The Obama generation is beginning to understand that it’s being cheated out of the American dream

We have Sirius satellite radio in our cars.  I often have mine tuned to current hits channels, both because I ferry kids and because I too like a lot of the music.  This morning, my daughter was running late, so I gave her a quick ride to the bus stop, so I wouldn’t have to give her a long ride to school.

On the way back, I flipped on the radio — and heard the three early morning talk show hosts on the “Hits 1″ channel saying that they and their listeners were the first American generation since the Depression that had it harder than their parents.  The three lightweight talking heads said that their parents got out of college, got jobs, and could have a life where dad worked and mom stayed home with the children, and that this was impossible to imagine for the current crop of young people leaving high school and college.

The bit about stay-at-homes isn’t exactly true, because even in my generation, a stay-at-home mom was a luxury.  Nevertheless, their perception — and the one that they wanted their radio audience to have — is that this young generation is well and truly shafted.  And even if the bit about stay-at-home moms is wrong, everything else is correct.  These young people don’t leave college for a job, especially a job reflecting their degrees.  If they get a job at all, it has nothing to do with their studies, and that’s true even if their major wasn’t Womyn’s Studies or Puppetry.

Sirius 1 never gets into political attacks, so I didn’t hear any “and it’s all Obama’s fault” during the two or three minutes I listened to the talking heads exclaim over the fact that they and their generation face a dismal economy with equally dismal prospects.  One does wonder, though, if they or anyone in their audience is thinking “Obama promised us the moon and the stars, and all I get when I sent him to the White House was this lousy unemployment check.”

This generation will be the next Yorkshiremen:

Thomas Sowell on the fallacy of liberal ideas

“Who’s Thomas Sowell?” my daughter asked.

“He’s a genius,” I replied.

“Why?”

“Because he has the rare gift of simplifying very complex ideas without dumbing them down.”

See for yourself:

After listening to Sowell, my blog’s motto seems appropriate:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”

Hat tip: American Thinker

Gore’s boiling frogs versus real boiling frogs: can we save ourselves?

Al Gore got a lot of mileage out of likening the slow accretion of anthropogenic climate change to a frog in cold water that was gradually being heated to boiling point. He contended that, just as the frogs were lulled by the gradual heat to be the point at which they’d fail to react when the heat became deadly, so too were we humans going to allow our planet slowly to boil us to death.

Except that everything Al Gore said was untrue.  First of all, there’s increasing evidence that anthropogenic global warming doesn’t exist.  Climate change definitely exists, and always has.  Sadly for Gore’s inflated sense of self, though, the earth’s climate does not bend to human will.  Humans are capable of polluting their environment, something that they’ve done since time immemorial, but the evidence for them changing the climate doesn’t add up.  Second of all, frogs do not allow themselves to be slow-boiled.

Unlike the earth’s climate, humans have direct responsibility for economic changes.  In America, the tension is between free markets and a government-managed economy.  At the federal level, voters opted for government-management.  At the local level, it was a mixed bag.  As a resident of California, I can tell you that a government-managed economy, especially one further tainted by union favoritism, is a recipe for economic disaster.  In California, we are the frogs in the hot pot.

Here’s the question:  will we humans react like real frogs and try to escape from the government-managed economic mess we’ve created, or will we go Gore and sit there was we boil to death?

Matched sets, two VDH columns, a second look at Enron, and a little Israel — and an Open Thread

National Review Online had three articles this morning that I thought worth passing on.  The first two form a matched set, although I suspect it was inadvertent that NRO published them on the same day.

We begin with Noemie Emery’s article explaining why Franklin Roosevelt was a singular phenomenon:

Put aside the fact that FDR was a great politician, who would no more have dreamed of passing a game-changing bill without strong and bipartisan backing than he would have thrown himself off a tall building in the belief he could levitate; he still had an advantage that no modern progressive will ever replicate: He became president at the one time in our history when the federal government was too small for its burdens and truly cried out to be expanded.

The match to Emery’s article is a Victor Davis Hanson piece that examines the Progressive yearning for that Rooseveltian past — and its failure in the present.

