My view of president Obama’s vision and leadership abilities have continued to decline as his time in office has increased. Here is a man who has had an historic opportunity … nearly of Mount Rushmore proportions … to lead the country to a better place, yet his second inaugural speech confirmed his parochial vision and the likelihood that his legacy will be one of great orator and adept politician … and not that much more.
Why do I feel this way?
First, the president’s second inaugural speech was overly political in nature, including unnecessary and inflammatory jabs at the other party. This, combined with comments about “not negotiating” on fiscal matters only reinforce his win-lose mentality. These types of public comments, while expected on the campaign trail, are not emblematic of a leader seeking to bring people together to move the nation forward.
Second, where Ronald Reagan talked about an administration with an objective of creating “a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans,” Obama spent most of his speech throwing sound-bite bones to various factions of the Democratic party. With an unemployment rate hovering just under 8 percent, nearly the same as when he took office four years previous, I’m still amazed at his failure to engage on what is THE issue for many Americans and a means toward increasing the tax revenues upon which he seems so myopically focused. Not only is he relying solely on the Fed to improve the economic climate, even his former chief economic advisor for the recovery, Austan Goolsbee, admitted that there was very little in his inaugural comments related to that topic.
Third, where Reagan said “we are a nation that has a government — not the other way around,” Obama continues to push an agenda of taxing the successful more and more as if waging “class warfare,” growing the federal government and re-distribution of wealth is somehow the best and only means by which “the middle class” can be made better off. How about engaging and supporting private enterprise rather than generically vilifying private financial institutions (as if Fannie and Freddie and Barney Frank Democrats had no role in the financial crisis, and all banks are bad). Instead of constantly fighting a win-lose battle over how to slice the pie, how about working together to bake a bigger pie?
Finally, president Obama likes to claim that he is the defender of social safety nets (Social Security and Medicare), yet his lack of engagement in the tough process of making those programs financially sustainable just kicks those very large cans down the road and makes that task ultimately more difficult and divisive. And, it’s basically the same with the federal deficit. A true leader, in his final term, would be working hard to bring responsible factions of both parties together to make substantive progress on these problems, rather than spouting a verbal “in your face … I won the national election” (note: with 51 percent of the popular vote and less than a 4 percent margin).
Few times in our country’s history have we begged for consensus-building more than now. Sadly, it appears that this president will not be the man to seize that moment and rise above partisan politics just enough to be viewed as a man for the times … a great president who set a tone and created an environment to bring people together to address major challenges of the day.
• Bob Beane is an economics graduate of the College of Wooster and an MBA accounting graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is also a bicycling advocate and has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 1992.