Charlie Leonard: Obama tries to fool the voters – once again |

Charlie Leonard: Obama tries to fool the voters – once again

Charlie Leonard
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Last month the president went to Kansas to deliver a speech that told us precisely how he intends to frame his re-election campaign. By laying blame for our current economic challenges on a rogue and greedy business culture, the president hopes to convince a majority of voters that we have a fundamental lack of fairness and equality in America that can only be remedied through the expansion of government spending and the enactment of more laws and regulations.

It’s a huge gamble – but one that I’m not yet willing to bet won’t pay off.

Don’t get me wrong; its not that I agree with the president. It’s just that I’ve read enough history and heard enough people voice their frustration to know that it wouldn’t be the first time a political figure has exploited the fears of people under stress by fueling the notion of economic boogeymen.

There is no question that most Americans are impatient with the pace of our economic recovery. Chronic unemployment, falling home values and income stagnation continue to take an enormous toll on the financial well-being of millions of Americans. Even those fortunate enough to have kept their jobs and their businesses through the recession remain anxious about the future and their ability to obtain quality health care, provide an education for their children and secure a comfortable retirement for themselves and their loved ones.

The reason I say it’s a gamble, however, is that Americans, historically, have been more receptive to presidents and presidential candidates who have offered a more upbeat and confident message about growing our economy (including Barack Obama in 2008) rather than a pessimistic message about the need to police and patrol the halls of business and commerce.

And while it’s true that the middle-class in America is slipping, I’m not so sure that a majority will believe it’s the result of a conspiracy in corporate boardrooms.

To hear the president tell it, virtually all of our problems are the result of a small group of elites at the top of American business. In making the case for his policies and his re-election, the president said that before he showed up, there were “insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, (and) a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.”

So that’s how it was in our boom years? Cartels and robber barons with a foot on the throat of the middle class and everyone else, as the president says, was “left to fend for themselves”? Do a majority of voters actually believe that?

If you listen, it’s clear Barack Obama has abandoned the mantra of hope and change – and the personal responsibility he spoke of so eloquently just three years ago. When the president speaks about “fairness,” it’s all one-sided, as if none of us outside the ranks of top corporations played any part in the housing boom and bust. Seriously? All of the speculation on credit was the fault of greedy bankers? Were we all that stupid, or maybe, just maybe, were we all just a little culpable?

When the president speaks of the economic challenges of the middle class, it’s entirely the result of selfish businesses that “play by their own rules.”

The truth is that globalization and technology have forever altered the ability of low-skilled workers in the United States to demand the wages and benefits they received when our economy depended on a domestic manufacturing base.

In his Kansas speech, the president almost acknowledged this when he talked about bank tellers and travel agents being replaced by ATMs, the Internet and offshore workers. But rather than focus on what we need to do to transform ourselves and our economy to compete in this new world order, the president is more intent on trying to demonize the people who brought us these innovations as job killers and tax cheats.

My own hope is that a majority of Americans are still more interested in shaping our future rather than laying blame for our past – and that we will continue to put as much value on our personal liberties as we do on our personal wealth.

The fact is, however, that Obama has already proven he could win an election based on a false sense of optimism. Which is exactly why I’m not convinced he won’t fool the same voters a second time with his false sense of pessimism.

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