The third NRO piece I liked was Daniel Pipe’s article pointing out the significant differences we can expect in presidential attitudes towards Israel if Romney is elected or if Obama has a second term.  In that article, Romney speaks about Israel being a symbol for larger beliefs that Americans have about Middle Eastern policies generally:

Second, attitudes toward Israel serve as a proxy for views on other Middle East issues: If I know your views on Israel, I have a good idea about your thinking on topics such as energy policy, Islamism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AKP-led Turkey, the Iranian nuclear buildup, intervention in Libya, the Mohamed Morsi presidency in Egypt, and the Syrian civil war.

I particularly liked that bit, because it seemed to me to speak to an interesting debate we had on this blog about whether Israel is a friend, an ally, or a useful . . . not enemy, but non-friend.  Everyone who wrote agreed that America should support Israel, regardless of her friend or non-friend status, and I think Pipes’ article helps explain why we all feel as we do about the necessity of maintaining ties with that beleaguered little nation.

From Israel to Enron.  JKB pointed me to a post that indicates that Enron wasn’t a capitalism failure, it was a government failure.  That is, putting aside the sleaziness of Enron’s upper management, the real problem is that Democrat financial policies created huge incentives for corruption.

The fifth article I’d like to bring to your attention is another VDH column, this one about the way in which Progressive policies (or Obama policies, if you want to parse words) have effectively destroyed the hopes of both the old and the young.  VDH is the first one I’ve seen who has addressed head on the consequence of keeping interest rates down.  Those seeking mortgages liked it, but the same policy has brought financial ruin to too many old people:

The hallmark advice of retirement planning was always to scrimp, save, and put away enough money to make up for retirement’s lost salary, increasing medical bills, and the supposed good life of the “golden years.” If a couple had saved, say, $300,000 over a lifetime (again, say, putting $500 away each month for 30 years at modest compounded interest), then they might expect a so-so annual return at 5% of about $15,000 a year on their stash, or about $1,250 per month.

In other words, perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Retiree could find enough with Social Security to live okay and pass on the principal to their kids. But well aside from the fact that many Americans have been laid off, taken pay cuts, lost home equity, had their 401(k)s pruned, or had to take care of out-of-work relatives, there is no 5% any more on anything, not even 2% or  in most cases 1%.  Saving money means nothing really in terms of return, only the realization that inflation eats away the principal each year.

Put another way, we’re experiencing tremendous inflation, if inflation means that money ceases to have value.  It’s just that the inflation is hidden behind dangerously low interest rates, rather than boldly announcing itself as dramatic price increases.  (Although if the $140 I spent tanking up our family cars this weekend is any indication, inflation is here, loud and clear.)

My Mom falls in this category.  She had dreamed of living of her income.  She is, instead, paying down her principal and hoping that, in a race against time, her dwindling wealth lasts longer than she does.

If you have anything to add here, please do.

Which party is most likely to reverse course before we hit the economic iceberg? (Hint: it’s not the Democrats)

Danny Lemieux left a link to this video in the comments.  I think it deserves its own post.  You might also want to share it with your friends.  It’s studiously non-partisan, so one hopes it will make liberals thoughtful, rather than defensive.

Incidentally, if any of your liberal friends think the answer is just to tax the rich, Iowahawk already considered that possibility and concluded — based on actual math — that it can’t be done.

For those who panic when numbers show up, Bill Whittle made a nice video based upon the Iowahawk post:

Let’s do the time warp again — Progressives keep urging those failed economic policies

The Huffington Post is one of the ugliest websites I’ve ever seen.  I’m not talking about content (although I’ll get to that), but about its layout.  The left-most column (and that turns out to be a very clever pun on my part) actually has some visual stability, insofar as it allows the hapless visitor to grasp what content the various blogs are offering.  The central column and right columns, however, are a disorganized amalgam of pictures and one- or two-word summaries of underlying stories.  Even I, an adept at reading the internet, find that these summaries range from cryptic to unintelligible.  Even worse, they keep resetting automatically, so it’s difficult to find a story that, one or two minutes before, might have caught my interest.

