President Obama is trying to reposition himself as a moderate. His State of the Union address was aimed at convincing the public that he is serious about fiscal responsibility and reining in out-of-control budget deficits. His public relations offensive boils down to one seminal theme: Socialism is out; centrism is in.
Hence, Mr. Obama called for a freeze on discretionary spending affecting numerous domestic agencies. He wants to work with Republicans to "fix" his health care overhaul - to reform it, not repeal it. He has a newfound opposition to earmarks. He is a champion of bipartisan consensus building.
Don't buy it. The address was an obvious attempt to con the electorate into forgetting not only the past two years, but Mr. Obama's real agenda: the transformation of America into a social democratic state. His "spending freeze" is nothing more than smoke and mirrors - a clumsy attempt to look serious about the looming debt crisis. His "freeze" would not only lock in the record-high levels of spending implemented by the administration, it would fail to make any dent in runaway entitlements and other costly programs - which are the real threats to our national solvency.
Mr. Obama is a fantasist. His demands for a spending freeze are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The American economy is about to crash upon the rocks of fiscal reality. The day after his address, the Congressional Budget Office released the estimate for this year's budget deficit: $1.5 trillion. This is the largest deficit in U.S. history, and it comes on top of Mr. Obama's previous trillion-dollar blowouts. He is burying America under a mountain of red ink. He is not only fiscally reckless, but morally bankrupt. His spend-and-borrow policies are mortgaging future generations - saddling them with a massive debt that will be almost impossible to repay.
Under Mr. Obama's watch, America is being reduced to a second-class nation. Our trade deficits are huge. The dollar is plummeting. Investment capital and businesses are fleeing. The economy remains stagnant. Unemployment is high. Power and wealth are slowly shifting toward the East - especially China.
It is no accident that Mr. Obama deliberately singled out Beijing for praise in his address, welcoming the rise of the communist giant. As America amasses more debt, the Chinese are buying up our Treasury bonds. China is financing our orgy of deficit spending. The result: Washington is becoming an economic vassal of Beijing. Mr. Obama - slowly but surely - is undermining U.S. national sovereignty, making America increasingly dependent upon Chinese largesse. This is the ultimate price for becoming the world's largest debtor nation. We no longer control our own destiny. Uncle Sam now bows to the Red Dragon.
None of this matters to Mr. Obama. At his core, he is a radical leftist who seeks to dismantle capitalism and the achievements of the Reagan revolution - low taxes, deregulation and the reassertion of American exceptionalism.
In fact, like most ideologues, Mr. Obama is quite open about his intentions. Despite forging a popular tax deal with Republicans, the president in his speech returned to the cardinal principle of the progressive left: class warfare. He vowed that the Bush tax cuts would not be extended permanently, saying the only way to curtail skyrocketing deficits effectively is to raise taxes on "the wealthy" - those making more than $200,000 a year.
The Democratic strategy has been to erect a bloated Franco-German entitlement state, which is marked by high spending and burdensome regulatory oversight, in order to compel huge tax increases. Obamacare, the stimulus package, the massive expansion of government power - all of this has led to runaway deficits and a fiscal reckoning. Mr. Obama understands that European-style spending inevitably results in European-style taxation. He is the consummate anti-Reagan.
Yet he shares one key similarity with Reagan: the nature of his political enemies. Reagan's good fortune was to be constantly underestimated by his liberal critics. Mr. Obama is enjoying a similar fate. Conservatives keep writing him off - and he keeps coming back.
He has not only consolidated his welfare liberalism in the face of popular resistance, he has outmaneuvered his GOP rivals at almost every turn. Despite being trounced in the Nov. 2 elections, Mr. Obama has effectively neu- tered the Republicans. He coerced them into agreeing to a tax deal that amounts to a second stimulus - a vast package of tax cut extensions and unemployment benefits that will kick-start the economy in time for his re-election campaign. He has achieved his top social policy objective: repealing "don't ask, don't tell," which prohibited gays from openly serving in the military. It is a cultural watershed. The homosexual movement has toppled society's last great conservative institution - the armed forces. He has managed to get the New START treaty passed, which essentially prevents America from developing a viable missile defense system. And all of this was done with GOP collusion.
Mr. Obama is a Machiavellian socialist taking a page from the playbook of his hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal failed to revive the economy and led to huge deficits. Yet FDR kept getting re-elected because he used government handouts to buy votes and bribe electoral constituencies. Call it interest-group politics through state-sanctioned corruption. Mr. Obama is following the same model. He is cynically buying off key voting blocs - public-sector unions, blacks, Hispanics, feminists, homosexuals, students, upper-class white liberals and environmentalists.
Mr. Obama is the very opposite of a pragmatic centrist. He is seeking to finish the ambitious liberal project begun by FDR. Republicans were unable to stop FDR then. And they are increasingly unable to stop Mr. Obama today. Conservatives, beware.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.
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