Monday, January 11, 2016

The State Of The Obama-Malloy Union

At the cusp of the New Year, lame duck President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union Address.

The real state of the union is in disarray, and here in Connecticut many nutmeggers are living lives of quiet desperation: “Dark Clouds, Sunny Speech” ran a page one, top of the fold headline in a Hartford paper.

Dark clouds indeed! The national economy continues to under-perform, and some economic tea leaf readers see yet another recessionary bump in the road. Mr. Obama has added $8 trillion to the union’s already unsupportable national debt, quickly approaching $19 trillion.  After two terms of visionary hope and change, the U.S. Congress has fallen to Republicans. Reports of al-Qaida’s demise, loudly trumpeted by Mr. Obama during his second presidential campaign, have been greatly exaggerated. Mr. Obama has turned over to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Ukraine, the U.S.’s Middle East portfolio. Libya – the Democrats' Iraq – is under siege by ISIS following former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ouster of eccentric strongman Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. Former allies – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Israel – have been given the cold shoulder by the Obama administration, while former enemies – Putin’s Russia, Bashir al-Assad’s Syria,  and mischievous “Death to America” Iran – have been smiled upon and tentatively embraced. Mr. Obama’s unsigned and possibly unverifiable “pact” with Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei – the President dared not call it a “treaty” because treaties must be affirmed by the U.S. Congress – is regarded by many, not least Israel, as a failure: The pact abolishes a successful embargo and, some would say, extends to Iran a permission slip to deploy nuclear weapons after a lapse of ten years.

The Chinese economy that had been steaming along during the Obama years appears to have hit a many-storied bump in the road, a stoppage that would not matter much if China had not financed a major portion of U.S. debt. The economic surge in the emergent market BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – has slowed considerably; at the same time, the BRIC nations have assumed large debts. China’s rapid growth ignited both indebtedness and a boom in raw commodities, fed by the over-optimistic assumption that China’s appetite for raw materials-— oil, grains, metals – was insatiable. That bubble has now burst. The shattered bubble may portend yet another recession, and Connecticut has been convalescent during the last two national recessions; because its revenues are so heavily dependent on the financial market, business contractions in Connecticut are longer-lived and more punishing than in other states, all of which have recovered from the last recession much earlier than Connecticut.

Connecticut has yet to draw the right lessons from its economic plight. Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic leaders in Connecticut’s General Assembly, Speaker of the House Brenden Sharkey and President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney, are three comfortable peas in the same progressive pod. Mr. Malloy was rightly honored by the most progressive President in living memory as one among a band of brothers: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

On social issues – and it should be recalled that campaigns are won on social issues – Mr. Malloy has been leading the progressive band of brothers.  The Hartford paper noted, perhaps incorrectly, “During his two terms in office, Malloy has embraced several of Obama's priorities, including stricter gun control laws, an overhaul of the criminal justice system, a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave. And as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, he has emerged as a national spokesman for his party — even as his popularity in Connecticut has diminished. Last week, in a prominent editorial, the New York Times praised Malloy for his ‘reformist philosophy.’” Connecticut has become Mr. Obama’s Petri dish, but it is increasingly impossible to tell who is leading whom.

Mr. Malloy’s popularity has plummeted in direct proportion to his two massive tax increases, the largest and the second largest in state history.  A recent Quinnipiac poll assigns a job disapproval rating of 58-32 percent to the reformist philosopher, “… the lowest score for any governor in the nine states surveyed this year by the independent Quinnipiac University Poll. The governor gets 4-1 negative scores for the way he has handled taxes and the state budget.” The progressive ascendancy in both Connecticut and the nation has left moderate Democrats stranded on the shore, and Donald Trump – among progressives, the Devil in disguise -- appears to be scooping up many of the stranded wayfarers.

Neither Mr. Obama – who would not recognize a rain cloud if it drenched him from head to toe – nor Mr. Malloy are deterred by a) low popularity ratings or b) the real disastrous consequences of their reformist policies. The primary responsibility of reformist philosophers, a late 19th century political theoretician once said, is not to interpret history rightly – but to change it.      


     
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