Having had occasion to read the substantive articles at HuffPo, I’m beginning to wonder whether this home page chaos is intentional, insofar as it’s meant to keep people away from content.  I mean, if I was the one publishing Robert Kuttner’s article about the American economy, I’d be so embarrassed as the publisher that I too would want to use subterfuge and prestidigitation to keep people away.

Kuttner, bless his little ol’ heart, is someone who seems to have missed the last 80 years.  More than that, he’s missed any sophisticated analysis of the last 80 years.  His economic understanding is rooted in post-New Deal 8th grade American history textbooks that assured credulous youngsters that even FDR’s best efforts at centralizing America’s economy failed, making WWII an economic necessity.  I kid you not:

Something similar [to today's economic problems] happened in the late 1930s. Though economic growth returned, it wasn’t strong enough to repair the damage of the Great Depression or create enough jobs. Despite the New Deal, unemployment remained stuck at around 12 percent.

World War II solved the problem — it was the greatest accidental economic stimulus in economic history. It put people back to work, retrained the unemployed, and recapitalized industry. But today, there is nothing in the wings waiting to play the role of the Second World War.

During the war, federal deficits averaged more than 25 percent of GDP, nearly triple today’s deficits. But that’s what it took to blast out of the depression. After the war, high growth rates paid down the accumulated national debt.

Anyone who had read Amity Shlaes’ very accessible The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression knows that Kuttner’s view of the 1930s is based upon Progressive propaganda, rather than economic facts. Shlaes cut through this gauzy reminiscent haze about the glories of New Deal Democratic politics, and looked at the economic numbers in the 1930s.

With actual data, Shlae’s ably demonstrates that Hoover, like Roosevelt, tried to manage the post-crash economy, and with equally deleterious results. Fortunately, because he was essentially conservative, Hoover’s efforts were tentative, and therefore not deeply destructive.  Sadly, the 1932 election came along before the economy had a chance to right itself from Hoover’s tepid efforts at market management.

With FDR’s New Deal firmly in place, there was no hope. FDR sucked money out of the economy and into the government, paralyzing wealth creation.  Since this economic experiment was the first of its kind in America, however, and because people bought into FDR’s ebullience and optimism (something sadly lacking in the dour, accusatory man living in the White House today), people cheered the sizzle and ignored the fact that it was, in fact, a scratchy recording, unaccompanied by actual steak.

When World War II came along, it had the virtue of providing almost full employment for the American public. Significantly, although the government was writing the checks, this wasn’t make-work. The U.S. needed to build ships, tanks, planes, and weapons, and it needed bodies in the field. In other words, this was the rare occasion when a centralized command and control economy was geared towards efficiency, rather than simply producing low employment numbers.

Normally, the opposite is true — that is, output is irrelevant — in a government-run economy. Milton Friedman nailed the problem with a government’s make-work “economy” when he delivered his pithy challenge to the whole notion of “shovel-ready jobs”:

Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

Busy work does not create economic dynamism. It simply allows a government to boast about its low unemployment. Eventually, the government runs out of money, and then you have . . . Greece.

What Kuttner also fails to grasp with his erroneous Depression/WWII analysis is that part of the US’s enormous economic success in the post-war era was the fact that it was the only Western or Eastern country that hadn’t seen its infrastructure (and population) destroyed by the War. England and Germany, which had led the free world in manufacturing before the War, had seen virtually every one of their factories wiped out. Those few English factories that survived the war were firmly rooted in the 19th Century, and the stagnant socialist economy that followed the war meant that these factories stayed mired in the past.

WWII  also spelled the end of Empire.  England and other former imperialist powers didn’t have their previous unemployment safety valves, nor did they have ready access to the rare materials that had once powered their manufacturing.

Russia had lost perhaps 20,000,000 people, which was a heavy burden when added to the 20-30,000,000 that Stalin killed in the 30s. Add to this the inefficiencies of a Communist “economy,” and you can see that Russia wasn’t going to stand in America’s way.

In other words, it wasn’t just that America was so good after the war; it was also that everything else was so bad. Right now, under Obama, we have the worst of all possible worlds, which is that both America and the rest of the world are in dire straits. By copying the world’s disastrous economies, America is unable to rise above them.

