Obama is Stuck on the First Envelope

As a young woman, I took over a business that was bankrupt: its liabilities exceeded its assets by a considerable amount, and the wolf was well and truly at the door. Lots of people thought I was foolish not to “erase” its debts through filing bankruptcy and be given a “clean slate” by the courts, but as I believe such bankruptcy to be fraud, I instead worked out a schedule to pay off all of the creditors in full, and we dug our way out to profitability.

At one point, bearing the brunt of the wrath of vendors who, understandably, were wary of continuing to do business with our firm, I called my father, himself an entrepreneur, for some advice. Instead of telling me what to do, Dad told me a joke:

In the midst of crisis, a new president is named. As he hands over the office to his successor, he tells him: “I’ve left three envelopes in your desk drawer. When crises hit, open them for help.”

Following a honeymoon period, the new president is barraged with blame for the crisis’ continuing. Distraught, he goes to the drawer and opens the first envelope. The message inside reads: “Blame your predecessor.”

The president calls a press conference, makes soothing noises about feeling the pain and points the finger at his predecessor. Everyone nods in agreement, calms down, and leaves him alone.

After further time with no end to the crisis in sight, pressure builds again against the president, and he goes back to the drawer to open envelope #2. This message reads: “Announce a reorganization.” The president calls another press conference, makes soothing noises about feeling the pain, and details a reorganization that will solve everything. Appeased, the critics again quiet down.

With the crisis still continuing months later, dissent builds again, and the president returns to the drawer. He opens it and reads: “Prepare three envelopes.”

President Obama appears to be stuck on the first envelope, and one wonders why he hasn’t been forced to move on.

Bad economy? Bush’s fault.

Fact check: Worsened, considerably, under President Obama’s administration.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as gathered in this table:
Unemployment: 2008, 5%; 2009, 7.8%; 2012, 8.2%
Broader unemployment, which includes those “marginally” employed: 2008, 9.2%; 2009, 14.2%; 2012, 14.8%
Total private sector jobs: 2008, 115.6 million; 2009, 111 million; today, 111 million

As Robert Higgs also ponders in his “Cessation of Labor Force Growth since 2008,”

Although labor force growth tended to slow or even to halt momentarily during past recessions of the postwar era, the current cessation of growth has no precedent in that era, and hence analysts have found its explanation to be a challenge.

Regime uncertainty, anyone?

Last week, confronted by Univision about his failure to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise to reform immigration policy and other matters related to Hispanics, President Obama blamed the “Fast and Furious” gun running fiasco on the Bush administration. This time, even the normally complacent mainstream media called him on the lie, that it was a program both originating under his administration and blowing up in his administration.

Finally, in his appearance on the Letterman show, President Obama not only couldn’t correctly cite the current national debt figure, he also blamed Bush’s “tax cuts”—which Obama himself as president extended until after the presidential election—for the growth of the deficit under his watch.

Although President Obama mentions them in passing in the Letterman appearance, the area for which Bush well and truly deserves blame for kick-starting the ongoing malaise is vast spending increases—and is the one realm on which his own administration ought to have focused. He instead chose to vastly expand not only current but future obligations, with the American populace now not only looking to the federal government for its education (including the federalization of student loans under Obamacare); explosive increase in disability; cradle-to-grave health care with vastly increased “free” benefits; food (the numbers on food stamps growing by 50% in Obama’s nearly 4 years, from 32 million to 46 million); and other entitlements; and continuing and growing military adventuring.

There are varying dates for the “end” of the current recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research says it ended in 2009; others say 2010. In any case, it’s been long enough that there would have been improvements in at least some of the indicators if current policies were other than disastrous.

I’d say it’s thus time for the president to admit that he has no answers and skip straight to the third envelope. Then it’s time for the American people to take back the power we’ve ceded to Washington and solve these problems for ourselves. That’s been shown to work a whole lot better.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Chairman and Chief Executive of the Independent Institute.
Beacon Posts by Mary L. G. Theroux | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org