When Change Is Really More Of The Same
By Howie Rich
America didn't vote to elect Barack Obama in 2008 so much as individual Americans voted for “change.”
Sure, Obama happened to be the personification of that incredibly non-specific “buzzword,” but most of the 70 million Americans who cast their ballots for him did so with the expectation that it would bring about a cathartic cleansing of Washington, D.C.'s corrupt culture – not a perpetuation of the same-old, same-old.
Through every syllable of his soaring oratory and every sound bite eagerly seconded by a fawning mainstream media, Obama promised nothing short of a revolution against the status quo.
No more lobbyists dictating terms.
No more bitter partisanship.
No more wasteful earmarks.
And, of course, no more “failed policies of the Bush administration.”
Flying under these banners – while ostensibly burning Washington's banners – Obama was swept into office with convincing popular and electoral majorities.
Unfortunately, in the months since America entrusted its destiny for the next four years to this unproven community activist, the only “change” Obama has successfully wrought is an increase in government's price tag.
When you stop and think about it, everything else has stayed pretty much the same.
And yes, while George W. Bush may have indeed been “misunderestimated” and “overunderappreciated,” it appears that Obama's big rhetoric was at best overstated, and at worst deliberately misleading.
Washington insiders recognized almost immediately that Obama wasn't going to seriously challenge their power base when he began appointing them left and right to influential positions.
That was the first sign.
Also telling was the fact that in his first week in office, Obama signed sweeping ethics reform aimed at curtailing lobbyists' access to his administration – only to turn around and seek exemptions for multiple lobbyists that he wanted to place in key positions within his administration.
Then, in a curious bit of political theater, Obama challenged America's “vested special interests” to a legislative duel – one week after signing a trillion-dollar bailout that might as well have been a liberal lobbyist's wish list.
Wouldn't it have been better to issue that sort of challenge before allowing his core special interest constituencies to raid the Treasury?
If bipartisanship is unavailable, though, apparently “bi-polar” will have to do.
Speaking of “bipartisanship,” Obama got only three Republican votes for his bureaucratic bailout, but that's to be expected when you're shoving a partisan special interest Christmas tree down the minority party's throats.
Of course, Obama's heavy-handed fiscal recklessness isn't anything new in Washington – it's precisely the same big government allegiance Republicans embodied when they shoved $3 trillion in new debt down the throats of true GOP conservatives and Blue Dog Democrats back when Bush and Ted Stevens were running the show.
Change? Not hardly.
But it's Obama's latest repudiation of his own rhetoric that's most egregious.
After vowing during his presidential campaign to veto bills that included wasteful earmarks, Obama announced this week that he would break his pledge and sign into law a $410 billion appropriations bill that includes $7.7 billion worth of earmarks requested by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“We want to just move on,” Obama's budget director said. “Let's get this bill done, get it into law and move forward.”
Obama's staffers know better than to argue the obvious Presidential U-turn, but how do they explain such a coarse, political rationale for making it?
After all, isn't this a clear example of Obama sacrificing his principles for political expediency?
Or (more likely) was all that campaign talk about cracking down on wasteful spending just something Obama said to get elected?
Perhaps to mollify those moderates concerned about his “spread the wealth” statements?
Either way, Obama's people aren't saying.
“That's last year's business,” Obama's Chief-of-Staff told reporters.
Yes, it is. Sort of like the “change” Obama promised.
The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.