President Obama is overseas on a nine-day Blame America First tour. He’s ostensibly spending time on the other side of the Pacific to explore ways the United States can work better with Asian economies. Instead, he’s using his time in the spotlight to criticize the nation he’s supposed to be leading.
“We’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades,” Mr. Obama said at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu over the weekend. “We’ve kind of taken for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.” This is the height of chutzpah from the elected official who has done more than anyone else to undermine the competitiveness of U.S. industries. Economic uncertainty is the chief reason businesses aren’t hiring or investing in new projects. The main causes for corporate uncertainty are out-of-control government regulation, spending and taxation – problems Mr. Obama has exacerbated.
With unemployment stuck at 9 percent and an election around the corner, the president is also talking tough about China, at least a little but. “What I have said since I first came into office and what we’ve exhibited in terms of our interactions with the Chinese is we want you to play by the rules. And currency is probably a good example,” Mr. Obama huffed at APEC on Saturday. “For an economy like the United States – where our biggest competitive advantage is our knowledge, our innovation, our patents, our copyrights – for us not to get the kind of protection we need in a large marketplace like China is not acceptable.”
This rhetoric is all bluster. No steps have been taken against Chinese corporate espionage. And while Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner bellyache a lot about Beijing’s currency manipulation, they have never lifted a finger to do anything about China’s practice of letting the yuan float freely, giving products from the Middle Kingdom a huge cost advantage. The reason U.S. leaders can’t make any moves against the People’s Republic is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has them handcuffed behind their backs, leaving our leaders diplomatically defenseless. The Obama administration has exploded the national debt to an unsustainable $15 trillion. Of that, more than $1.3 trillion is held by Beijing, which controls more U.S. debt than any other foreign government.
China’s massive U.S. debt holdings effectively give the CCP a veto over any U.S. policies that might try to force more honest Chinese practices. An America on the brink of default needs Beijing to keep buying our debt and cannot risk having the Chinese dump the U.S. bills they already have. The Obama administration likes to paint this as a partnership, or perhaps mutual interdependence, but it’s clear the rising power is in the driver’s seat, not the declining superpower. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made this painfully obvious during her first foreign mission in 2009, when she publicly begged Beijing to underwrite the Obama stimulus package. “By continuing to support America’s treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our interconnections,” she said. In other words, if Beijing doesn’t loan America more money, we’ll be too poor to by their imported junk.
The president’s approval ratings are at historic lows because voters know he’s not interested in doing what it takes to turn this nation around. The solution is simple: Washington needs to end deficit spending which makes us dependent on borrowing money from Red China to subsidize entitlement programs we can’t afford. Mr. Obama tries to talk tough, especially in front of captive foreign audiences, but talk is cheap and no one is buying his false bravado.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, Nov. 14, 2011).