The View from Abroad

Hard hitting commentary from an American living overseas

Kenn Jacobine

Kenn Jacobine
June 03
Kenn Jacobine is an international educator currently teaching History and Economics for the American School of Doha, Qatar. He has also taught at international schools in Ecuador, Mali, and Zambia. His political transformation took place over the course of many years. Starting out naively as a big state liberal, he became a Reagan Republican in 1982. Disillusionment set in with the realization that small government rhetoric rarely translated into limited government actions. On Christmas day 1992, he became a libertarian. In 1994, Kenn ran for the State Senate in Pennsylvania on the Libertarian Party ticket garnering 5 percent of the vote. He has been active in freedom causes ever since.

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APRIL 26, 2011 12:13PM

Evaluating Obama’s Record Two Years in as President

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Recently, President Obama kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign.  Looking past all the political jabbering of the talking heads and pundits, the most astounding prediction of all about the next race for the White House is that Obama is expected to raise $1 billion for his campaign efforts.  Given the president’s failure to fulfill his previous campaign’s promises of hope and change, a great question to ask is, who is going to donate that large amount of money to his campaign coffers?

I mean the guy has an absolutely abysmal economic record as president.  Adhering to a dogmatic Keynesian policy, in just two years he has increased the national debt by 50 percent with nothing good to show for it. 
Unemployment, counting the underemployed and discouraged workers, was about 19 percent when Obama took office.  Currently that number is at about 22 percent.  After more than two years in office, Obama’s economic policies have given no hope to millions of unemployed Americans.

Of course, all of the spending and inflating of the money supply under Obama is beginning to have a huge negative effect on the economy.  Anyone who has grocery shopped or purchased gasoline lately has certainly noticed higher prices.  Now, many would blame Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous easy money policy for current rising prices.  They are correct.  But, let’s not forget that Obama nominated Bernanke for a second term as chairman in 2009.  The president had the opportunity to do the right thing and nominate an individual that could have brought sanity back to our monetary policy.  But then again, Obama and his cohorts in Congress need Bernanke to monetize their lavish spending programs to ensure their reelections.

In fact, Obama won’t recognize his or the Fed’s culpability in bringing about inflation.  Instead he is resorting to the famous political technique of scapegoating.  According to Obama, speculators are potentially to blame for high gas prices and thus rising prices in general.  His Justice Department is going to investigate whether speculators are driving up the price of oil and therefore harming consumers.

Well, of course speculators are driving up the price of oil because they know more about how economics work than anybody in the Obama Administration.  They know that with the
trillions of new dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since 2007 oil prices which are priced in dollars are going to go up, probably way up.  They would not be bidding up the price of oil today if they believed that in the future they will not be able to find a buyer for their oil futures.   They are not causing harm to consumers.  Fed policy under Bernanke is the culprit, but the president seems clueless about this fact.  As general prices continue to rise because of Obama’s Keynesian policies, Americans will continue to lose hope that their lives are getting better.

Obama’s foreign policy is as abysmal as his economic policies.  During the 2008 campaign he promised “change that we can believe in”.  If by “change” Obama meant even more war than George Bush provided than he has fulfilled that campaign promise.  Since taking office Obama has not ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He has increased troop levels in Afghanistan by about 30,000.  He has increased unmanned drone attacks over Pakistan killing innocent civilians and providing a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.  He led the NATO invasion of Libya, which was supposed to be a “humanitarian” effort, but has quickly turned into a regime change operation.  Obama claimed he would not put boots on the ground in Libya and then it was reported that U.S. special operations forces had been on the ground in Benghazi for three weeks training the rebels.  Now, fighting between Qaddafi forces and the rebels is in stalemate and many analysts believe it will take a NATO invasion with ground troops to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Tripoli.  The president has put himself in a tough spot.  If his previous war-like tendencies are any indication, we can expect U.S./NATO troops to be fighting pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya soon.

