I. Advantageous Ambiguity
In the President’s Weekly Address on March 10, 2012, Barack Obama stated, “You and I both know that with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices – not when we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil. We need an all-of-the-above strategy that relies less on foreign oil and more on American-made energy – solar, wind, natural gas, biofuels, and more.” This rhetoric is superficially appealing, but the President’s claims aren’t entirely accurate. The Institute for Energy Research says that Obama is creating the impression of scarcity by focusing on the technicality of proven oil reserves whilst neglecting to mention that the United States has enough recoverable oil for the next 200 years. Although I agree with the President that we need to encourage American ingenuity and switch over to alternative energy sources, there needs to be a transitional period. Nikola Tesla once said that it is only a matter of time until “men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.” I believe that innovation will yield phenomenal gains for the energy needs of mankind, but I also believe that brilliance can be broken down into incremental progress.
Obama characterizes other politicians as having “three-point plans for two-dollar gas: drill, drill, and drill some more.” And in an ideal situation crafted to Obama’s political preferences, we could immediately switch to alternative energy and he wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing the environmentalists whose votes he needs for reelection. But in the necessitated interim, perhaps it’s better to make temporary environmental compromises than it is to remain in business with Middle Eastern dictators whose beliefs and regimes are antithetical to American values. Instead of contorting our foreign policy and watching gas prices rise, let’s tell dictators to take a hike. Let’s expand U.S. drilling significantly enough to independently enable a realistic transition to alternative energy. Obama has expanded drilling, but not to the required extent. If the history of human progress is any indicator, energy research will plod forward, and out of that process, the next Tesla will emerge with an invention that will eclipse the methods detailed in Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy - but until then, our nation must be prepared and self-reliant.
President Obama’s argument is intellectually dishonest in that it dually misrepresents our national oil resources - (there are 1,442 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil) - and misrepresents the readiness and viability of so-called alternative energy. A half-billion dollar loan from the federal government to Solyndra certainly didn’t produce results. There is a very pernicious edge to government’s eagerness to find and facilitate an alternative energy solution. For instance, government policies of industrialized nations promoted and subsidized biofuels. This caused the deaths of nearly two hundred thousand people. Expanded demand for grain harvest increased food prices globally, which resulted in mass starvation amongst the poor. And the U.S. alone spent more than $20 billion on ethanol subsidies.
Barack Obama’s willingness to ignore factual realities and overpromise a swift, idealistic solution is reminiscent of past behavior. When he was running for President, Obama said that he would immediately shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, even though doing so struck others as logistically infeasible. It’s now 2012, and Gitmo is still there. “President Obama is still trying to shut down Gitmo as soon as possible, it's just turning out that it's not possible,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. This statement is an inadvertent riddle - if someone is trying to do something as soon as possible but they know that it is impossible, what is their ETA on completion?
This is a president who relies upon ambiguity to ingratiate himself with the electorate, routinely offering the semblance of solutions to worsening and very real problems. Barack Obama won election in 2008 after his campaign relentlessly emphasized the non-specifics of “hope” and “change.” After his 2011 State of the Union, Obama was criticized for failing to offer a specific and comprehensive plan for debt reduction. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he utilized more nonspecific rhetoric while seemingly courting centrist and independent voters who have been drawn towards the libertarian ideals being espoused in the GOP primary. The President said, “I’ve ordered federal agencies to get rid of regulations that don’t make sense.” I’ll give the President some credit here - not literal financial credit, of course, given the economic precedent - and assume that this statement was a rhetorical oversimplification of his actual directives. The President’s rhetoric deliberately averts the mention of concrete objectives that, if specified, may have to be pursued.
If Obama had actually issued instructions of such flustering vagueness, the results would be unpredictable because agencies might then scramble to make their regulations comply with Obama’s comprehension of what makes sense - and that comprehension frequently isn’t correlated with reality. For instance, Obama thought that it made sense to brag about the results of his decision to bail out the auto industry, but his boasts slyly ignore the fact that although Chrysler may be rebounding, it was also sold off to Fiat, an Italian company, after being bailed out by American taxpayers.
