Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Essay: “We are the 64%”

Be afraid, be very afraid. I’m not warning you about the stock market, though it has been performing poorly in recent days. I am warning you about big government. Actually, the warning has been issued by a recent Gallup poll of the polis. Let’s have a look:

(1) The overwhelming silent majority think that big government is the biggest problem. On Monday, the polling organization reported: “Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business [will be] is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.”

(2) Big business and big labor aren’t as worrisome. Gallup adds: “Historically, Americans have always been more concerned about big government than big business or big labor in response to this trend question dating back to 1965. Concerns about big business surged to a high of 38% in 2002, after the large-scale accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom. An all-time-high 65% of Americans named big government as the greatest threat in 1999 and 2000. Worries about big labor have declined significantly over the years, from a high of 29% in 1965 to the 8% to 11% range over the past decade and a half.”

(3) Even Democrats are disillusioned. Now get this: “Almost half of Democrats now say big government is the biggest threat to the nation, more than say so about big business, and far more than were concerned about big government in March 2009…. By contrast, 82% of Republicans and 64% of independents today view big government as the biggest threat, slightly higher percentages than Gallup found in 2009.”

President Barack Obama seems to be completely out of touch with the popular sentiments expressed in this important poll. Neither he nor the Occupy Wall Street (and the Ports) crowd have convinced the citizenry that the number one threat to our national prosperity is big business, in general, and big banks, in particular. Rather, the vast (silent) majority of the people see big government as the number one threat.

In his latest campaign speech on this subject on December 6 in Osawatomie, Kansas, the President was on the wrong side of this debate. To be fair and more accurate, he was on the wrong side of the latest Gallup poll on this matter. It’s certainly true, however, that as hard as he has tried, he hasn’t convinced the majority of Americans that their problems should be blamed on the collective villainy of big business, Wall Street, and the rich. There is a huge gap between the “we-are-the-99%” crowd, who chant the anti-business mantra every day, and the “we-are-the-64%” crowd, who fear big government.

The 99 crowd actually represents no more than 26% of Americans who believe that big business is the biggest threat to the country according to the latest poll. If they want to represent the majority, they should occupy Washington.

So why did our President schlep to a very small town in Kansas to give a speech at the Osawatomie High School? He was channeling Theodore Roosevelt, who gave his famous “New Nationalism” speech in that town on August 31, 1910. Like Teddy Roosevelt, Mr. Obama argued that the government needs to have more power to direct business. He said, “Yes, business, and not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we’ve always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed.” He added: “And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders.”

In his speech, Roosevelt also advocated a greater role for government: “The National Government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the National Government. The betterment which we seek must be accomplished, I believe, mainly through the National Government.”

In conclusion, President Obama’s version of the New Nationalism isn’t resonating with the voters. In fact, I’ll bet you $10,000 that the next President of the United States is Newt Gingrich. I’m just kidding--about the $10,000! Too bad that Mitt Romney wasn’t just kidding when he challenged Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet on a disputed comment Perry made about Romney in their latest debate on December 10. If Romney does prevail over Gingrich, you can bet that the Democrats will run that video in their attack ads.

By the way, the scary phrase that starts this post originated in the 1986 horror film The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum (as Seth Brundle) and Geena Davis (as Veronica Quaife). Quaife is a reporter working on the teleportation story, which is the subject of the movie. When it becomes clear that Brundle is starting to turn into an insect, he reassures one of the characters, “Don’t be afraid.” Quaife’s response is: “No. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

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