In addition to misunderstanding the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Kuttner seems to have slept through the 80s and the aughts. I vividly remember Jimmy Carter’s malaise economy, consisting in equal parts of inflation and stagflation. I remember, too, the uproar when Reagan insisted on unleashing capitalism’s power. Sublimely locked into my juvenile Leftism, I absolutely refused to acknowledge that it was Reagan’s commitment to the marketplace that enabled me, a young lawyer, to step into a thriving economy, complete with an obscene salary. I’m glad to say that, in 2001, when Bush pushed through his tax cuts, I’d matured enough to realize that the best way to allow economic growth is to trust “We, the people” with the money, leaving to the government the job of creating a stable environment that doesn’t see wealth creators (individuals and businesses) constantly trying to hide their money from an avaricious, inefficient, frequently corrupt bureaucracy.

Working from a mountain of ignorance, amnesia, misconceptions, and misapprehensions, Kuttner assures HuffPo’s hapless readers that the only way to end Obama’s economy is to raise taxes on the producers and have the government provide jobs for the unemployed — unaware, apparently, that this is precisely what Roosevelt did in 1932, and what led to a 12 year long Depression:

What’s needed today is a massive investment program, to shift the economy to a clean energy path, modernize infrastructure, increase productivity — and along the way create millions of good jobs and restore consumer purchasing power. Then, the vicious circle could be reversed.

The problem is that neither party is proposing such a program. It is entirely outside mainstream debate.

President Obama is willing to have the federal government spend more money. But he has partly bought the story that deficit reduction has to come first. The Republicans would further gut the public sector.

Contrary to the conventional view that deficit reduction would somehow “restore confidence” and increase business investment, that’s not how economies work. Businesses invest when they see customers with open wallets. Though the Congressional Budget Office projects higher growth returning around 2014, it bases these projections on a “return to trend.” There is no plausible story about where the higher growth will come from.

Kuttner is certain that, if Obama can just get four more years, everyone in America will eventually get a spoon. Then the American people can start digging their little holes, and the government can boast about its Soviet-style full employment.

A couple more fallacies in Kuttner’s thinking:

First, Kuttner, who insists that WWII was the best economic engine possible, was against the War in Iraq. Why was that? He should have been celebrating the economic opportunities, and shilled it as WWIII.

Second, Kuttner, in common with all the Progressives, keeps nattering on about revitalizing America’s infrastructure with “green” energy products. He makes this argument even though (a) the government’s “green energy” bets have failed at a terrible cost to the American budget (Solyndra, anyone?); and (b) the strangulation of rules and regulations (especially environmental rules and regs) in the last 30 years means that it’s virtually impossible to complete a big infrastructure job, or even to begin one.

As to the malignant effect of hyper-regulation, here’s just one example proving that the Hoover Dam era is dead and gone: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge partially collapsed in 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. That collapse proved conclusively that the original eastern half of the Bridge (built in 1936) was a seismic disaster.

In a pre-regulatory era, it’s very likely that the Bridge could have been rebuilt, both quickly and economically. In modern American, though, by the time the new structure is completed (maybe) in September 2013, it will have taken 24 years to rebuild just half the bridge, at a cost no less than $6.3 billion — a mere $6.1 billion dollars over the original estimate.

Kuttner’s post is the triumph of theory over fact. Kuttner was clearly the good little boy back in the 1970s, carefully studying his generic history textbook, and locking away in his brain forever all the Leftist fallacies about economic growth and the glory days of a government controlled economy. He is the poster child for the fact that, while the first Obama term has pushed us to the edge of the economic cliff, a second one will most assuredly push us over.

King Obama the Insane — is Obama still living the big lie, or has he slipped round the bend?

Albert Einstein allegedly defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Austin O’Malley looked at the process of insanity: “A sane man often reasons from sound premises; an insane man commonly reasons as well, but the premises are unsound.” And Guy de Maupassant examined that peculiar phenomenon we now call monomania:

I have seen mad people, and I have known some who were quite intelligent, lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one point. They could speak clearly, readily, profoundly on everything; till their thoughts were caught in the breakers of their delusions and went to pieces there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and terrible sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS.

