National Commentary

Obama’s Debt Plan Vs. ‘Atlas Shrugged’

A few salient observations about President Obama’s tour de force speech on deficit reduction yesterday.

A few salient observations about President Obama’s tour de force speech on deficit reduction yesterday.

First, its focus is 180 degrees opposite of two years ago, when the president was resolved that the only course to bring the nation out of its slide into a new Great Depression was through aggressive government spending, including for shovel-ready “stimulus” projects and key industry bailouts, such as auto. Ironically, while that approach has worked wonders, it has been hustled off the stage.

Second, it unfortunately may be too late. The president had his chance in December to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire, and he suffered a failure of nerve. Now, his call for that outcome is in the teeth of a virulent, surging opposition that has control of half of Congress and will never allow the policy to see the light of day.

Timing can be everything, and a missed opportunity may never return. Now, Obama’s speech is, indeed, more of a campaign speech than a practical formula for national implementation. There’s just no political reality in Washington now anywhere near being able to carry it out.

With this blueprint as only a campaign guide now, Obama will hope to rally his troops for a successful re-election in 2012, and to bring along something of a rebound in the Congressional elections. That’s the hope. But getting there, practically, will not be for almost two years, at best.

In the meantime, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party remains in the catbird seat in Washington, and the more radical their agenda, the more attention it gets from the media and the more it appeals to the most vocal, strident and irrational elements of society.

This is a sad state of affairs, because the thrust of Obama’s remarks yesterday are right-minded, moral and full of merit. All the more reason to lament their virtually “dead on arrival” status right now.

When it comes down to it, it is not the specific proposals – although they must be presented with enough detail and analysis to be received as credible – but the core philosophical and moral differences between Obama’s approach and that of his crazed opponents that matter most.

Obama summed it up right at the end of his speech. “No matter what we argue or where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans,” he said. “We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible. We have to think about our own fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations. This sense of responsibility – to each other and to our country – this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea. It’s patriotism.”

In our society today, the media and the pundits dismiss such comments as mere irrelevant fluff, something to be wholeheartedly ignored, tossed in as banal sop for grandmothers.

But it is this, not Obama’s comments but this cynical reaction to them from punditdom, that lies at the heart of America’s problems right now.

Behind all the political posturing, numbers crunching and fine rhetoric, something else is shaping the destiny of the nation – it is moral force or, in the present situation, the abject lack of it.

America is about to have its sensibilities assaulted with the release of the first of a three-part series of films based on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. With parts two and three slated for release in each of the following two Aprils, a prolonged psychological mind-f**k is being unleashed to step beyond Gordon Gecco’s paradigm-shifting speech praising greed in the 1987 film, “Wall Street.”

Ayn Rand turns selfish self-interest into a religion, a mighty cause set against the great Satan, government (as the representative of the general good) itself.

For America to survive, it is a great resurgence of constructive morality as spelled out by Obama that must arise to counter this and lead the way ahead.