- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Like a molting iguana freshly liberated from his skin, the president of the United States Tuesday night seemingly left behind the left-wing incarnation of Barack Obama. Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech was gracious, stirring and soaringly eloquent about a nation whose innovation “doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living.” In a sunny, Reaganesque note, he declared: “We do big things.”

The Mr. Obama who in November called Republicans “our enemies” was AWOL, as was the Mr. Obama who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as … the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Mr. Obama on Tuesday called America “not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.”

Though at today’s vertiginous heights, Mr. Obama proposed an unprecedented five-year domestic-spending freeze. This would have sobered the fiscally intoxicated Mr. Obama of $814 billion stimulus fame. He hopes to “lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years.” This would have shaken the Mr. Obama who previously decried “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street.”

Offering something for every political orientation, Mr. Obama praised the demise of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy while urging universities to stop banning ROTC programs, now that the Pentagon will end its anti-gay discrimination.

Is Mr. Obama a doctrinaire socialist, eager for Washington to control everything from health care to student loans to water flow in shower heads? Or is he the ultimate pragmatist who watched the electorate turn right in November, and now marches right beside them, if not slightly ahead on some issues?

Answer: Maybe both.

Mr. Obama may believe that the best way to protect the left is to move sufficiently toward the center to re-enchant enough independents to win re-election, reduce GOP congressional strength and possibly reinstate a Democratic House of Representatives. Thus, liberalism would live to fight another day.

Or perhaps Mr. Obama finally understands that the American public has had it with Washington’s mammoth expenditures and mousy results. While his desired “investments” in science education, bullet trains and green energy are just redecorated spending plans, at least these seem more modest than Mr. Obama’s outright nationalizations and 13-figure price tags. Republicans should push the president further by addressing his concerns, though through limited-government, pro-market reforms:

Mr. Obama said, “Our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” How true. Rather than keep borrowing, Congress should pass the Full Faith and Credit Act proposed by Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican. It would let America leave the debt limit intact and avoid default by putting bondholders first in line for federal checks.

“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation,” Mr. Obama remarked. Tax-free-patent legislation would allow individual and corporate inventors to generate income from new patents and pay zero federal corporate taxes for 10 years. Mr. Obama’s signature would let a million Thomas Edisons bloom.

Rather than have Uncle Sam manage infrastructure projects nationwide, Washington should send states block grants with the sole instruction that high-speed railways and other luxuries will await the repair of, say, wobbly bridges that would collapse beneath them.

Democrats and Republicans finally must lasso entitlements. Affluence-testing of benefits is both moral and thrifty. Also, Americans should enjoy Social Security investment accounts as a private option. Even easier, Social Security and Medicare must recognize that Americans routinely live into their 80s and will thrive even longer, if science and medicine remain unfettered. Thus, benefits should be delayed for Americans born after 1959. Children of the 1960s should become eligible at age 69. That 70s demographic should collect at 70. Kids born today should see benefits at 74.

Liberals who tremble with compassion cannot call this heartless. The alternative? Let Social Security and Medicare implode on schedule.

If Mr. Obama helps Republicans enact such measures, he could succeed by becoming exactly the man whom voters thought they had elected: Bill Clinton with a better tan and a tight grip on his pants.

Deroy Murdock is a syndicated columnist and media fellow with Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

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