Nothing could be more intellectually fashionable these days than the idea that the middle ground is where the solution to all problems can be found, particularly when it comes to the ailing U.S. economy. But "compromise," the New Oxford American Dictionary tells us, has another meaning: "the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable."
Nothing better describes the "balanced approach" that President Obama is trying to foist onto the country as a solution to a deteriorating economy, a deterioration that is rapidly reaching crisis proportions. For despite the manipulation of the news courtesy of NPR and the other usual media suspects, we are in fact seeing no progress out of stagnation.
The grim truth is that 350,000 wage earners left the U.S. labor pool in November. And that, more than anything else, explains why the U.S. unemployment figure for November fell to 7.7 percent. Indeed, some 23 million Americans are now out of work, with many having given up hope. It's no wonder that the indexes of misery -- applications for disability payments and food stamps -- have snowballed to record highs, at a pace that threatens to complete the bankruptcy of the nation's finances.
White House chicanery is reflected in moving the fiscal goal posts, doubling down on the demand for tax rate hikes of those Mr. Obama proffered during the campaign.The president plays down the simple fact that most small businesses file personal income tax statements, which means the so-called "riches" he targets represent total business revenue rather than net income. He has offered the sketchiest outlines for budget cutting, with phantom savings such as ending the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, calls for "stimulus" spending in the president's plan far exceed his vague proposed cutbacks. Nor has the White House thrown onto the negotiating table the two monsters crippling the fiscal health of the country, Medicare and Social Security.
Four years of Obamanomics have taught us one simple lesson: It does not work. The U.S. cannot borrow and spend its way out of the most severe business cycle since the 1930s. It cannot do it any more than could Franklin D. Roosevelt's, whose far more sophisticated team of advisers tried to "prime the pump" for the better part of a decade. The country did not exit the Great Depression until the war mobilization after Pearl Harbor.
But if FDR's notorious Work Progress Administration became an synonym for incompetence in the 1930s, Mr. Obama's billions of dollars squandered on alternative energy projects have given a new meaning to "green" investing. Ironically, despite everything the administration has done to hobble domestic energy production, the shale revolution is producing record levels of oil and gas -- on private land. The avalanche of new regulations from the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency is trying, desperately, to choke that off as well.
Thus, the call for House Republicans to meet the president "halfway" in the budget talks is a siren song for continued disaster. Washington's problem is spending, not revenues, a spending spree that, even in this economy, will set records in 2012.
This republic was, in fact, not initiated on compromise. The War for Independence against British tyranny was waged by radicals who were mindful that at least a third of their fellow countrymen were either hostile to the struggle or sitting it out. Yes, there were successful if bitter negotiations during the secret — repeat secret — Constitutional Convention sessions in that hot summer of 1787. But there were also "compromises," such as the almost undebated decision to count black slaves as three-fifths of a person for census purposes, a compromise that would lead to bloodshed less than a century later.
The Obama campaign continues unabated and unabashed. It may well be that the president has succeeded where no other U.S. politician has in introducing the concept of European class warfare into an American political culture based on equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. The Obama campaign's appeal to superficiality and demonization continues the only theme of the president's message: If he succeeds in selling it to the American public, we will indeed have made The Compromise.
• Sol Sanders, a veteran international correspondent, writes weekly on the intersection of politics, business and economics. He can be reached at email@example.com and blogs at yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com