The common thread in these quotations is the fact that the insane person is disconnected from reality. He doesn’t understand cause and effect, his factual premises are ludicrous, and his inability to deal with reality may be centered a specific subject, so that he appears lucid as to other things.

With Obama’s most recent speech about the economy, the one in which he cited approvingly to an immediately discredited study claiming that he’s been one of the most frugal presidents in history, a new meme sprang up in the blogosphere — “Obama the Insane.”

Of course, no one has stated it with that level of clarity.  More and more writers, however, are commenting upon (1) Obama’s belief that if he keeps spending more and more money, he will magically reverse the fact that his existing spending binge has already caused inestimable harm to the U.S. economy; (2) his reliance on manifestly false facts; and (3) the way in which, even as he is cogent on other subjects (his family, rap parties, etc.), Obama’s focus on those things that most deeply affect Americans, such as the economy, foreign affairs, national security, bears no relationship to the facts on the ground.

Here are three respected writers, each of whom expresses serious concern about President Obama’s increasingly obvious disconnect from the reality of his presidency and his policies.

Peggy Noonan politely calls the presidency a “house of cards”:

There is, now, a house-of-cards feel about this administration.

It became apparent some weeks ago when the president talked on the stump—where else?—about an essay by a fellow who said spending growth is actually lower than that of previous presidents. This was startling to a lot of people, who looked into it and found the man had left out most spending from 2009, the first year of Mr. Obama’s presidency. People sneered: The president was deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture! But you know, why would he go out there waving an article that could immediately be debunked? Maybe because he thought it was true. That’s more alarming, isn’t it, the idea that he knows so little about the effects of his own economic program that he thinks he really is a low spender.

Peter Ferrara is also dismayed by the President’s inability to recognize economic reality, although he believes the president is simply being deceptive. After quoting with approval the Noonan passage, above, Ferrara goes on to chide Obama for lying:

What this shows most importantly is that the recognition is starting to break through to the general public regarding the President’s rhetorical strategy that I’ve have been calling Calculated Deception. The latter is deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture. That has been a central Obama practice not only throughout his entire presidency, but also as the foundation of his 2008 campaign strategy, and actually throughout his whole career.

Rest assured, Ms. Noonan, that the President is not as nuts as he may seem at times. He knows very well that he is not a careful spender. His whole mission is to transform the U.S. not into a Big Government country, but a Huge Government country, because only a country run by a Huge Government can be satisfactorily controlled by superior, all wise and beneficent individuals like himself. That is why he is at minimum a Swedish socialist, if not worse. Notice, though, how far behind the times he and his weak minded supporters are, as even the Swedes have abandoned Swedish socialism as a failure.

Mark Steyn speaks in terms of soaring rhetoric unconnected to earthbound problems:

Take, for example, the attempt at soaring rhetoric: “That’s how we built this country — together. We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together,” he said, in a passage that was presumably meant to be inspirational but was delivered with the faintly petulant air of a great man resentful at having to point out the obvious, yet again. “Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans. We’ve done them as Americans.”

Beyond the cheap dissembling, there was a bleak, tragic quality to this paragraph. Does anyone really believe a second-term Obama administration is going to build anything? Yes, you, madam, the gullible sap at the back in the faded hope’n’change T-shirt. You seriously think your guy is going to put up another Hoover Dam? Let me quote one Deanna Archuleta, Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of the interior, in a speech to Democrat environmentalists in Nevada:

“You will never see another federal dam.”

Ever.

All three essays are worth reading in their entirety. All three struggle with the vast chasm between Obama’s words and actual reality. Although Ferrara calls Obama a liar to his face, Ferrara’s take on the matter is the most generous of the three, because he believes that Obama is a con man, not an insane man.

I wonder. Certainly if Obama is a con man, he’s a very bad one, in that he’s letting his audience in on the trick. A good con man would never rely upon such an easily proven set of numbers. If this is what Obama did, he’s once again proven himself to be the un-Churchill.

