Voters in last November’s election never really got a clear sense of just what candidate Barack Obama did during his years as a “community organizer.” The phrase carries with it some vague suggestion of volunteers working selflessly to represent the downtrodden, the powerless in the community, as they seek to climb out from under the yoke of domineering and exploitative authority. Wikipedia gives us some sense of that notion:
Unlike other forms of more consensual “community building,” community organizers generally assume that social change necessarily involves conflict and social struggle in order to generate collective power for the powerless.
An Internet search for a definition of community organizing turned up someone named Mike Miller at something described as the Organize Training Center. Mr. Miller’s take on community organizing comes extraordinarily close to the principles that Barak Obama, former community organizer, is applying to his role as the nation’s new president. There is a remarkable carry-over from his earlier role to his present one:
Organizing does two central things to seek to rectify the problem of power imbalance—it builds a permanent base of people power so that dominant financial and institutional power can be challenged and held accountable to values of greater social, environmental and economic justice . . .
When viewed in this context, many of the Obama policies that defy logic begin to make perfect sense, even proposals and programs that on their face appear to be in perfect conflict with the common good—as well as common sense. Some of these would, of course, include: degrading our health care system down to Canadian and British standards; turning on the money spigot in the form of an ill-conceived “stimulus” that will neither create jobs nor improve the economy; follow the forever-futile policy of trying to spend our way out of a recession; nationalizing bankrupt car companies on behalf of union interests, thereby preserving failed business models to the tune of tens of billions of dollars; supporting the despicable “card check” legislation that will foster retribution and, inevitably, violence against workers who would be deprived of the secret ballot; raising taxes to astronomical levels—on individuals, corporations, small businesses—in the teeth of a severe recession, a course that risks turning a crisis into a catastrophe; and touring the globe while busily ingratiating himself with every two-bit despot, dictator, and enemy of democracy he can find by repeatedly apologizing for America’s past failings and transgressions.
I could go on but it would be pointless. Each of these policies, as well as others, is incompatible with even the barest degree of fiscal responsibility, job creation, personal liberty, and America’s stature on the international stage. They stand as a perfect contrary indicator to traditional American values like individual choice and freedom from an intrusive government that stands in the way as an obstacle to individual achievement and its rewards. One can only conclude that since each and every one of them are so wrong-headed and patently antithetical to the well-being of the nation, there must be another agenda at work having nothing to do with setting the country on the road to recovery.
Another policy I failed to mention perhaps can give us some insight into the true agenda at work here. Part of the president’s tax proposal provides euphemistically-dubbed “tax credits” to the roughly 60% of the populace that does not actually pay income taxes. This would create the perverse situation in which having no obligation to pay anything under the tax code becomes a profitable enterprise, leaving the non-payer with a net gain. The source of these credits, of course, is the 40% that enjoys no such immunity under the tax code. Now we know what candidate Obama meant when he told Joe the Plumber that as good Americans we should “share the wealth.” What he really meant was that government should act as an intermediary through which wealth is simply redistributed. Thus, a campaign comment that many interpreted to signify the candidate’s belief that all Americans should share in the opportunity to achieve prosperity really had a darker meaning: that government’s proper role is to expropriate by fiat the assets of one group of Americans and transfer them to a different group.
Go back for a moment and re-read the quotations on the function of the community organizer and it becomes evident that Mr. Obama is still acting in that role. He is working to build a “community” in which the influence of the “powerful” is diminished and that of the “powerless” is enhanced. “Solutions” like wealth redistribution and lowest-common-denominator health care serve to achieve that outcome. Hence the “dominant”—corporations, financial institutions, rich people—should be challenged and held accountable to values of greater social, environmental and economic justice. Scrutinized in that context, then, policies that don’t meet the standards of rationality when viewed through the prism of their purported purpose—such as economic measures designed to address economic problems—take on new meaning as vehicles aimed at “fixing” what Mr. Obama thinks is the real problem with the country—the problem of power imbalance.
Perhaps Americans will in time despair of their flirtation with social and economic collectivism. If they do, however, this administration’s legacy will not be simply that it pursued policies that the country eventually rejected. It will be remembered instead for its most egregious act—exploiting and exacerbating a genuine national crisis in the interests of pursuing a radical social and economic agenda.
Perhaps more than any of its 43 predecessors, the Obama administration provides a perfect illustration of Ronald Reagan’s observation that government is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem.