Taking a cue from the master, President Obama used a similar sleight of hand in his non-retraction of his “private sector is doing fine” comment. “It’s absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine,” the president said later on Friday. “That’s the reason I had a press conference. That’s why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger. The economy is not doing fine.”
Well thank goodness he put that to rest. Except that he didn’t. Notice how the president’s “clarification” refers only to the “economy” and not specifically to the “private sector.” To understand the importance of this distinction, let’s review the president’s original remarks in context: “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government — oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.”
The president was thus drawing a distinction between the health of the private sector — which he pronounced as “fine” — and the health of the overall economy, which he asserted was being dragged down by weakness in the public sector. The president’s subsequent “clarification,” while creating the illusion of retracting his original remarks, actually reinforced them.
In the president’s view of the world, the way to strengthen our economy is not to remove burdens on the private sector to facilitate job creation. The way to strengthen the economy, according to the president, is to increase taxes and public debt so that we can subsidize bloated government payrolls. Increasing taxes and debt, of course, increases the burdens that must be borne by the private sector. But that’s OK, according to the president, because “the private sector is doing fine.”
President Obama is proposing to transfer ever-increasing amounts of wealth to a public sector that gobbles it up faster than the private sector can create it. Perhaps he’s doing penance for abandoning his public sector union allies in Wisconsin in their hour of need, as they were being routed in a Waterloo of their own making. After promising to “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” and “walk on that picket line” to support his union allies, the president kept those shoes a safe 30,000 feet above the Wisconsin picket lines as he looked down on them from Air Force One.
Of course, the president has been campaigning for yet another public sector stimulus since long before the debacle in Wisconsin. And in an inspiring display of inadvertent bipartisanship, both the Republican House and the Democratic Senate have, thankfully, ignored him.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.