For most Republicans and smaller government proponents, the re-election of President Barack Obama was devastating. Mitt Romney had offered the prospect of a presidency committed to fixing our vast fiscal problems but instead, the most liberal and I would say radical president in history was likely to make the problems worse.
His recent inauguration speech made clear it would be the private sector, not government, that would be making sacrifices.
This was unlike the 1996 re-election of President Bill Clinton, whose moderate legacy came after his party lost Congress in 1994. Obama is an ideologue who felt no need to change after losing the House in 2010. Aside from letting the "Bush tax cuts" continue for two years, he never wavered. His unwillingness to enact the moderate reforms for fiscal stability recommended by Simpson-Bowles was evidence of his determination to take the country down a much different road.
This added to a sense that, in a second term, Obama's brand of uncompromising politics would become further emboldened. In 2008, Obama promised supporters that "we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." When you fundamentally transform something it means to fundamentally change its character. To Obama, equality of outcome trumps pursuit of the American dream.
Radicalism applied to Franklin Roosevelt with his New Deal and Lyndon Johnson, with the Great Society. But Roosevelt's programs came during the Great Depression and hadn't been tried in America. When Johnson pushed his government expansions, the country was prosperous and the snowballing costs of the New Deal were not widely evident. Both presidents had at least some Republican support.
Obama's radicalism is different in that his massive government expansions come as deficits and debt are already at the bursting point and are unsustainable. Instead of the structural consolidation and simplification of government needed, Obama piles on even more spending and regulations. It is through health care, energy, the budget and the courts that he seeks to transform the country:
Obamacare: Rammed through without a single Republican vote, these 906 pages of health care laws written by lobbyists and politicians are a bureaucratic nightmare.
As former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it."
Obama has, going back to 2003 and more recently, said that he prefers a single-payer universal health care system. This strongly suggests that if Obamacare ultimately collapses as millions lose their employer-based health insurance, he or a Democratic successor will institute a government controlled single-payer system. This will result in less choice, rationing, higher costs, extensive waits for care, and many of the best doctors leaving or not entering medicine.
Energy: Obama believes global warming exists, is man-made and its overall effects are entirely negative or catastrophic. He believes actions by the United States will compensate for the effects caused by India, China and other booming industrialized countries, and actually make a difference. This has driven his support for aggressive cap and trade regulations.
As David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation testified before the House Energy Committee in 2009: "The ability to switch to non-CO2 energy sources over the next 20 years is limited and expensive. Therefore, significant cuts in CO2 require significant cuts in energy use. This reduces economic activity, shrinks GDP and destroys jobs."
Deficits and spending: His $831 billion stimulus spread money around but did not prevent unemployment from climbing above 8 percent nor lower it to 6 percent by 2012, as he predicted. With the exception of defense, he has proposed no major cuts or reforms to programs or entitlements despite trillion-dollar deficits and accumulated debt of nearly $17 trillion that could be our ultimate fiscal cliff.
The courts and the Constitution: Obama only appoints judges, such as Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who share his leftist philosophy. Should he get one or two more Supreme Court appointments, he will have a clear 5-4 or 6-3 majority. His intransigence has been highlighted by partial enactment of the DREAM Act without congressional approval and recess appointments to the NLRB that were ruled illegal by a federal appeals court.
Since entering public life, Obama has shown in his own books, interviews and speeches that he embraces an ideology further left than many liberal Democrats, so his actions should come as no surprise. But with a largely uncritical press, Obama succeeds in playing both sides even though he rarely advocates a centrist position on fiscal or social issues. In a second term, he will seek to divide Republicans; pass an economically ruinous cap-and-trade bill; tax, spend and borrow more; push an amnestyoriented immigration bill; and fully implement Obamacare.
If successful, this will result in an expansion of government and government dependency big enough to take America past its fiscal tipping point and permanently transform the country into a social welfare state.