Barack Obama’s first two years as president has been a catastrophe.  Unemployment and prices are up and we face a national calamity because of burgeoning debt at the state and federal levels.  He has increased not diminished our exposure to war by ramping up military attacks over Pakistan and leading the effort to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya.  These conflicts will only waste more money we don’t have and make us less safe.  Again, it should be asked, if Obama hopes to collect $1 billion in campaign contributions, where will it come from?  My best guess is Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.  

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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In defense of Obama, the course for deficits and unemployment was set before he arrived.
Yes, he's just as addicted to defense waste as any we've seen in the last 30 years. The billion they say he'll raise has to come from the bloodsuckers, mostly. Though calling it campaign contributions is a bit the old country, they called it "Tribute."

But, Kenn...Keynesian? I saw that in the stimulus package, though it was only a third Keynesian. One excuse I've heard for Ben's quantitative easing is that Congress won't do the right thing - Keynesian demand-boosting. So Ben is 'forced" to throw cash around to "ease credit" -- better known as "hahahaha!" Smells more like monetarism, doesn't it? Supply-side soup to prop up asset prices and actually encourage downsizing.
The result is as you say--more cash to speculate in oil/commodities, somewhat weaker dollars and off-books debt.

The root of the problem is there's no such thing as acting in America's interest. The problem isn't just Ben's easy paper, it's outsourced jobs and lower wages for the ever-diminishing jobs left. It's the idea that all free trade is advantageous, even when it results in more off-books debt, and sets up an ever-diminishing cycle. The biggest problem is our under-used capacity--expressed in rising unemployment. Can you think of an American doctrine that blesses all free trade, even when it disadvantages America?
What I'm saying is you Libertarians can't have it both ways--approve of outsourcing jobs as 'liberty" while it's eating the American economy from the inside--then complain about the foolishness that ensues as the powers-that-be perform any number of insane actions that have nothing to do with repairing the outsourcing/employment problem.
Fiscal sanity while America is reduced to break-up value and converted to a third world trash heap is no virtue.

But Obama? He'll probably win anyway, and whoever runs against him won't be any more prone to advocate for economics in America's interest. The only ones advocating for that are the majority of Americans, and who listens to them anyway?

PS--Keynesianism well it works when the underpinnings of economic sanity have been blown away seems to be the question (I think the same is true of monetarism). For example, how well does demand boosting work when most non-essential purchasing doesn't cycle much before it expatriates capital to China?

It's a megamess, isn't it?
Good leadership requires both courage and initiative. Obama has no balls for the former and no knowledge for the latter.

For example, he made a good speech in Cairo, after becoming President. However, while running for office, he told AIPAC that he favored ". . . Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel."

Had he called up Bibi and informed the PM that there would be no more aid coming from America until the occupation was eliminated and until Israel was ready to recognize a viable Palestinian State, then we would have seen some real progress in MiddleEast, and not just in the Holy Land. However, we see no courage behind the convictions he promoted to Arabs in Egypt.

Instead, Obama needs $1 billion for his reelection campaign. What part of that will be lost if he angers Israel?

Further, Obama is a very late comer to the "Damn, we're in deep financial sh*t" bandwagon. He, Pelosi, and Reid weren't thinking much about the budget during the "jam it down your throat" ACA run through Congress. In fact, an FY10 budget was never effectively approved. The FY11 budget is essentially a copy of FY10 with $38.5 billion removed; and, despite the obvious financial catastrophe that looms before us, the FY12 budget isn't close to being balanced. We see no initiative to lead on the budget issue.

Instead, Obama needs $1 billion for his reelection campaign. What part of that will be lost if he angers those who feed on the federal teat?

It just seems, again, that we have a triangulating coward in office who seems more interested in his reelection than in the long-term interests of America. He isn't courageous enough to tell Bibi where to stick the racism and apartheid that is the Jewish State and he isn't smart enough to understand how little effort it would have taken to have looked better than 535 congressmen who can't screw up any more courage than he can to balance the budget. He could be out front on both foreign and domestic matters, but . . . . same old, same old . . . .