HOW PRESIDENT OBAMA’S POLICIES HAVE HARMED YOUNG PEOPLE
By Discover The Networks
2013 (with some subsequent additions)
Young voters, aged 18-to-29, were among Barack Obama’s strongest supporters in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. They backed him by a whopping 66%-to-31% margin over John McCain in ’08, and by 60%-to-37% over Mitt Romney four years later. There are multiple reasons for this. Many young people, to be sure, have embraced the notion that Obama is someone who “cares” about average, ordinary Americans and the struggles they face. Others have been influenced by the opinions of their college and university professors, the vast majority of whom are emphatically pro-Democrat “progressives.” Still others are wowed by the “cool” factor, noting that so many of the entertainment-industry celebrities whom they revere have been highly vocal in their support of Obama. Whatever their rationale, it is clear that large numbers of young people are convinced that this president has their best interests at heart. To puncture their misguided belief, this pamphlet lays bare a number of ways in which Obama, while scoring political points for himself, has egregiously set young people up for a lifetime of tribulation that will come in many forms.
Specifically: Obama’s massive expansion of the national debt lays a crushing burden on young people, who are going to be responsible for paying it. Obama’s weak economy has already brought about youth-unemployment levels exceeding anything we have witnessed in more than half a century. Obama’s proposed minimum-wage hike, if passed, will inevitably—like every other minimum-wage hike in living memory—cause a rise in youth unemployment by pricing many young, inexperienced workers out of the job market. The tax-and-spend policies that Obama has promoted and enacted will burden young people not only in the short term, but as far into the future as the eye can see. The crushing costs and substandard care associated with Obama’s signature healthcare-reform legislation will diminish young people’s quality of life for generations to come. For nearly two decades, Obama has supported education policies designed to indoctrinate young minds and feather his own political nest rather than to cultivate academic mastery. On the college and university level, Obama has placed the federal government in charge of the student-loan industry, thereby causing both tuition costs and student debt levels to rise dramatically. And on the international stage, Obama’s policies have fostered the development of a world where Islamic jihad has made enormous inroads, and where existential threats to Americans and their allies are more pronounced than ever before.
Obama’s Massive Expansion of the National Debt Lays a Crushing Burden on Young People
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama famously referred to George W. Bush as “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” for having added, “by his lonesome,” some $4 trillion to America’s national debt over an eight-year period. Vowing that he would not “leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay,” Obama piously pronounced that it was morally unacceptable to “simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation.” He pledged to “tak[e] responsibility right now … for getting our spending under control,” and promised to “cut the deficits we inherited by half” within four years.
Obama’s words resonated powerfully with his supporters. Particularly enthusiastic were young voters, who arguably stood to lose more than anyone else if the serious debt-reduction measures the president alluded to were not implemented soon. It was they—the taxpayers of the tomorrow—who would be forced to bear, for decades on end, the immense financial burden of any continued increases in America’s national debt. When Obama took his Oath of Office on January 20, 2009, the total U.S. federal debt was $10.627 trillion.
Before long, it became clear that candidate Obama’s enticing words had been nothing more than a pack of lies. During his first term in office, Obama presided over a national debt that not only continued to grow, but grew at a pace that was utterly without precedent: $3.98 billion of new debt each and every day—or, to frame it another way, $67,245 of new debt per second. By the start of Obama’s second term, in January 2013, the federal debt had skyrocketed to a once-unimaginable $16.433 trillion—a $5.81 trillion increase in just four years. By April 15 (tax day), the figure had reached $16.8 trillion. Today the U.S. government borrows an incredible 46 cents of every dollar that it spends. By any measure, President Obama has clearly distinguished himself as the most profligate government spender in the history of the human race.
To understand more clearly what the foregoing numbers actually mean to living, breathing human beings, consider that approximately 122 million American residents pay federal income taxes each year. If we count married couples who file jointly as individual “tax units”—or households—that number falls to approximately 85 million tax units, each owing a $196,000 share of the national debt. Meanwhile, another 76 million Americans younger than 18 are steadily approaching the day when many of them will join the ranks of those taxpayers—at which time they, too, will be saddled with a share of the nation’s debt burden. By then, however, that burden will be much heavier because the debt, by the Obama administration’s own projections, will continue to rise at a dizzying pace and will reach $20.3 trillion by the end of 2016, Obama’s last full year in office. Approximately $9.7 trillion of that total will have been racked up during the Obama years, meaning that Obama’s debt, by itself, will be nearly equivalent to the combined debt of everyprevious president in American history, including the one whose spending habits Obama described as “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”
If we assume that in 2016 there will still be about 85 million tax units in the U.S., each of them will owe, on average, a $235,000 slice of the national debt. Fully $112,000 of that total will have been accumulated under Obama. This latter figure alone far exceeds the current $88,368 average cost for room-and-board at a four-year college, and approaches the median cost of a home in certain parts of the United States. As a result, when today’s young people become tomorrow’s taxpayers, they will be forced to pour rivers of their own hard-earned money—which could have been applied to schooling expenses or housing purchases—into a cesspool of waste created, in large part, by the improvidence of a president who is addicted to spending, massive wealth redistribution, and, in the words of columnist George Will, “conscripting the wealth of future generations” in order to serve his own immediate political ends.
The figures above are not mere abstractions. They have monumentally significant, real-world consequences that will greatly affect the fortunes of all future generations. At this very moment, U.S. taxpayers are already paying$237 billion in interest on the national debt each and every year. This amounts to nearly $3,000 per taxpaying household, per year. But this total pales in comparison to the calamity that will greet the new generation of young taxpayers. When today’s historically low interest rates rise, as they inevitably will, the interest on the nation’s ever-mounting debt will exceed $1 trillion per year by 2022, according to Erskine Bowles, a co-chair of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission. That would be more than the government currently spends on Medicare, Social Security, national defense, Medicaid, or any other safety-net programs that provide aid to the poor. It would also be more than the government now spends on the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Justice, Housing, State, and Commerce, combined. Assuming, again, a base of about 85 million tax units, that $1 trillion figure translates to more than $11,000 per taxpaying household, per year, just for interest on the debt. “We’re on a dramatically unsustainable path,” warns Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard University economics professor and former International Monetary Fund chief economist.