Why do I say that? It’s because of a story I once read that Churchill’s assistant told about the great man. I don’t know if it’s a true story, but it perfectly illustrates what a good con should be:

Churchill was invited to speak to a group of manufacturers about the future of their industry. He asked his assistant to research for him information about the probably economic future of this industry. The assistant returned to him and said that there were so many variables that it was impossible to put together a coherent picture of the industry’s future in the coming year, let alone the coming decade. To the assistant’s great surprise, the very next day, he heard Churchill give a speech replete with numbers, analyses, and estimates projecting out a good ten years. After the speech, the assistant approached Churchill and asked “How did you do that?” “Simple, my boy,” Churchill replied. “I made it up. You told me that there were too many variables to reach a conclusion or make a prediction about even the immediate future. That means that it will take years to prove my statements wrong, by which time there will have been so many intervening factors, no one will look back on what I said.”

Now that’s a con. What is not a con is to state as truth an absolute falsehood, and one that, moreover, has already been conclusively proven to be false.  The man who does that is either the most clumsy of all lies, or a monomaniac who has become unmoored from factual reality and drifted off into an economic realm all his own.

From the moment Obama appeared on the national political scene, many writers (including me) have been harping on Obama’s malignant narcissism.  The important thing to remember is that a malignant narcissist has built around an empty emotional core a carefully constructed, quite superior persona.  In order to keep that illusion alive, the narcissistic must constantly assert his superiority.  We’ve seen Obama do that over and over again.  Here are a few examples:

Marion Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

******

President Obama met yesterday with “about 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders, thanking them for the work they do to improve communities around the country and discussed their shared commitment to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” Haaretz reports.

In the meeting, Obama reportedly boasted about his knowledge of Judaism, telling the leaders that he thinks he knows more “about Judaism” than all past presidents. He said he gained this knowledge of Judaism from reading.

“Obama … stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it,” Haaretz reports.

******


When it comes to piloting
, Barack Obama seems to think he’s the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a “Fly Me to the Moon” sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers,” he reportedly told an aide in 2008. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.”

The flip side of this constant self-assurance is the need to deny other people their due.  Narcissists are offensive.  That too is an Obama trait:

Asked in the Saturday Democratic debate about her dearth of “likability,” Clinton offered an answer both artful and sweet — first, demurely saying her feelings were hurt and mock-heroically adding that she would try to carry on regardless, then generously conceding that Obama is very likable and “I don’t think I’m that bad.”

At which point, Obama, yielding to some inexplicable impulse, gave the other memorable unscripted moment of the New Hampshire campaign — the gratuitous self-indicting aside: “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” He said it looking down and with not a smile but a smirk.

******

Obama poked fun of McCain and Palin’s new “change” mantra.

“You can put lipstick on a pig,” he said as the crowd cheered. “It’s still a pig.”

“You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still gonna stink.”

“We’ve had enough of the same old thing.”

******

The president defended his talks with Gulf fishermen and oil spill experts, saying their purpose was not academic – rather, they were an exercise in asserting where the presidential boot should be administered, “so I know whose ass to kick”.

******

President Barack Obama says police in Cambridge, Mass., acted “stupidly” this week when they arrested Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, someone they knew was in his own home.

The big question, of course, is what happens to a malignant narcissist when reality is so overwhelming that his normal coping mechanisms — self-aggrandizement and the denigration of others — no longer work?  Obama is being soundly slapped in the face by economic reality, by statistics, by an aggressive political opponent (You go, Mitt!), and by a disillusioned, although still loyal, media.

One could say that insanity is the last refuge of a narcissist.  If the real world will no longer conform to his self-image, he’ll deny the real world, and come up with a better one that allows him to boast to his heart’s content, not just about his own alleged qualities, but about larger, objective reality.

Obama’s intellectual and emotional collapse would normally be a sad sight, indeed.  Because of his peculiarly exalted position, though, a mad President Obama is just as unnerving and dangerous for the State as any mad monarch of old.