Obama also thought that it made sense to name Joe Biden as VP, describing him as “a leader who is ready to step in and be president,” even though Biden had spent many Senate sessions declaring his brazenly offensive plan to effectively segregate Iraq along ethno-religious lines. Biden’s justification for this morally reprehensible idea lies in Iraq’s history - at one time, prior to being cobbled together by Britain in the 1920s, the region was comprised of three separate vilayets under the Ottoman Empire. The irrelevance of the Vice President’s historical pretensions is immediately apparent upon applying the Golden Rule. How would we feel if China invaded the U.S., committed strategic blunders during the implementation of a new government, and then decided to quell our violent discontentment by reverting America back to an earlier version? Would women and blacks lose their civil rights? Would lands be returned to Mexico? There is nothing prudent or admirable about trying to turn the clock back on an occupied territory in order to divide its peoples.
The ill-conceived appointment of Biden as VP illustrates some measure of Obama’s judgment, or lack thereof. Therefore, if Obama had any actual intent of lessening regulations, one can only wonder which regulations would be discarded and which would be retained. However, the President is insincere in his effort to court libertarian-leaning voters. Instead of demonstrating political courage by advocating for the removal of regulations about which there is partisan disagreement, the President referenced a recently abolished regulation that classified spilled milk as an oil spill. Unless a lactose intolerant member of Congress has a fear of out-of-control milk and wants this regulation reenacted, there is no controversy here, and no courage on the President’s part.
II. Is Obama Copying Answers?
Seeking to extend his reign of ambiguous rhetoric and definite big government, Obama has adopted a consistent line against his Republican opponents - he has labeled them “the party of no.” While giving a speech that further propagated his 2% oil reserves myth, he described his opponents as naysayers who “don’t believe in the future and don’t believe in trying to do things differently.”
Yet if you listen to the 2012 State of the Union in full, it is apparent that Obama is aware that the GOP is not the party of the no. He has been watching the GOP primary debates and taking notes, and he is now attempting to appropriate Republicans’ more appealing ideas for his own administration. Compare the following quotes:
“If you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“We need to cut the capital gains tax in half which others have proposed but for manufacturers we need to give a five-year window where we cut it to zero. We want to encourage people to set up jobs here in America. ”
- Santorum, June 13, 2011
“Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“If I'm president of the United States, I'm making it very clear, I love free trade. I want to open markets to free trade. But I will crack down on cheaters like China.”
- Romney, November 9, 2011
“It is time to turn our unemployment system into a re-employment system that puts people to work.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“All unemployment compensation should be tied to a job training requirement.”
- Gingrich, January 16, 2012
“I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“Well, the first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We've had a request in to this administration since June -- or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol. That's just on the Texas border. […] For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it's ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.”
- Perry, September 7, 2011
“Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“The entrepreneur in America, the small businessman and woman, they're looking for a president that will say we're going to lower the tax burden on you and we're going to lower the regulation impact on you, and free them to do what they do best: create jobs.”
- Perry, September 7, 2011
“I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed, that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”
- Obama, January 24, 2012
“We don't need the government running our lives.”
- Paul, September 7, 2011
With what degree of sincerity is Obama parroting his opponents? Until Obama ties this rhetoric to actual legislative proposals, it can be safely assumed that this is another ploy relying upon non-specifics. Obama referred to a recent upward trajectory in the manufacturing sector when he said, “The CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home,” but he glossed over a more complex reality by selectively saying “business sense.” Master Lock CEO Jon Heppner’s decision was prompted by higher labor and logistical costs in Asia - and our strategy for ensuring the resurgence of an industry cannot be contingent upon external factors beyond our control. The President utilized additional characteristic non-specifics when he stated, “Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.” Business leaders have not outsourced these jobs due to a lack of inquisitiveness or patriotism. They outsourced manufacturing to avoid a lack of profit. Does anyone really believe that the majority of CEOs are suddenly going to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., increase their production costs, and deal with American unions and regulations because Obama vaguely promised to lower the manufacturing tax in his reelection rhetoric?
