Home | About Us / FAQ | Archives | Medical Pages | Travel Pages | Auto Pages

Home | Back to full article

He claims he isn’t engaging in class warfare, but he is

Obama’s Attempt to Reshape Capitalism

| | Subscribe | Back to full Article | Contact Us
 By Al Kaltman  Friday, February 3, 2012

In People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character, published in 1954, David Potter made a compelling case for the proposition that the United States is a nation whose national character has been shaped by the perception that there is limitless economic abundance. He argued that Americans believed that wealth could be created while Europeans believed it could only be redistributed. Americans and Europeans would both answer “I do!” to the question “Who wants to be a millionaire?” The difference was that Americans believed it was possible, with the right combination of intelligence, hard work, a little luck and good timing, to become a millionaire. Europeans held no such illusions.

Two of the iconic phrases that best describe the American experience are “nation of immigrants” and “land of opportunity.”  For over 300 years people from around the world have flocked to these shores.  They came in search of the American Dream, liberty and prosperity, and for the most part they found it.  America’s free enterprise system led to enormous inequalities in wealth, but it also created the world’s largest and most prosperous middle class, and it enabled the United States to become an economic superpower. 

The appeal of state socialism in Europe stemmed from the conviction that the so called American Dream was a myth. There was only so much wealth to go around, and government’s job was to see that it was equitably shared.  According to a recent report on National Public Radio the twin goals of the Occupy protestors are “economic equity and opportunity.” These are to be achieved by having the government tax the rich, the 1%, and use those tax revenues to benefit the less fortunate, the 99%.

President Obama agrees with the Occupy movement’s goal of taxing the rich.  In his State of the Union address he again called on Congress to increase the taxes of persons earning more than $1 million a year. Obama said that increasing the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans is “how we’ll reduce our deficit.” While the words have an appealing populist ring to them, his assertion is patently ridiculous.

Obama claims that he is not attempting to reshape capitalism. He says he is trying to keep alive the basic American promise “that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.” The President is correct when he says that “the defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.”

The President believes that a combination of tax increases and more Federal regulation is the way to insure “an America built to last.” He sounds like a European socialist when he concludes, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Obama’s position is that the job of the Federal government is to level the playing field by taxing the rich and using that revenue to, and here he misquotes Lincoln, “do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves.”  Lincoln actually said, “The legitimate object of government is to do for people what needs to be done.” Lincoln believed that government should be limited to those activities, such as foreign relations, which it alone could perform.  Obama believes that government should help people to do better even if that means intruding into every aspect of human endeavor.

The President may not think he is a socialist or that he even has socialist leanings. In his own mind he may believe he is simply trying to insure that going forward the American free enterprise system will have a kinder, more equitable face. He doesn’t understand the genius inherent in America’s unique brand of capitalism, or how that rough and tumble genius has produced the richest nation on earth. He fails to see how the policies that he has implemented through legislation and regulation have hamstrung our economy and prevented it from bouncing back the way it has after every other recession.

The mismanagement of their companies by too many CEOs, especially in the financial industry, has led to the current populist backlash against the economic inequity inherent in America’s capitalistic system. President Obama is hoping to ride the crest of that wave of anger being directed at greedy capitalists to a second term. He claims he isn’t engaging in class warfare, but he is.

Al Kaltman  Bio

Al Kaltman Most recent columns

Al Kaltman is a political science professor who teaches a leadership studies course at George Washington University.  He is the author of Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant. .