Even these daunting figures, however, understate the magnitude of the debt burden that young taxpayers will be forced to shoulder if interest rates should happen to rise higher than expected—something that could certainly happen if America’s credit rating is downgraded in any significant way. To be sure, such downgrades have already happened several times under Obama:
- In July 2010, the Beijing-based Dagong Global Credit Rating assigned the U.S. a less-than-stellar credit rating of AA. Four months later, Dagong, warning that the practice of “quantitative easing” (whereby the Federal Reserve purchases its own debt in the form of Treasury securities) would erode the value of the dollar and lead to hyperinflation, downgraded the U.S. rating to A+.
- In April 2011, the Florida-based Weiss Ratings—critical of the Obama administration’s inability to reduce the budget deficit—gave the U.S. a debt rating of C, or “fair.” Three months later, Weiss lowered that to “C-minus,” scarcely above “junk” status as defined by Standard & Poor’s.
- In July 2011, the independent credit-research firm Egan Jones, citing concerns over “the relatively high level of debt and the difficulty in significantly cutting spending,” downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+.
- For similar reasons, in August 2011 Standard & Poor’s likewise downgraded America’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.
- On April 7, 2012, Egan Jones downgraded the U.S. credit rating for a second time, from AA+ to AA.
- Five months later, Egan Jones lowered America’s rating yet again, to AA-minus.
But of all the storm clouds that currently hang over America’s economic landscape, by far the most ominous is the $87 trillion in unfunded liabilities which the federal government has incurred via such programs as Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits. These long-term obligations, which amount to roughly 550% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, are funds that theoretically should be set aside every year to cover future payouts to the aforementioned programs over the next 75 years. The cumulative running total of these liabilities now grows by some $8 trillion per year, an amount far exceeding what tax receipts (which currently total about $2.5 trillion annually) could ever possibly cover. As former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox and Pricewaterhouse Coopers senior policy advisor Bill Archer point out, the government could confiscate 100% of everyone’s income above $66,000 per year, plus all the taxable income of corporations, and the nation’s unfunded liabilities would still grow by $1.3 trillion per year. Trying to address unfunded liabilities via taxes, say Archer and Cox, is analogous to “bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon.”
In their 2012 book, The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy, economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff and finance writer Scott Burns put it succinctly: “U.S. generational policy has become a Ponzi scheme—a Ponzi scheme that’s on the verge of collapse.” Bearing the disproportionate brunt of that collapse will be people currently under the age of 30, whom the Heritage Foundation has dubbed “the Debt-Paying Generation.” As the historian Victor Davis Hanson observes, “The soon-to-be-$17-trillion debt—run up largely by the Baby Boomer generation—will lead to decades of budget cutting, inflation, and higher taxes. A decade from now, as 30-somethings try to buy a home and raise children … they may wonder why the national burden of repaying the debts of the better-off falls largely upon themselves.”
Obama’s Weak Economy Has Yielded Youth-Unemployment Levels Exceeding Anything We Have Seen in More Than Half a Century
As today’s young people incrementally become part of Amerca’s working-age population, they step into a stagnant, foundering economy that, due to the tax-and-spend policies of the Obama administration, has scarcely rebounded from the meltdown of 2008. Economist John B. Taylor reports that the current economic “recovery” has been four times weaker, on average, than all previous post-recession recoveries since the 1880s. Between January 2009 (the month President Obama took office) and March 2013, the median income of all U.S. households fell by 6.5%, from $54,983 to $51,404. During roughly the same period, the number of people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) rose by about 50%, from 31.9million to 47.8 million.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fully 11.7 million Americans are currently out of work, a figure translating to a 7.6% unemployment rate. But even this dismal statistic paints a deceptively rosy picture of the U.S. economy, for the overall labor-force participation rate (working-age people who are either working or actively looking for work) is an anemic 63.3%, the lowest figure we have seen in 34 years. This reflects the fact since the beginning of the Obama presidency, some 9.46 million people have been compelled to leave the labor force because there were simply no jobs for them. Many of these were people who became so discouraged over their inability to secure employment, that they gave up their job search entirely. Others were middle-aged workers in their fifties and early sixties who lost their jobs, could not find replacement work anywhere, and thus decided to retire early. Still others became recipients of Social Security disability benefits, thanks in large part to that program’s recently streamlined application process and relaxed eligibility standards. Since President Obama first took office, the number of workers collecting federal disability insurance has spiked by a remarkable 3.49 million, or 47%.
If the aforementioned 9.46 million individuals who are not counted as officially “unemployed” had elected to persevere in their fruitless job searches—thereby technically remaining in the labor force—the unemployment rate today would be well over 11%. The deceptiveness of the government’s unemployment statistics was displayed with particular clarity between February and March of 2013, when the official unemployment rate dropped from 7.7% to 7.6%, not because more people were finding jobs, but rather because 663,000 individuals left the labor force during that period, thereby ceasing to be counted as unemployed.
Yet the foregoing facts, grim as they are, do not begin to express the full magnitude of the economic disaster that Obama has wrought. In addition to the 11.7 million unemployed Americans, another 7.6 million are underemployed, working part-time but seeking full-time jobs. Factoring this latter group into the equation yields an un/underemployment rate approaching 14%, a much better barometer of the nation’s desperate job situation. As today’s young people come of age and seek to enter the labor force, they will have to compete for jobs with these 19.3 million un- and under-employed.
The situation of young people has been especially dire during the Obama years. The unemployment rate among those in the 16-to-24 age bracket, for instance, is 17.3%, the second-highest level since World War II. From 1978-2007, the labor force participation rate of 16-to-24-year-olds was 65.8%; today it is just 54.5%, the lowest in nearly half a century. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
“If the so-called participation rate [among people in this age group] had remained unchanged [from the pre-Obama years], there would be 1.8 million more [unemployed] young people in the labor force today than there actually are. Counting those people as unemployed, rather than out of the labor force, would push the unemployment rate up to 22.9%. That’s only a hair better than the 23.9% youth unemployment rate in the euro zone.”
If we change the age parameters and look specifically at young people between 18 and 29, we find that their unemployment rate is currently 11.7%. But this figure does not include the 1.7 million workers in that age group who have completely given up looking for work during Obama’s presidency and thus are no longer officially counted as “unemployed.” If we factor these people into the equation, the effective youth unemployment rate is actually 16.2%. Those who are working, meanwhile, find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet financially. Between 2010 and 2012, for instance, the wages of young college graduates decreased by a whopping 8.5%.
