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Obama's malaise speech

Posted by Richard on October 27, 2011

At a fundraiser in San Francisco Tuesday evening, President Obama delivered his version of Jimmy Carter’s infamous malaise speech, blaming the American people for the mess he’s created:

We’ve lost our ambition, our — our imagination, and — and — our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.

Joe Newby has a roundup of critical reaction from Rush Limbaugh and others. Steven Birn noted that “Limbaugh and others are missing the biggest point” — that this speech reveals Obama as the socialist he is:

It’s fascinating to watch the socialist mind in action. When he declares that Americans have lost their ambition, in his mind ambition means building bi[g] government funded projects. …

Obama has America all wrong. In his mind America is great because of large, overpriced infrastructure projects. In his mind America’s jobs and prosperity come from the government. The reality is that American prosperity comes not from government but from private individuals. It isn’t the Golden Gate bridge that was a great innovation, it was the automobile and the assembly line that were great. It isn’t the Hoover Dam that made America prosperous, it was the telegraph and telephone.

Obama’s default is government. If government isn’t spending big money on infrastructure we’ve somehow lost our ambition and our imagination. Notice those two things require the collective to act. He doesn’t praise individual innovation, only collective action. The truth is the opposite. We’re prosperous not because the government runs things but precisely the opposite. Cars, airplanes, telephones, refrigerators, freezers and most recently computers are all things that were innovated for use not by the government but by private individuals with a profit motive. Steve Jobs and Apple Computers had an IPO in the late 70′s or early 80′s where Wall Street invested $120 million in their business. Jobs died worth $7 billion. That’s innovation, that’s ambition, that’s imagination. It’s the opposite of a government funded bridge.

The Carter comparison is certainly apt, as are Birn’s comments. But I was struck by something else regarding that speech: the Obama administration is allegedly chock-full of the best and the brightest, right? So how could they be so tone-deaf and stupid? Wasn’t there even one person on the White House staff who read that speech and said, “Mr. President, you don’t want to say that — it will draw unflattering comparisons with President Carter”?

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