The forgotten lunch tab and what it says about personal responsibility in the age of Big Government

ABC reports that President Obama treated two service men and two local barbers to a high-fat Father’s Day lunch (high-fat, at least, for Obama), and then left without paying the tab:

Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.

Celebrating Father’s Day early, the president had lunch with two service members and two local barbers at Kenny’s BBQ on Capitol Hill.

As the group chatted about fatherhood, the president enjoyed a steaming plate of pork ribs with hot sauce, collard greens, red beans and rice and cornbread.

The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.

The White House corrected the oversight and settled up the tab by the end of the business day.

I don’t for one minute blame Obama for forgetting to pay the tab.  That’s not his job.  But it’s apparent that in the swirl of government employees constantly circling around him, no one felt that it was his or her responsibility.  Isn’t that whole scenario a perfect paradigm for government?  Obama, the service men, and the barbers were all happily dining on someone else’s tab — and then the person who was supposed to pay didn’t.

(It’s ironic, really, that this happened within a couple of days of Obama’s sudden obsession with paying the tab at a restaurant:

“I love listening to these guys give us lectures about debt and deficits. I inherited a trillion dollar deficit!” he said. Obama compared Republicans to a person who orders a steak dinner and martini and then, “just as you’re sitting down, they leave, and accuse you of running up the tab.”

I mean, isn’t this better than a film script?  Within a week of accusing the opposing political party of hypothetically stiffing the American people at a restaurant, Obama actually stiffs an American restaurant owner.)

Although not directly on point, to the extent we’re talking about personal responsibility, this whole scenario is analogous to Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” shtick from the 1990s.  The expression is true, of course, if there’s a real village.  I live in a very tight neighborhood where I know all the kids and all the parents, and they all know each other.  If a kid does something wrong — drinking, drugs, etc. — he can be assured that his parents will know within a day or two.  The children know that every parent in the neighborhood is watching out for them.  The kids also watch out for each other.  We are a genuine, organically grown community, based upon proximity, shared values, and social connections.  We all look out for each other, because we all know each other, and we know what matters to the other families.

Hillary, though, wasn’t envisioning a network of small communities that take care of their own.  That world view smacks of conservative thinking.  Instead, she pretended that an impersonal, distant government was precisely equivalent to that village.  Her promise was that, if we paid enough in taxes to create the Nanny state, we would get the “village” without the effort of looking after our own. Almost daily stories out of England about horribly abused children who slipped through the cracked network of social services tells us just how well that “government village” works.

The Democrat desire to avoid personal responsibility goes all the way up the ladder to the top man, the guy in the White House.  Obama avoids personal responsibility like the plague and is beginning to get mocked for that, even by his own party.  But why are his compadres surprised?  The entire Democrat ethos is based upon eating the food and having someone else pay the bill — and then expressing surprise when the bill goes unpaid.

To skip to another scenario (this is the scenario equivalent of mixed metaphors), think back to the last CPR class you took.  I always forget the number of pumps and breaths (and understand that they’ve now simplified it down to a Bee Gees song).  What I do remember, though, is that the one thing you should never do is holler out a generic “Call 911!”  This makes everyone responsible for making that call and experience has shown that if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible.  Instead, you have to tag someone.  “YOU, the guy in the black shirt, call 911.”

The same principle of failing to invest specific people with responsibility — and thereby creating a responsibility vacuum — holds true when the government sucks responsibility away from people and distributes it into its vast machinery.  Suddenly, individuals aren’t responsible — and you can’t find the clerk with the cash when you need him.

My sister once worked with a secretary who felt put upon.  No matter what one asked her to do, she came back with a single answer:  “That’s not my job, man.”  Since she was working for a private company, she was fired as soon as the company felt that it had protected itself against a potential wrongful discharge lawsuit.  In the federal world, this same gal would not only have lifetime employment, she’d be teaching taxpayer-funded seminars on avoiding direct responsibility for anything.

It starts at the bottom, with Barack Obama’s minions in the restaurant saying “That’s not my job, man.”  And it ends at the top with Barack Obama, speaking of the American economy and saying, “Bush started it.  That’s not my job, man.”

Americans hunger to take on the job of creating work and wealth.  Isn’t it time to let them?