Perhaps no youth-specific statistic is more depressing than the teenage unemployment rate of 24.5%, the highest figure since the government began tracking it in the late 1940s. Demoralized by dim employment prospects, fewer teens than ever before are even trying to find jobs. Historically, between 45% and 55% of teenagers have participated in the labor force by either having or seeking a job; today that figure is just 34%. It should be noted that these numbers have a significance that extends far beyond the present moment. Economists have repeatedly found that an individual’s unemployment in youth is highly correlated with his or her subsequent earnings later in life.
Obama’s Proposed Minimum-Wage Hike Would Cause a Rise in Youth Unemployment
Against this dark backdrop of economic malaise, President Obama, during his State of the Union address in February 2013, called for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour. “A family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line,” he lamented. “That’s wrong.” But the scenario which the president depicted, of a minimum-wage-earning family with two children, is exceedingly rare. Most minimum-wage workers are unmarried people younger than 25. Fewer than 20% of them have a family to support. Often they are high-school or college students trying only to earn some extra money, and 60% work only part-time.
In short, minimum-wage jobs serve chiefly as a vital bottom rung on the economic ladder for many young people who have little or no prior work experience and lack the types of job skills that would command higher wages. Notwithstanding the limitations of such individuals, many an employer is happy to hire and train them to perform certain tasks, so long as he is not required by law to pay them more than they are worth to the business. Whenever the government raises the minimum wage by decree, however, every employer is forced to evaluate whether the extra expenditures on inexperienced and relatively unskilled workers can be justified from an economic perspective. In some instances, employers simply may not be able to afford the higher pay rate and thus will either trim their work force or scale back the number of hours worked by one or more of their employees. In other cases, employers may decide to hire more seasoned workers in order to increase the likelihood of getting an adequate amount of productivity in exchange for their financial outlay. Consequently, a multitude of unskilled-labor positions and starter jobs for young people are placed in jeopardy. According to the Heritage Foundation, the last minimum wage increase (which was enacted in three stages beginning in 2007) eliminated approximately 300,000 jobs.
In 2011, labor economists William Even and David Macpherson released a study for the Washington, DC-based Employment Policies Institute, titled “Unequal Harm: Racial Disparities in the Employment Consequences of Minimum Wage Increases.” They found that because minimum-wage hikes remove the incentive for employers to hire workers with low skills and little experience, 16-to-24-year-old males are affected more than anyone else by such policies. Indeed, the authors report that historically, each 10% increase in a state or federal minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5% for males in this age group as a whole, and by 6.5% for young black males in particular. Also, each 10% minimum-wage hike has resulted in a 3% reduction in hours worked by young white males, and a 6.6% reduction for their black male counterparts.
According to the Cato Institute, “Decades of research have shown that the minimum wage harms the least-skilled workers from poor families.” Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell concurs, “[T]he cold fact is that minimum-wage laws create massive unemployment among black teenagers,” regardless of economic conditions in the nation as a whole. The 1940s, for instance, were a decade that saw some of the lowest rates of unemployment ever recorded among black teenagers—not because racism had been eradicated, but because inflation took the teeth out of a 1938 minimum-wage law. That is, everyone—including unskilled laborers—earned higher hourly rates (in inflated dollars) than the minimum-wage law required employers to pay. Even in 1949, when the U.S. economy was in recession, black teenage unemployment was far lower than it would be in the most prosperous years thereafter, when the minimum-wage rate was repeatedly hiked to keep pace with inflation.
These laws of economic physics are by no means restricted to the United States. Most studies of minimum-wage hikes in countries all over the world demonstrate that when governments impose artificially high wage rates on businesses, not only do overall employment rates drop, but young, inexperienced, and low-skilled workers are affected far more than anyone else. An American Enterprise Institute analysis puts it this way:
“Artificially raising wages for unskilled workers reduces the demand for those workers at the same time that it increases the number of unskilled workers looking for work, which results in an excess supply of unskilled workers. Period. And another term for an ‘excess supply of unskilled workers’ is an ‘increase in the teenage jobless rate.’”
Though such realities are well documented in economic literature, President Obama nonetheless proposes minimum-wage increases because of the political currency he gains from positioning himself as a champion of the “poor” and “downtrodden.” In fact, he seeks to take his proposal even a step further: “Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on,” said Obama in his 2013 State of the Union speech. Such “living wage” campaigns, which generally rest on the premise that a single paycheck should be able, at minimum, to support a family of four, have long been central to the agendas of “progressive” organizations, including now-defunct pro-socialist groups like ACORN and the New Party, both of which had deep ties to Obama. If the minimum wage delivers a potent body blow to youth employment, the living wage, which is essentially the minimum-wage campaign on steroids, constitutes a veritable knockout punch. As a Cato Institute report states, living-wage initiatives represent “a triumph of confrontation politics and class resentment” and inevitably “harm America’s poor in the name of protecting them.”
Obama’s support for minimum-wage and living-wage regulations is part and parcel of the class-warfare mentality that has long been his stock in trade. Though the policies are useless from an economic standpoint, politically they are invaluable, enabling the president to stoke class-based resentments by casting employers as exploiters of the average working person—just as he depicted the wealthiest “1%” as exploiters of the so-called “99%” when he famously lauded the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement for “inspir[ing]” him and giving voice to “the frustrations that the American people feel … about how our financial system works.” Preferring to redistribute wealth rather than create it, Obama has repeatedly suggested that the economy would thrive if only more of the tax burden were to be shouldered by the loathsome “corporate-jet owners,” “fat-cat bankers,” and “millionaires and billionaires” who are “sitting pretty” at “the very top” of America’s economic hierarchy, largely as a result of their “breathtaking greed.”
This type of propaganda, which disparages free markets and paints government redistributionism as the key to social justice and upward mobility, has done a great deal to imbue the minds of young people with anti-capitalist perspectives. In December 2011, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 49% of 18-to-29-year-olds had a positive opinion of socialism, versus only 43% who viewed it in a negative light. These numbers were precisely the reverse of those reported in a Pew survey that had been conducted just 20 months earlier. To be sure, this development is a key component of Obama’s wide-ranging plan for “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” as the president himself has put it.