Santorum has made the idea of eliminating the manufacturing tax his signature issue. And although I strongly disagree with Santorum on social issues, he is correct on this particular issue. This is a sector of the economy that has taken a huge hit as a result of globalization, and that globalization has led to the dehumanization of foreign workers, as evidenced by the recent reporting on the atrocious worker conditions at Apple manufacturing plants in China. Many economists are quick to justify this kind of exploitation by asserting that foreign workers would have it much worse if we did not have the good sense to exploit them. But if economists and corporate decision-makers genuinely cared about poor people in Third World countries, they wouldn’t idealize a process that effectively enslaves these people and generates profits off their suffering. Instead, they would support organizations such as Heifer International and help these people to feed themselves sustainably.
If we want to revive the manufacturing sector in our country, maintain recent gains, and be able to create and purchase our goods on terms consistent with Americans’ moral and religious values, drastic measures must be taken. Would we prefer to employ Americans in the manufacturing sector and have the manufacturers’ profits go untaxed, or would we prefer to lose the industry, exploit foreign, impoverished peoples, and put Americans on welfare instead of employing them? This is the paradigm that was conspicuously missing from Elizabeth Warren’s viral quote in which she earnestly rebuked a tax-opposed factory owner who couldn’t argue back due to the fact that he was a fallacious rhetorical construct. But it must also be noted - regulations and unions will likely continue to make it more expensive to manufacture here as opposed to abroad, even with reduced or eliminated manufacturing taxes, which is why the onus is on consumers to imbue the “made in USA” label with a competitive advantage by consistently favoring American-made products in instances in which it is financially feasible to do so.
Unfortunately, the President of non-specifics has consistently neglected attempts at jobs creation that do not necessitate the incurrence of huge government expenditures. He jeopardized the Keystone XL oil pipeline in order to ensure that he does not offend the environmentalists at his party’s base. In his SOTU, Obama said, “There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline.” If construction workers and innocent Americans alike are hurting, why employ construction workers on public works projects enabled by the taxation of other suffering Americans if construction workers could instead be employed by a legitimate private sector project?
No longer can non-specifics be allowed to cover up the President’s lack of integrity. Large banks created securities so that they could bet against them. Wachovia actually engaged in money laundering with drug cartels that routinely decapitate the people of Mexico, and for this, the bank was penalized by being made to pay a fine that constituted less than 2% of their annual profits. Bank of America fraudulently robo-signed its customers’ signatures in order to force them into foreclosure. When these corrupt banks were bailed out with taxpayer money, Obama considered it to be “unpopular but necessary.” When the President signed the NDAA for 2012 and compromised Americans’ civil liberties, he added a signing statement indicating that he strongly disagreed with aspects of what he was signing - but he signed it anyway.
III. Bipartisan Problems, Independent Solutions
The Bureau of Public Debt has revealed that the President of non-specifics increased the debt more in three years and two months than his predecessor did over the course of two terms. Instead of enabling purposeful private sector projects, this President prefers to further increase our national debt with stimulus packages so that construction workers can build things that don’t need to be there. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels observed, “The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends.” And both parties caused this predicament. The two-party monopoly under which we all live is ineffective yet institutionally enforced by mechanisms such as ballot access laws and gerrymandering. If we don’t want politics to be a sport, we need to stop picking teams and pretending we’re on them. We are not Democrats, we are not Republicans. We are Americans.
If you want to cause change in America, don’t vote for a politician who disingenuously used the word “change” as a campaign slogan - change the actual system. Support open primary initiatives. It is time for the American people to chip away at a political establishment that polarizes attitudes and stifles objectivity. It is the duty of the American people to alter the actual apparatus of our electoral processes to further empower democracy, and it is imperative that we remain resolute in that effort, instead of being reluctant adherents of one man or one party.
David Pring-Mill is a writer, independent filmmaker, and activist. He lives in New York City. He can be contacted at pringmill [at] gmail.com.
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