In 1973, the National Lampoon humor magazine put on the cover of its January issue a photo of a dog with a gun held to its head, with the declaration: "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog!" This send-up of crass marketing tactics is now one of the Lampoon's most remembered covers, and is a perfect example of the vicious satire the magazine excelled at in its heyday.
Some members of the generation that grew up reading the National Lampoon are now advisors to our very own President Obama. After hearing what's came out of Obama's mouth in the last few weeks, I'm wondering if the White House has unconsciously adopted that old magazine cover as a road map for the administration's political strategy between now and the election.
Let's take a quick look at where we are with the Obama Administration. Unemployment is up again, after years of hovering around 9 percent. Job creation is so minimal that it might help the numbers if the administration counted kiddie lemonade stands as employment. The heralded "stimulus" has proved to be a bust, with even the great one telling us "shovel ready was not as shovel ready as we expected." During Obama's term so far the government has added over $4 trillion to the national debt. The United States has now almost reached the "debt ceiling," which is the legislated limit that the government is allowed to borrow. The housing sector is low and looking to go even lower. Public confidence that anything at all is going right is down below the percentage of people who believe in a living Elvis.
Obama's laser-like focus of the moment in taking all this on is to demand that the Congress raise the national debt even more. Obama's remaining member of his economic "brain trust", Tim Geitner, is claiming that not raising the debt ceiling will throw the economy into crisis and bring catastrophes yet unknown to capital markets worldwide, and cause further economic distress in the U.S. The republicans in Congress have been calling for a dollar cut in spending for every dollar the debt limit is raised, among other things. As it stands now, the White House line is that the deadline for preventing financial armageddon is August 2.
In the past few weeks, President Obama has chosen to portray the conflict about spending and the debt ceiling in typical leftist, rich bastard vs. all God's children terms. In spite of my better judgement, earlier this week I forced myself to listen to Obama's kind of dicky June 29 press conference. In the first 20 minutes or so the President focused on the unfairness of tax breaks for "corporate jet owners" and the faithfully evil oil companies in his arguments for increasing revenue, aka raising taxes. The fact that he and the Democrat dominated Congress have given us three years of $1.5 trillion budget deficits was left unmentioned, as was the fact that the corporate jet tax break was introduced by the administration in 2009.
This past week Obama has let go a few more zingers. We need to "eat our peas"; average Americans aren't worried about things like the national debt, government spending and tax policy, because we leave that to professional politicians who have a better understanding of these things; and the republicans are holding "a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners." In an interview with 60 Minutes to be shown on Sunday, the President has said that if the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2nd, he can't guarantee that the government will be able to send out the social security checks, veteran's benefits, and other payments on which so many Americans depend.
Lately the negotiations between the White House and congressional republicans have become a bit heated, to the point where the President actually abruptly walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders he had called yesterday afternoon. During his term so far this president has relied on a couple of techniques to get what he wants--first, portraying every problem as a crisis which must dealt with in haste and with little deliberation, and second, the Alinskyite tactic of focusing on opponents and smearing them with inflammatory accusations, whether they are true or not. In this latest episode the White House is clearly trying to manufacture yet another crisis, and the way the administration has been portraying its opponents is more of the same smearing tactics they have used so often before.
This administration is proving daily that it is incompetent in nearly every aspect of governing. I would like to think otherwise, but as things stand now I have to conclude that as far as the government (and everything it affects) is concerned, prospects for improvement are going to be dim as long as Barack Obama is President.