Nor is any of this at all surprising, in light of whom Obama has always, obviously, been. To cite just a few pertinent facts, Obama was mentored in his youth by the longtime Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis; was known by his peers in college as “an ardent socialist Marxist revolutionary”; attended a Socialist Scholars Conference honoring the 100th anniversary of Karl Marx’s death; became a community organizer whose work was funded by a group that embraced socialist and Marxist ideals; taught workshops on the methods of the famed, pro-socialist community organizer Saul Alinsky; had close connections to the Midwest Academy, a socialist training ground for radical activists; spent 20 years as a devotee of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a proud prophet of black liberation theology and its Marxist tenets; worked and allied himself with the socialist community organization ACORN and its voter-mobilization arm, Project Vote; launched his political career in the home of lifelong Marxists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn; and appointed the longtime revolutionary communist Van Jones as his “green jobs czar” in 2009.
Obama’s Tax-and-Spend Policies Will Burden Young People for Many Years to Come
President Obama is a devoted adherent of Keynesian economics, named after the early-to-mid-twentieth century economist John Maynard Keynes. As Forbes magazine contributor Peter Ferrara explains, the idea behind Keynesianism “is that the increased government spending and deficits will increase demand in the economy for more production, and that producers will increase supply to meet that demand, hiring more workers and reducing unemployment in the process.” But Ferrara also points out, crucially, that Keynesianism has “never worked anywhere it’s been tried … in the U.S. or abroad.” Nonetheless, Obama articulated his devotion to Keynesian economic policies when he stated, in December 2009, that Americans must continue to “spend our way out of this recession.” Three years later, deriding Republican calls for budget cuts and entitlement reform, he sounded a similar theme: “I want to be very clear; you are not going to cut your way to prosperity.”
Because Keynesian economics is dependent on high levels of government spending, Obama has always viewed high tax rates as vital to a society’s ability to function. Thus, during his years in the U.S. Senate, he received consistently poor ratings from interest groups that favor low taxes, fiscal responsibility, and business-friendly economic policies. For example, the National Taxpayers Union gave then-Senator Obama ratings of 0% in 2005 and 16% in 2006. Americans for Tax Reform rated him 0% in 2005, 15% in 2006, and 5% in 2007. And the National Tax Limitation Committee rated him 8% in 2005-06, and 14% in 2007-08.
Obama gave Americans a most revealing glimpse into his high-taxation mindset during an April 2008 Democratic primary debate, when journalist Charlie Gibson asked the then-presidential candidate why he was proposing to nearly double the existing capital gains tax rate, when historically such hikes had led to economic downturns and decreased government revenues. Obama replied that he wished to raise the rate “for purposes of fairness,” citing the allegedly insufficient tax rates paid by “hedge fund managers” who “are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains.” In other words, Obama was more concerned with extracting a disproportionate share of money from high earners, than with enacting policies that would not only benefit people in all tax brackets—including the wealthiest—but would also maximize revenues for the government.
All evidence shows that nothing whatsoever has changed in Obama’s mindset since then. For example, in July 2012 Ernst & Young—a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services—examined four sets of tax hikes which Obama was proposing for high earners and concluded that “the higher tax rates will have significant adverse economic effects in the long-run: lowering output, employment, investment, the capital stock, and real after-tax wages when the resulting revenue is used to finance additional government spending.” All told, Ernst & Young estimated that Obama’s tax plan would kill 710,000 small-business jobs. But the president, wholly unfazed by this, simply plowed ahead with his fellow Democrats and turned the plan into law.
Invariably, Obama targets his tax hikes at high earners in particular. Even though this practice punishes job creators and thus hurts millions of Americans at all income levels, the president’s top priority is to cast himself as someone who, on behalf of the middle class, will stand up to wealthy exploiters and force them to finally “pay their fair share.” At the same time, Obama disingenuously claims that he has lowered taxes for those Americans who are not in the top income echelon. That claim rests weakly upon some short-term and conditional tax relief that the president signed into law—such as the temporary payroll tax holiday that expired in January 2013. By contrast, the tax increases which Obama has enacted are mostly permanent. Indeed, he has instituted at least $7 in permanent tax hikes for every $1 in permanent tax cuts. And without question, the kingpin of all Obama’s tax hikes is the Affordable Health Care for America Act, a 2,572-page mostrosity more popularly known as Obamacare, which will affect young people not only in the short term, but for all the remaining decades of their lives.
The Crushing Costs and Substandard Care Associated with Obama’s Signature Healthcare-Reform Legislation
After Obamacare became law in March 2010, there was much debate about its constitutionality. The issue was settled in June 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare’s core provision—the so-called “individual mandate” requiring all Americans to purchase a health insurance policy approved by the federal government—qualified as a tax that Congress was authorized to levy. All told, Obamacare calls for the enactment of some two dozen new or higher taxes, at least seven of which violate the president’s “firm pledge” not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000. Treasury Inspector General Russell George calls Obamacare “the largest set of tax law changes in twenty years.” FutureOfCapitalism.com editor Ira Stoll—using figures supplied by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—calls it the largest tax hike in American history. And a Forbes magazine analysis puts it this way: “[I]f both the premium and the penalty are considered a tax, the mandate becomes the largest tax increase in U.S. history. And that doesn’t include all of the other taxes imposed by the legislation.”
Obamacare stipulates that every business with 50 or more “full-time equivalent workers” (i.e., those who work 30 or more hours per week) must provide health insurance for each of its employees. Any business that fails to do so will be required to pay a $2,000 annual penalty for each uncovered worker beyond 30 employees. “By hiring the 50th worker,” the Wall Street Journal points out, “the firm pays a penalty on the previous 20 as well.” The implications of this requirement are obvious: Business owners now have an incentive to limit their “full-time equivalent” work forces to 49 employees or fewer. An International Franchise Association study warns that because of this and some of its other provisions, Obamacare may place as many as 3.2 million jobs at risk. This will have immense ramifications for young people seeking to enter the labor force.
Obamacare further handicaps employers by compelling them to offer their workers only “qualified,” government-approved insurance plans that ban lifetime caps, phase out annual caps, and make it illegal to refuse coverage due to preexisting conditions. These newly mandated benefits will raise the cost of premiums dramatically. The low-cost, so-called “mini-med plans” that many employers have heretofore provided for low-wage workers—of whom a high percentage were young people—will no longer be available under Obamacare. Instead, the Obamacare employer mandate will add another $1.79 per hour ($350 per month) to the cost of keeping a single person on the payroll full-time. Consequently, many young, unskilled workers who could otherwise have gotten starter jobs with “mini-med” coverage will now be priced out of the employment market.
