15 billion. Mr. Obama thinks this will reposition him as a deficit hawk and fiscal conservative whose focus is on job creation and economic recovery.

Contrary to White House spin, however, the problem with Mr. Obama is not his message. It is his ideology. No amount of re-branding can change this fundamental fact: Big-government liberalism leads to economic ruin. Mr. Obama’s spend-and-borrow, soak-the-rich policies are an assault on the middle-class standard of living.

His attacks on the banks may play well with the unions and some Democratic constituencies, but they are bad economics. By scaling back the size of our large banks, Mr. Obama is undermining their global economic competitiveness. His burdensome regulations and tax increases will only undermine financial investment and the much-needed flow of credit - the very lifeblood of a thriving economy.

Foreign investors are fleeing America, placing their vital capital elsewhere. Many of our leading banks will do the same. If they are not welcome in New York, they are welcome in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. A weakened financial sector entails fewer jobs, higher unemployment and anemic economic growth.

Yet the administration’s biggest assault on the middle class is through reckless spending. Mr. Obama’s first year in office saw an unprecedented expansion in the size and scope of the federal government; outside of the world wars, never before has government power increased so quickly and broadly. Public spending as a share of gross domestic product is at a peacetime high of nearly 25 percent. This means that one out of every four dollars earned by private-sector labor is taxed and redistributed by politicians in Washington. Under Mr. Obama, the central government is strangling the free-enterprise system.

Last year’s budget deficit was more than $1.4 trillion. For 2010, Mr. Obama will add another $1.3 trillion to the debt. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that from 2009 until 2011, the administration’s spending spree will total $3.7 trillion. Hence, the national debt will have increased more in three years than in the first 225 years of our history. Mr. Obama is drowning America in an ocean of red ink and fostering relentless economic decline.

His call for a spending freeze and gimmicky business tax credits is a cynical ploy to divert attention from his failing agenda. It also reflects the belief that Mr. Obama’s personality can trump - and even reshape - reality.

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” he said Monday.

Successful leaders, however, are rarely one-termers. Mr. Obama is quickly becoming the worst president since Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Obama is not a born-again populist. Rather, he is a transnational liberal elitist who despises Middle America - especially its patriotic conservative values. His goal is to be a transformational president: to erect a progressive nanny state.

Leon Trotsky, one of the founders of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, said left-wing radicalism was based on “permanent revolution.” Tactics may change. Rhetoric may be adjusted to suit the circumstances of the moment, but the ultimate objectives are timeless: smashing capitalism and traditional bourgeois institutions - including the sovereign nation-state.

Like socialists before him, Mr. Obama claims to speak on behalf of the masses. His actions, however, betray his real intentions. He is not the defender of the people’s interests. Instead, he is their implacable enemy. He is a phony populist.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily radio host of “The Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570.com) from noon until 3 p.m.