Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama & Special Interests

Tibor R. Machan

In his weekend radio address of February 28, 2009, President Obama once again talked about how he isn’t captive to any special interest group. As he put it, "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don't. I work for the American people," Obama declared. "I didn't come here to do the same thing we've been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

Commenting on the $787 billion spending bill he insists on calling an “economic stimulus package” —despite the fact that no one knows now whether the funds will in fact stimulate any kind of economic growth—Mr. Obama said "I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak." Then he added a flat out threat: "My message to them is this: So am I."

Yet consider this for just a moment. Who are all these (mean, vicious) special interests? And who are all the (honorable, virtuous) American people? Lo and behold they are the very same citizens of the country! Yes these special interest groups are composed of Americans who are represented by experts at approaching the government for various types of support. They are farmers, artists, merchants small and large, teachers, steel workers, auto workers, bankers, brokers, dentists, doctors, and so on and so forth. That is who all these nasty, vicious special interest groups are made up of, the same folks who are so noble and innocent, The People!

The plain, unadorned fact is that so long as the various governments across the country, municipal, country, state, or federal—it makes no difference—have funds to dole out, there will be experts with the skill to navigate the corridors of power with the aim of bringing home to their clients what the government has to offer. Millions and millions of Americans—the American People—are among these greedy special interest groups.

Now I cannot for a moment believe that President Obama is unaware of what I just wrote! He has been in government, he has taught law, he is familiar with all kinds of theories of public affairs—he didn’t just step off some Martian spaceship without a clue as to how it goes with all this public affairs stuff. He knows well and good that everyone is out there trying to get the goodies, let us not be na├»ve. And to attempt to convince his audiences across the country that there is some large mass of citizens who are The People, standing over against all those gangs who are the special interest groups, is totally disingenuous, President Obama knows better, so why is he talking like this?

Maybe our new president is simply making an attempt at plain old demagoguery, pretending that there are some few really nasty folks out there who have managed to capture the government, the politicians and the bureaucracy, while the rest of us innocent, vulnerable citizens are being abused by these few. But that cannot be right—as I said, Mr. Obama wasn’t born yesterday. He has been in the thick of politics for years; he knows the underlying system that makes the game possible—tax people as far as you can without them revolting, then make it appear you are giving back what you took from them with your special understanding of the people’s needs. Of course, as this process unfolds, the politicians and their supporters—yes, Mr. Obama is supported by a lot of special interest groups—work diligently to get in on the take.

Maybe a man such as Mr. Obama can convinced himself that he is above this game, that his intentions are all commendable and that only his critics are evil monsters. But I don’t believe this is true and even doubt that every moment of the day he can deceive himself to believe it either.

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