Any worker who does not receive healthcare insurance through his or her employer must—on pain of a $2,085 annual penalty—either purchase a plan through a state insurance exchange or enroll in Medicaid. Obamacare will dramatically reduce the threshold of eligibility for Medicaid, thereby swelling the program’s rolls from about 70 million people to at least 95 million. An enormous number of these will be young people who, in times past, could have gotten health insurance privately through their employers. It is estimated that by 2019, nearly one-third of all Americans will be on Medicaid. In short, Medicaid will be transformed from a temporary safety net to a permanent entitlement designed to supplant and ultimately destroy the private insurance market.
This is highly significant because Medicaid, by any measure, is already a financial and bureaucratic disaster. Since the program pays doctors and hospitals only 56% of what private insurers pay for the same services, about half of all doctors (and a strong majority of specialists in every field) currently refuse to treat any Medicaid patients at all. Of those doctors who do see some Medicaid patients, most place strict limits on their numbers, for obvious financial reasons. Not surprisingly, research shows that Medicaid patients consistently have poorer medical outcomes than comparable counterparts who have private insurance. A landmark 2010 study conducted at the University of Virginia, for instance, found that surgical patients on Medicaid were nearly twice as likely to die before leaving the hospital than those who were privately insured. An equally significant 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that Medicaid patients actually fare no better in their health outcomes than people who are uninsured.
A 2013 survey by the American Action Forum, a think tank headed by economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, studied how Obamacare’s numerous mandates were likely to affect the cost of healthcare premiums in six major markets—Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Austin, and Albany—and concluded that young people’s premiums will rise by an average of 169%—more than those of any other demographic group. Galen Institute president and healthcare analyst Grace Marie Turner explains that young people will face disproportionately steep rate increases because Obamacare “limits how much insurers can use age and health status in calculating premiums.” That is, youth and good health will no longer serve as factors that qualify an individual for less expensive coverage.
Young people will also be saddled, for decades to come, with the costs that Obamacare will impose on taxpayers vis à vis the national debt. When the president was promoting healthcare reform in 2009 and 2010, he told the American people that his plan would cost approximately $900 billion over the course of its first decade, and that it would cut the cost of family insurance premiums by some $2,500 per year. But that proved to be a monumental lie. Current, more realistic, estimates place the ten-year cost of Obamacare at $2.7 trillion, and the law is expected to add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. national debt over the next ten years alone. That debt, of course, will be hoisted largely onto the backs of young people as they join the labor force and become taxpayers. Moreover, Obamacare is likely to double the cost of many health insurance premiums in the small-group and individual markets.
The outlook for family health insurance plans is just as grim. Obamacare’s employer mandate adds an extra $5.51 per hour (i.e., $900 per month) to the cost of employing a full-time worker who needs a family plan. The IRSreports that by 2016, the least expensive, government-sanctioned Obamacare plan for a typical family of two adults and two or three children will cost $20,000 per year. Given these realities, many employers will undoubtedly decide that it simply makes more economic sense to drop their health care coverage entirely and, as a cost-cutting measure, pay the $2,000 per-worker penalty instead. According to a McKinsey survey of employers who are familiar with Obamacare’s requirements, at least 50% plan to do precisely that. This, too, will obviously have an enormous impact on the lives of young people who live with, or are dependent upon, their parents.
Paul Howard, director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Medical Progress, explains yet another way that Obamacare’s ripple effects will decimate the healthcare industry: “Medicare pays about 80 percent of what private insurers do, Medicaid pays even less, about 60 percent of what private insurers do, so we’re asking them to do more, we’re paying them less. That trend is encouraging for instance older physicians to retire, it’s encouraging more physicians to throw up their hands.’’ In other words, while more Americans will now have healthcare “coverage” under Obamacare, they will, as a practical matter, have a difficult time finding doctors to treat them in a timely fashion. Instead, like so many people in other countries that have elected to institute government-dominated healthcare systems, they will have access only to the dubious honor of a spot on a very long waiting list.
Consider the case of Britain, for instance, where, as a result of doctor shortages, more than a million people in need of medical care are currently on waiting lists for hospital admission. Another 200,000, meanwhile, are trying desperately just to get their names added to such lists. According to the BBC, British patients face an average wait time of 8 months for cataract surgery, 11 months for a hip replacement, 12 months for a knee replacement, 5 months for slipped-disc surgery, and 5 months for a hernia repair.
The situation is no better under the government-run healthcare system in Canada, where at least 800,000 people are now on waiting lists for surgery and other necessary medical care, and where the average wait between a referral from a primary-care doctor and treatment by a specialist is more than 18 weeks. This is the type of bleak scenario that today’s young people—most of whom were too young to vote, or in many cases were not even been born yet, when Obamacare was signed into law—will have to deal with for decades to come, not only when seeking medical treatment for themselves, but also for the families they will form. As Thomas Sowell explains, “Posterity is the ideal person to pay for things politically because posterity cannot vote, and so therefore whatever you put on them, by the time they get stuck with it, your [political] career will be over and there’ll be nothing they can do retroactively.”
Obama’s Education Policies: Designed to Indoctrinate Young Minds and Feather His Own Political Nest Rather Than to Cultivate Academic Mastery
Barack Obama began waging a radical war on schoolchildren long before he won the White House. Particularly egregious was his intimate involvement with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), a “school reform” initiative that was active in 210 Chicago schools from 1996-2001. CAC was founded by none other than Obama ally William Ayers, the former Weather Underground terrorist and longtime America-hating Marxist who had recently reinvented himself as a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where CAC was headquartered. Ayers was the leader of a five-member working group that assembled CAC’s initial board of directors, a board that included soon-to-be state senator Barack Obama.
Ayers sought to use CAC as a vehicle by which he could implement his primary educational objective, which was, as he would later outline in his book Teaching Toward Freedom, to develop an army of educators who were willing to radicalize students by “teach[ing] against [the] oppression” that allegedly pervades American society, and to thereby promote revolution and social transformation. By contrast, CAC gave little importance to the development of academic competence in traditional areas like reading, math, and science.
