Approximately twenty-five hundred years ago a Chinese general named Sun Tzu is said to have written a treatise known as The Art of War. Of all the strategic advice it offers perhaps none is more important than this: for success, you must know your enemy and know yourself. It applies to politics as well as war.
When it comes to dealing with Barack Obama, it appears that the GOP leadership doesn’t get it. They fail to understand who it is they are dealing with or the ideology that inspires their political opponent. Republicans complain that since Congress is deadlocked between a Democrat Senate and Republican House, the president should lead us away from the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) recognizes that President Obama admires Abraham Lincoln. He used that recognition to make a point. Referencing the new Spielberg movie, Lincoln, Blount said that “the lesson of that movie is that to get hard things done the president has to decide he wants something done.” He seems to think the president wants a preventive measure to be found that will avoid the expiration of the tax cuts that have been in place since the administration of George W. Bush. Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to be negotiating with the same premise.
Republicans are focused only on the short term, hoping to stop an increase in taxes during a period of economic decline. Obama is focused on his ultimate goal, the redistribution of wealth away from the producers and investors whose success he believes to be the product of a great immorality. His rhetoric about protecting the middle class is nothing more than a political ploy to achieve his goal of remaking America into a welfare state where taxes are higher on all producers and earners, but especially high on anyone he refers to as “the wealthy.”
Obama’s goal–and the legacy by which he wishes to be remembered–is not a stronger, more prosperous economy. It’s an economy of redistribution. The long-term cost is of little concern to him. Like Lincoln, whom he admires, Obama will do whatever he must to achieve his goal.
Lincoln’s goal was the forced preservation of the American union. Using an invading army in states that had declared themselves separated from his authority, he presided over scorched-earth tactics, declared martial law and imprisoned Americans without legal authority, closed hundreds of dissenting newspapers, ignored constitutional limits on government, and oversaw the arrest and deportation of a member of Congress because he had sympathies for the states in rebellion. Sadly, in this case, might really does make right. Lincoln successfully remade America into nation where membership could be compelled by force of arms and states were no longer sovereign.
Slavery could have been ended without warfare, as it was elsewhere. There were already southern leaders preparing for the end of this immoral institution. Political conflicts could have been settled without the violation of states’ rights. Constitutional limits on federal power could have been preserved. But Lincoln wanted a stronger, more powerful federal government. He could not allow threats to this goal to stand. As Prof. Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “the Lincoln regime destroyed the system of federalism, or states’ rights, that was established by the founding fathers.”
For Obama, the economy is a zero-sum game. It’s a pie with only so many pieces–a pie that belongs ultimately to federal authority. It can therefore be seized and divided any way the government sees fit. He fails to understand even the most basic of economic principles. Why should he? He has never operated a business, paid employees, taken a risk to expand services or hire new workers. He has always been a leader among those who criticize the investors, planters, growers, makers, and builders–unless those growers are building a bigger government.
What he will not, cannot see, is that economies can grow and expand. Governmental power can be used to fashion an environment where that can happen or it can be used in a way that impedes it. The pie of economic vitality can actually grow and assist everyone in securing increased prosperity. That idea, however, is anathema to Obama. He sees economic growth as an injustice perpetrated upon workers rather than a form of economic cooperation bringing rewards to all.
Republicans, stop negotiating as if Obama wants to avoid economic disaster. He doesn’t. You do. Take a hint from the ancient writings of Sun Tzu. Know Obama and know yourselves.