- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2010

President Obama sat down last week with “Good Morning America” for a long and exclusive interview in which he announced that his administration was no longer working for “change” to solve America’s problems. “My administration is going to specifically focus on training 10,000 new math and science teachers,” he said. With a brutal midterm smackdown looming, Mr. Obama is desperate enough to break out the cliches.

Consider how the local-community-organizer-turned-national-schools-chancellor opined that “we can’t spend our way out” of education problems. Without skipping a beat, he went on to provide a long list of ways he thinks we need to increase spending on schools. This is a well-worn tactic. President Carter raised federal schools spending and boosted the number of public school employees. President Reagan increased federal schools spending and added to the number of public school employees. President George H.W. Bush did the same thing. President Clinton raised spending along with his promise of 100,000 new teachers. The most recent former White House resident, George W. Bush, enthusiastically embraced the same effort.

When Mr. Carter was inaugurated, state, local and federal governments spent about $65,000 on a complete K-12 education. By the time Mr. Obama raised his right hand, that inflation-adjusted amount had grown to nearly $150,000, in part because nearly twice as many school employees were involved in each child’s education. Yet national test scores didn’t budge.

Each “education president” could proudly claim that the achievement of nothing was a vast improvement over having done nothing and achieved less. That’s exactly what Mr. Obama argues about his stimulus - a plan cribbed in large measure from his presidential predecessors. From the beginning, Mr. Obama promoted green energy to the forefront of this spending scheme. And indeed, each of his five predecessors signed off on the same kind of regulatory favoritism, financial subsidy and tax breaks meant to move America toward biofuels, wind and solar power, and whatever other esoteric energy sources are currently popular, from algae-based jet fuel to zebra-dung barbecue briquets. Despite decades of spending, planning and more spending, it is unclear whether the 21st-century “green energy economy” will actually arrive anytime during the 21st century.

Mr. Obama’s political advisers have been signaling the move to a cliche presidency for some time. Last month, Mr. Obama proposed a blueprint for increased infrastructure spending to boost the ailing U.S. economy. Each of Mr. Obama’s five most recent predecessors either proposed or signed into law similar boosts in transportation spending whether the economy was growing or shrinking. Each time, plans did just enough of nothing to leave the next president in dire need of yet more transportation spending.

Until voters decide that achieving something is more important than doing something, cliches are all we are going to get.

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