To advance this revolutionary agenda, CAC made grants not to schools, but to “external partners”—i.e., groups that likewise aimed to infuse students and their parents with a radical political commitment. One particularly favored recipient of CAC funds was the pro-socialist community organization ACORN, which would eventually implode as a result of its own massive corruption. Meanwhile, grant proposals from groups that focused on academics typically were turned down. Archived records show that Obama was personally responsible for CAC’s grants and other fiscal matters, while Ayers focused on shaping educational policy. Moreover, Ayers worked with Obama to write CAC’s by-laws. All told, during the course of Obama’s five-year tenure as board chair, CAC gave some $160 million to community organizers and radical education activists. More than $650,000 of that total went to the so-called “Small Schools Workshop” founded by Ayers and run by Mike Klonsky, a hardline Marxist-Leninist. Like CAC generally, Small Schools aimed to radicalize students, pushing them to “confront issues of inequity, war, and violence.”
Because CAC focused so heavily on the radicalization, rather than the education, of young people, it failed to produce any measurable gains whatsoever in students’ academic performance. As Washington Examinerjournalist David Freddoso writes, “the Challenge was a waste of $160 million in other people’s money.
Obama served on the CAC board of directors until 2001, when the project phased itself out of existence and transferred its remaining assets to a new entity called the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPED). Obama served on this Fund’s “Leadership Council” from 2001 through 2004, along with William Ayers’ father (Thomas) and brother (John).
When Obama, in his post-CAC and -CPED years, embarked upon his quest for a national political office in the U.S. Senate, he allied himself with yet another set of far-left entities—the public-sector teachers unions, most notably the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) and the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The leading goals of these unions are to decrease class sizes, lower student-to-teacher ratios in the classroom, derail school voucher initiatives, expand early-education programs like Head Start, and make it virtually impossible to terminate any instructors, including even the most incompetent. The net effect of each of these objectives is to maximize employment opportunities for dues-paying members of the teachers unions. This is highly significant because mandatory dues constitute the very lifeblood of those unions.
It is vital to note that the teachers unions are not so much educational entities as they are political. The NEA, for instance, employs a larger number of political organizers than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined. Fortune magazine routinely ranks the NEA among the top 15 in its “Washington’s Power 25” list of organizations that wield the greatest political influence over the American legislative system. The Association has earned that rating, in large measure, by making almost $31 million in campaign contributions to political candidates since the early 1990s. The AFT, for its part, has given more than $28 million to its own favored candidates. Of the $59 million in combined NEA and AFT campaign donations, more than $56 million (i.e., 95%) has gone to Democrats. The foregoing figures, incidentally, do not include the teachers unions’ massive expenditures on such politically oriented initiatives as television ads or get-out-the-vote efforts. All told, from 2007-12 the NEA and AFT spent more than $330 million to influence elections in favor of Democrats. In the 2012 election cycle alone, 97 of the top 100 recipients of NEA contributions were Democrats, and Obama personally received three times more NEA money than his nearest fellow recipient.
By no means is the financial relationship between Democrats and the teachers unions a one-way street. Knowing where their bread is buttered, Democrats, with near unanimity, have long embraced and funded the educational and political agendas of those unions. No one has been more consistent in this regard than Barack Obama. During the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, Obama pledged to “recruit an army of new teachers” earning “higher salaries” and getting “more support.” Obama’s 2009 stimulus package allocated an unprecedented $100 billion to public education, nearly twice the Department of Education’s annual budget. In 2012 Obama implored the governors of every U.S. state to do everything within their power to “invest more in education, invest more in our children and in our future”—as if he were oblivious to the fact that American taxpayers were already spending some $600 billion per year on public schools, a figure that translated to $10,905 per student (a nearly fourfold increase, in constant present-day dollars, since 1961). In his proposed 2014 federal budget, the president asked for a record $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for education, plus another$77 billion to fund a new “Preschool for All” initiative over a ten-year period, plus a record $9.62 billion for the famous Head Start program which has existed since 1965.
Obama’s commitment to funding Head Start sheds much light on the motives that animate his educational policies in general. Serving approximately 900,000 low-income children at an annual cost of about $10,000 apiece, Head Start is ostensibly intended to provide a boost—in the form of education, nutrition, and health services—to disadvantaged three-to-four-year-olds before they enter elementary school. Since Head Start’s inception 48 years ago, American taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.
But what are taxpayers—or the children enrolled in Head Start, for that matter—getting in return for all this money? To find out, Congress in 2002 commissioned a scientifically rigorous, longitudinal analysis known as the Head Start Impact Study to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. The results, which were released in 2010, indicated that Head Start had little to no effect on the participants’ cognitive abilities, socio-emotional development, or physical health. Moreover, whatever meager benefits may have been detectable while the children were actively participating in Head Start “almost completely disappear[ed] by first grade.”
In 2012 the Department of Health & Human Services published the findings of its own landmark study tracking some 5,000 three- and four-year-old children from the beginning of their Head Start experience, through the third grade. This analysis, too, concluded that Head Start had no measurable impact on cognitive, social-emotional, or health-related variables. On a few measures, in fact, access to Head Start had harmful effects on the children.
Yet these facts are meaningless to Obama, who reflexively supports whatever policies and initiatives will serve to expand the public education system and thereby provide more jobs for teachers who pay union dues that, in turn, get laundered through the NEA and AFT and wind up in the coffers of the Democratic Party. The welfare of the children who serve as pawns in this devious charade does not factor at all into the president’s calculus.
Obama Places the Federal Government in Charge of the Student-Loan Industry: A Recipe for Skyrocketing Tuition Costs and Student Debt
One of the most crushing economic burdens facing young people today is the debt they incur on student loans for their college education. Fully two-thirds of graduating college seniors owe money on such loans. Their average debt is $27,253 per borrower—up markedly from $17,233 in 2005. Between January 2009 (when Obama took office as President) and May 2014, the cumulative outstanding balance on federal direct student loans increased by 517.4%, from $119.803 billion to $739.641 billion. By contrast, during President George W. Bush’s time in office, the amount of outstanding loans rose from $67.979 billion to $119.803 billion, a cumulative increase of 76.2%. [NOTE: These statistics on cumulative student loan debt during the Bush and Obama administrations were added to the text in July 2014.]
