The last time we elected a clueless president, we got Jimmy Carter. We apparently learned nothing from that mistake.
Barack Obama is destined to become the worst of all the presidents who preceded him. That’s saying something when you consider such presidential failures as James Buchanan, who managed to alienate both sides prior to the Civil War; Richard Nixon, the first president to resign from office in disgrace; and Jimmy Carter, whose inept occupation of the Oval Office managed to simultaneously wreck the economy domestically and weaken America abroad. While James Buchanan may not register with most Americans, baby boomers still remember with dread the awful presidency of Jimmy Carter.
Both Carter and Obama promised transformational presidencies that changed the Washington tone. Both not only failed miserably to deliver on their promises, but their transformations ultimately made the tone worse. As president, Carter was a humorless man who increasingly retreated into a bunker mentality as his poll numbers fell. Similarly, Obama is becoming increasingly prickly as his poll numbers drop and he faces more scrutiny from the press. Americans are starting to ask when the change thing is supposed to get here and realizing that they are worse off now than they were two years ago.
Carter blamed the country’s economic problems on a “crisis of confidence” and refused to see that his policies were the root of the problem. America’s crisis of confidence was due to the fact that we were waiting in real gas lines, experiencing real inflation, and really worried about losing our jobs. Fast-forward to the present and not much has changed. Gas is expensive, inflation is running rampant, and we’re still worried about losing our jobs. And, the president is still trying to convince us to believe him instead of our lying eyes.
On foreign policy, Carter’s focus on human rights looked weak. Combined with his treaty to give the Panama Canal back to Panama and the disastrously failed rescue attempt of American hostages held by the Iranians for 444 days, Carter managed to easily convince the rest of the world that America was weak and incompetent. Obama has managed pretty much the same feat with his constant apology tour of the world’s trouble spots. At least Carter got the Egyptians to sign a peace treaty with the Israelis, while Obama’s only redeeming quality is that he has suddenly discovered the usefulness of his predecessor’s drone strikes and offshore detention facilities.
Carter expanded the power of the federal government by creating the Departments of Energy and Education, while Obama has continued the trend with the creation of numerous White House czars as a shadow cabinet. Both men share a fundamental ignorance of economics, and believe that we can tax and regulate our way out of trouble. It didn’t work for Carter and it won’t work for Obama. Neither realizes that businesses withdraw from risk when government policies create uncertainty.
The difference between Carter and Obama is that Carter at least tried to do what he naively thought was the right thing, while Obama is just clueless. Carter was drab and boring, and his donning of a sweater and installation of solar panels was laughable to Americans as a solution to the energy crisis. Likewise, Obama’s attempts to sell the fake statistic of “saved jobs” draws smirks from Americans seeing the unemployment numbers grow before their eyes. When called on anything, Obama’s prickly side leaps out and Americans get a glimpse of someone they don’t like. Expect to see more of this side of Obama as Republican contenders poke at him during the next presidential election. At this point, Americans are aware that Obama cares only about Obama.
Carter mishandled the energy crisis caused by the OPEC price hikes, while Obama is mishandling the Gulf Oil Spill and creating a new energy crisis with his policy of shutting down domestic exploration and production. Carter was and Obama is convinced that the answer to America’s energy needs will be met by alternative schemes like wind and solar, even though neither of these have become economically viable in the 30 years that separate their administrations. Carter’s response to high gas prices was to blame Americans for malaise, while Obama is convinced that there’s a plot to make him look bad and unleashes Eric Holder to investigate.
Any macroeconomics student is aware of the supply and demand curves and the fact that gasoline is an inelastic commodity. An inelastic commodity is one whose price fluctuations are not easily mitigated by consumer behavior. When gas prices rise, most people eliminate unnecessary driving, but have to go to work. Also, most people can’t afford to rush out and buy a more fuel efficient car, and manufacturers may not be prepared to make cars that get better gas mileage. Therefore, the response to higher gas prices is muted by consumers’ inability to do much that makes a difference. This is the inelastic concept in a nutshell. Oil companies aren’t conspiring to keep prices high. We just don’t have the ability to respond quickly when they rise.
Carter was a good man whose naivety made him a bad president. Obama is a man whose ideological intentions are making him a worse president. Carter didn’t know any better, but Obama knows exactly what he’s doing, and that is why he’ll be a worse president.