The Obama Referendum

By: Greg C. Reeson

This past weekend on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume remarked that the upcoming presidential election had little to do with John McCain and was instead a referendum on the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama. Is the country ready for an African American president? Are Americans searching for something new, having grown tired of the business-as-usual mentality in Washington? Has President Bush so destroyed the Republican Party that no GOP candidate has a legitimate shot at winning this November?

These are all fair questions, but at this point in the contest the answers are purely speculative. What is not speculative is Obama’s plan for America if he is elected to the White House this November. The “Blueprint for Change,” published just prior to the Iowa Caucus, offers a glimpse into where this country is headed if the Senator from Illinois becomes the next President of the United States.

Domestically, Obama’s plan has three primary themes: a massive increase in the size and scope of government; the further redistribution of wealth within American society; and more government control coupled with a corresponding decrease in individual accountability and responsibility. Here are a few examples.

First, let’s look at Obama’s plan for growing the government. Despite his pledge at the beginning of the blueprint “…to put government back in your hands, where it belongs,” an Obama presidency promises substantial and sustained increases in the size and scope of the federal government that will result in more control over the lives of ordinary Americans and more interference with the conduct of private business. Take, for instance, Senator Obama’s support for free television and radio time for political campaigns. For starters, there is no such thing as “free” air time. Private broadcast stations would be forced to accept programming directed by the government (incurring cost in freedom of choice), consumers would be forced to watch or listen to programming directed by the government (incurring cost in freedom of choice), and one can only speculate that the “free” time would be paid for with taxpayer dollars (presumably at a rate not conducive to profit-making for the broadcast stations).

Keeping with the grow-the-government and take control of people’s lives theme, Obama supports the creation of a National Health Insurance Exchange that would “help” individuals purchase private insurance plans. I’m not sure how inserting government into individual choice and private business “helps” anyone, given that government does few things more efficiently than individuals and private sector companies. Under Obama’s plan, insurers would be forced to issue every applicant an insurance policy, with monthly premiums set without regard to the health of the individual. Employers who fail to contribute to their employees’ health care costs will be required to pay money into the national plan. Does anyone believe that these costs will not be passed on to consumers? Again, private companies will be told by the federal government who they will do business with and how that business will be conducted.

On nearly every page of Obama’s blueprint you will find the words “create,” “expand,” “provide capital,” “increase,” “double,” and even “quadruple.” It’s not hard to see that the Blueprint for Change is a recipe for a massive growth of the federal government that will provide national direction in lieu of individual choice.

Senator Obama is also a clear advocate of the further redistribution of wealth within American society. His plan calls for the creation of a new “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. According to Obama, the tax credit would wipe out any tax burden at all for 10 million families. Additionally, Obama advocates reversing most of the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Given the massive increases in government spending planned in the blueprint, it’s pretty easy to see that Obama will shift the tax burden to those Americans who are able to pay more. The “wealthiest” Americans can expect higher income taxes and higher Social Security taxes, while more of their fellow citizens are taken off the tax rolls altogether. And while the “wealthiest” are not clearly defined in the blueprint, I, as a government employee who makes more than $97,500 (the current salary cap for Social Security taxes) and who benefited from the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, can expect to see less of my paycheck each month under an Obama administration (never mind that I have four kids and, living in the Washington, D.C. area, am decidedly middle class).

A third defining feature of Senator Obama’s plan is a decrease in individual responsibility, which fits in nicely with the increased control of the federal government over the lives of American citizens. Under the Obama plan, health insurance options for young adults would expand to the point where 25-year old men and women would be allowed to stay on their parents’ health plans. I say men and women because at the age of 25 you should no longer be a child dependent on mommy and daddy. You should be capable of independent thought and able to exercise individual choice, while accepting the responsibility and accountability that go along with free will.

A President Obama would also establish a fund to help Americans refinance their mortgages while providing “…comprehensive support to innocent homeowners.” Call me naïve, but I believe that adults who enter into mortgages are really not all that innocent, and should be held accountable for either not understanding what they were getting themselves into or for accepting risk with adjustable rate mortgages that could increase interest rates beyond their ability to pay. And guess who would be providing the funds to bail these homeowners out? You guessed it: other taxpayers.

Finally, Senator Obama wants to implement a retirement security plan that will force employers to automatically enroll employees in a direct deposit IRA. Of course, an employee can always opt out, but government is still interjecting itself into the workplace and forcing individuals to save for retirement unless they take additional steps to stop the payroll deduction. This retirement security plan implies that Americans are not capable of making retirement savings decisions on their own. Instead, the federal government comes in, absolves them of any personal responsibility (unless, of course, they choose to opt out of the plan), and makes the decisions about what’s best for individual workers.

In the foreign policy realm, Obama’s blueprint clings to an Iraq plan that does not acknowledge the positive trends experienced since President Bush’s surge of additional troops into Anbar Province and Baghdad last year. Senator Obama maintains his call for a steady withdrawal of troops, without regard for the risks to the security gains made since last September, arguing that the best way to pressure Iraqi leaders is to make it clear we are leaving. Of course, this plan in no way takes into consideration the ability of Iraqi security forces. The belief is that if we start to leave, the Iraqi Army and police will suddenly be spurred into action, accepting responsibility for the security of their nation. Whether or not they are actually able to provide their own security is of little importance. I can envision now the sight of the last American troops leaving Baghdad in helicopters from the roof of the American Embassy because Iraqi Security Forces were just not quite ready.

The other major feature of Senator Obama’s foreign policy plan is his willingness to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Obama blueprint offers nothing new for Iran except the promise of a face-to-face with the American President. Obama’s offer of World Trade Organization membership in exchange for Iranian abandonment of its nuclear program and support for terrorism has already been rejected by Tehran, as has his offer of economic investments. Is the hatred of George W. Bush so strong that we are to believe Khamenei and Ahmadinejad will give up their nuclear pursuits just because a new guy is in the White House? They must be laughing hysterically in Iran.

Mr. Hume was onto something when he said this past weekend that the November presidential election would be a referendum on Barack Obama. It should be about him. But when voters go to the polls to cast their ballots, they should do so not based on whether they think the country is ready for an African American president or out of some lingering hatred for President Bush. They should do so based on whether or not they believe Senator Obama’s Blueprint for Change is the right path for America to take in the years ahead.

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