What is the cause of this trend? For decades prior to the summer of 2010, the most common way for students to borrow money for college was to deal with private lending institutions, most notably the Student Loan Marketing Association (known colloquially as Sallie Mae). Each time these lenders issued a student loan, they paid a fee to the federal government, which, in turn, assumed responsibility for covering the cost of any defaults. Knowing that taxpayers would pick up the tab for bad loans, lenders relaxed their standards and made money readily available at rates far lower than what private lenders could have offered on their own—even to students with weak credit credentials. This led, predictably, to record levels of borrowing. Colleges and universities, reaping the windfall of this easy access to cash, hadno incentive to keep their operating costs or tuition fees in check. Consequently, since 1985 the cost of college tuition has been rising at more than 4 times the general rate of inflation. As Cato Institute scholar Tad DeHaven puts it, “[T]he rise in student subsidies over the decades appears to have fueled inflation in education costs. Tuition and other college costs have soared as subsidies have risen.”
Instead of trying to break this cycle by taking the government out of the equation and allowing the free market to operate, the Obama administration, as it is wont to do, took precisely the opposite tack. Beginning on July 1, 2010, Obama signed into law a bill authorizing the U.S. Department of Education, which theretofore had been responsible for approximately one-third of college loans through its direct-lending program, to subsequently handle 100% of the nation’s federal student loans and grants. In other words, the federal government—the very entity most reponsible for having caused tuition and default rates to rise so steeply in the past—was now given carte blanche to run the federal student-loan industry as a monopoly. Said theWall Street Journal: “As for the cost of college, expect it to become even less affordable as the subsidies keep flowing. The main achievements of this new legislation will be to give more power to government, and to transfer more of the costs and risks of college financing to taxpayers.” House Education and Labor Committee Chairman John Kline concurred that the new student loan program would “encourage more borrowing … and leave the taxpayer holding the bag.”
In accordance with Kline’s prediction, delinquency rates on student loans have indeed risen significantly since the implementation of the new Obama program, from 12.4% on loans made between 2005 and 2007, to 15.1% on loans issued in 2010-12—a rise of 22%. According to the Chicago-based credit rating agency TransUnion LLC, fully one-third of all outstanding student loans today are held by the riskiest borrowers, and more than half of student loan accounts—65.5 million of 128.8 million—are in deferment. “This situation is simply unsustainable and we’re already suffering the consequences,” says Dr. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer of the Fair Isaac Corporation, a leading provider of analytics and decision management technology. “When wage growth is slow and jobs are not as plentiful as they once were, it is impossible for individuals to continue taking out ever-larger student loans without greatly increasing the risk of default. There is no way around that harsh reality.” “As more people default on their student loans,” Jennings adds, “their credit ratings will drop, making it harder for them to access new credit and help grow the economy. Even people who stay current on their student loans are dealing with very large debts, which reduces the money they have available to spend elsewhere. The stakeholders in the student lending industry have to take a hard look at the terms and repayment rules for student loans, and the industry may have to develop a new lending model to prevent a bad situation from getting completely out of hand.”
One reason why default rates typically soar in a government-run system is because when the government hires contractors to collect on its loans, it pays them simply for their time rather than for their results; i.e., the contractor gets paid merely for calling the borrower, even if that effort fails to result in a payment. Private lenders, by contrast, earn profits only when loans are actually paid back. Thus, as the Wall Street Journal notes, they have far a greater incentive “to do careful underwriting and aggressive collection.”
The new Obama student-loan policy also introduces a new, income-basedrepayment program limiting the borrower’s repayments to 10% of his or her discretionary annual income (down from the traditional 15%), and forgiving any unpaid balance after 20 years (as opposed to the customary 25 years).Public-service workers, who have long had the sweetest deal of all, will continue to have their unpaid balances forgiven after just 10 years. Logic dictates that any system that forgives unpaid loans after a designated time period is inherently fraught with potential for squandering taxpayer money, even in cases where the borrower makes regular payments on his or her loan. Consider this example, offered by Chris Stirewalt of Fox News:
“If Suzy Creamcheese gets into George Washington University and borrows from the government the requisite $212,000 to obtain an undergraduate degree, her repayment schedule will be based on what she earns. If Suzy … takes a job as a city social worker earning $25,000, her payments would be limited to $1,411 a year after the $10,890 of poverty-level income is subtracted from her total exposure. Twenty years at that rate would have taxpayers recoup only $28,220 of their $212,000 loan to Suzy.”
The Obama student-loan system will not only encourage a steeper rise in tuition costs and a higher rate of loan defaults, but is also likely to result in the elimination of many thousands of private-sector jobs in the loan industry. In March 2010, six Democratic Senators—Thomas Carper (DE), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), Mark Warner (VA) and Jim Webb (VA)—went so far as to write a letter expressing their concern about this to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Obama’s Policies Have Helped Create a World More Vulnerable to Islamic Jihad and Other Dangers
One of the most significant legacies President Obama will pass along to young Americans is an increasingly dangerous world—a world where, thanks in part to his political policies, Islamic jihad has made enormous inroads over the past four years. Particularly noteworthy in this regard was Obama’s decision to support the various revolutions of the Arab Spring, which clearly appealed to his own radical spirit. Those revolutions have invariably brought higher levels of political power to Islamic extremists and jihadists.
For instance, when Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had long been known for his pro-Western orientation, became the first Arab leader to fall to a popular uprising in early 2011, Obama announced that “the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia,” whose “democratic aspirations” were “more powerful than the writ of a dictator.” Foreshadowing what would subsequently occur elsewhere in the Arab world, the Tunisian revolution resulted in the ascendancy of the Islamist Ennahda party, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that garnered 41% of the vote in parliamentary elections and is now ruling the nation.
Also in 2011, Obama, without congressional approval, provided military support for the Libyan rebels who sought to topple the regime of longtime dictator Moammar Qadhafi. Since Qadhafi’s fall, Islamic radicalism in Libya has been on the rise. The grimmest reminder of this occurred on September 11, 2012, when a horde of Muslim terrorists attacked a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and murdered four Americans. Obama’s failure to take any steps to save those victims, and his subsequent coverup of that failure, stands as perhaps the most egregious dereliction of duty by any U.S. president in living memory. Indeed, prior to that fateful night, the administration had ignored dozens of warning signs about growing Islamic extremism and jihadism in the region over a period of more than six months; had ignored or denied, for political reasons, repeated requests for extra security by American diplomats stationed in Benghazi; had failed to beef up security even for the anniversary of 9/11, a date of obvious significance to terrorists; and then steadfastly resisted characterizing the attack as an act of terror, so as not to contradict the Obama campaign mantra which held that al Qaeda was “on the run” and Islamic terrorism was in decline thanks to the president’s policies.
