Obama’s problem: the Suze Orman economy

Rod D. Martin CEO, The Martin Organization
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The U.S. credit downgrade is a deep humiliation for the United States. But it’s a debacle for the Democratic Party. They just haven’t yet realized why.

This just became the Suze Orman election.

You know Suze Orman. She’s that nice, perky lady on CNBC. The one who likes leather and writes all those personal finance books on your shelf.

Well, the point is, you do know her. Or if you don’t, you know Dave Ramsey. Or someone else who’s taught you some pretty basic ideas, among which are: Don’t max out your credit cards. If you do max out your credit cards, cut them up and pay them off. Don’t count on “new revenues” (like a better job you don’t have, or a tax hike) to bail you out. And above all, if you’re maxed out already, don’t apply for more credit. Stop digging your hole.

You know this. Everyone knows this. These are our modern day Proverbs.

And therein lies the problem for Barack Obama.

When the debate was about shaving or adding a billion — or a hundred billion — here or there from programs you’ve never heard of in far-off budget years, America’s eyes glazed over. This has always been true, regardless of who was in power. This has served the left well. For most of a century, Washington could and has pretty routinely come up with some new thing we “had to do” “for the children.” And no one really worried that much about how it would be paid for.

They’re worrying now. They understand now. And they’re moving from pretty worried to a little frightened.

Beltway Democrats believe they can do their normal finger-pointing game and, given their dominance of most legacy media, bludgeon their Republican counterparts to death. If they’re talking about John Boehner, they may be right.

But that entirely misses the point. Inside-Washington parlor games matter only if the public is sleepily ignoring them. Otherwise those games are correctly deemed part of the problem.

The downgrade is, at a minimum, a huge humiliation. It’s exactly like having a 750 credit score and then getting notified that, oops, now you’re at 640. Oh, and the notification is on the front page of the newspaper, and everyone just saw it, from your ex to your kids to your friends to your boss.

It’s a national disgrace that people can understand, feel, and identify with, not least because so many of them are feeling the same disgrace personally in these high-unemployment “Great Recessionary” Obama years. Only now it’s their country.

Democrats may spout off a lot of bold talk to the contrary, but their pollsters know the truth: The economy is credited to or blamed on presidents. This president lost our credit rating. No President has ever done that. Not the much-maligned Bush. Not his father. Not Jimmy Carter. Not Gerald Ford or Richard Nixon. Not even FDR at the height of the Depression. Not even Herbert Hoover, that human embodiment of the lowest you can go.

No one had ever lost America’s perfect credit, until Barack Obama.

Many Americans are now too young to remember how it felt to live through the Carter years. The loss of your job, and in too many cases your future, or the constant fear that you would be next. The vague but certain knowledge that America had lost a war in Vietnam and might lose one again, one that mattered more. The constant drumbeat of “limits to growth,” of ever-higher gas prices, of having to cancel the family vacation. The humiliation and anger and impotence of the hostage-taking in Iran, while Carter wrung his hands and kowtowed to the “Muslim street.”

Those of us who are old enough have seen this play before. It nearly destroyed us. And yet even Jimmy Carter never lost our good credit.

Obama came in claiming Bush had ruined America’s reputation and he would fix it. Many Americans thought that was bunk, that our reputation was fine, and anyone who didn’t like us wasn’t our friend anyway. Now, under Obama, we really are genuinely disgraced.

That will sink in.

No one ever lost our credit rating before because no one ever spent so wildly before. It took 232 years for America to amass $10 trillion in debt. Obama maxed out the national credit card in just 30 months, hitting almost $15 trillion by the time of the downgrade. Almost one-third of the entire national debt belongs to one inexperienced community organizer who hasn’t even finished a single term.

And Obama’s plan to “fix” things? Borrow still more. Spend still more. And tax more too — trillions of dollars more — to help pay for a tiny part of it, in the longest period of high unemployment since the Depression, and while too-high taxes and regulation are forcing countless jobs overseas already.

This is a defining moment. Barack Obama and his spin machine haven’t realized it yet. But if this is the Suze Orman election, Obama’s replacement has already been elected as surely as Carter guaranteed that there would be a Reagan.

And so, now, the fight really begins.

Rod D. Martin, founder of The Vanguard Project, is a leading futurist, technology entrepreneur and conservative activist from Destin, Florida. He was part of PayPal.com’s pre-IPO startup team, serving as special counsel to founder and CEO Peter Thiel, and also served as policy director to former Governor Mike Huckabee. He is President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA), a member of the Council for National Policy, and serves on numerous nonprofit and for-profit boards.

Rod D. Martin