Obama and his administration have likewise supported Islamic insurgents in Syria. These rebels, among whom are many heavily armed, al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists, have been fighting under the banner of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated “Free Syrian Army” to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011. In early 2012 President Obama signed an intelligence finding that formally authorized U.S. support for the Syrian rebels. Though the Obama administration would subsequently maintain that it was not arming the rebels, that claim was contradicted by a March 25, 2013New York Times report indicating that the CIA had been working with Arab governments and Turkey to supply arms shipments to Syrian rebels since early 2012.
Obama also supported ten months of popular uprisings in Yemen that resulted in the collapse of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year reign. The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah Party, a melting pot of Islamists, emerged to fill the political power vacuum created by Saleh’s demise.
But what may ultimately prove to be Obama’s most consequential foreign-policy move was his decision in early 2011 to withdraw U.S. support from longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who, since taking power 30 years earlier, had cultivated a positive, stable relationship with the United States and Israel alike. Israeli lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned that Obama’s decision to abandon Mubarak constituted a “disaster” that would give “half of the seats in [Egypt’s] parliament” to the Muslim Brotherhood—the ideological forebear of Hamas and al Qaeda—and would bring about “a new Middle East” dominated by “extremist radical Islam.” Unfazed by such warnings, Obama welcomed Mubarak’s fall as a sign that “the moral force of nonviolence” had “bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”
Tragically for Israel and all peace-loving nations, Ben-Eliezer’s prediction did in fact come to pass. The reins of power in post-Mubarak Egypt were taken up by Mohammed Morsi, a high-ranking leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Praising the Palestinian effort to “resist imperialism,” Morsi not only refused to pledge that his new government would officially recognize Israel’s right to exist, but also announced that Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would eventually have to be “revise[d].” Candid about his preference for a government based on strict adherence to Islamic law, Morsi vowed that under his leadership, the substance of Egyptian law would be “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally, the sharia.” Morsi also asserted that his eagerness to develop closer ties with Iran was “part of my agenda” to “create a strategic balance in the region.” Meanwhile, the Obama administration formalized ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, allowing, for the first time, State Department diplomats to deal directly with Brotherhood party officials in Cairo, where the international organization is based. Moreover, in January 2013 the administration sent Morsi’s government at least twenty F-16 fighter jets, the most sophisticated aircraft of their kind anywhere in the world. In light of Morsi’s obvious antipathy for Israel, this transaction represents a potentially serious threat to the security of the Jewish state.
By no means was this the only time that Obama—a longtime admirer of such anti-Israel and anti-Semitic figures as Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said, Ali Abunimah, and Jeremiah Wright—has acted against Israel’s best interests. For instance, in 2007 Obama hired International Crisis Group director Robert Malley, whose father was a close friend of Yasser Arafat, as a foreign-policy advisor to his presidential campaign. Over the years, Malley has pennednumerous articles and op-eds condemning Israel, exonerating Palestinians, urging the U.S. to disengage somewhat from the Jewish state, and recommending that America reach out to negotiate with its traditional Arab enemies such as Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. But in 2008 Obama’s campaign was forced—out of political necessity—to sever its ties with Malley when the Times of London revealed that the latter had secretly been in regular contact with Hamas leaders.
Notwitstanding Malley’s departure, his counsel continued to influence Obama’s policy decisions. During his first few days as president, for example, Obama publicly called on Israel to drop its “preconceptions” and negotiate for peace with Hamas, the terrorist organization whose founding charter remains irrevocably committed to the permanent destruction of the Jewish state and the mass murder of its people. Obama further signaled an eagerness to conduct “unconditional talks” on nuclear matters with Iran—even as as that nation was actively supplying high-tech weaponry to Hamas and Hezbollah, and even after its president had repeatedly declared that Israel must be “wiped off the map.”
At various times during his presidency, Obama has told American Jewish leaders that he seeks to put “daylight” between America and Israel; that Israel should “engage in serious self-reflection” about how its “occupation” of Palestinian territories affects its purported victims; that Israeli “settlements” in the West Bank lack “legitimacy”; and that the Palestinians “deserve a state of their own,” with borders “based on the 1967 lines”—a reference to the borders that existed before the Six Day War wherein Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza after an alliance of Arab armies had tried to annihilate the Jewish state. In response to Obama’s suggestion, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines would render Israel “indefensible” and thus was unacceptable.
So weak has been Obama’s support for Israel, that his administration has been reticent—for fear of offending Palestinian sensibilities—even to state publicly that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. For instance, when State Department official Victoria Nuland was asked in March 2012 whether Jerusalem was “part of Israel,” she refused to give a direct answer, saying only that “it’s a permanent-status issue” that must be “resolved through the negotiations between the parties.” At a press briefing soon thereafter, White House spokesman Jay Carney likewise refused to state directly which city is the capital of Israel.
During a March 2013 trip to the Middle East, President Obama pressured Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to submit to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s demand for an apology regarding the deaths of eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American citizen in a 2010 incident where Israeli troops had interdicted a Turkish ship that was attempting to break Israel’s lawful naval blockade of Gaza. In reality, the violence was instigated entirely by several dozen armed Turkish jihadists aboard the ship in question, but this did not prevent Obama from humiliating Israel on the world stage.
By each of the foregoing actions, President Obama and his administration have emboldened jihadists around the world and thereby undermined the security of America and its allies. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the administration has extended a friendly hand to numerous individuals and organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. For instance, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s closest aide, Huma Abedin, has had three family members intimately connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated organizations. In fact, Abedin herself spent 12 years working for the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, a Saudi-based Islamic think tank whose agenda, as former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy explains, is “to grow an unassimilated, aggressive population of Islamic supremacists who will gradually but dramatically alter the character of the West” and “incrementally … infiltrate sharia principles in our law, our institutions, and our public policy.”
In April 2009, President Obama appointed Arif Alikhan, a former prosecutor in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office, to a post in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A staunch opponent of President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war on Islamic terror, Alikhan was responsible for derailing the LAPD‘s efforts to monitor suspicious activities within that city’s Muslim community, where numerous radical mosques and madrassas were known to exist, and where some of the 9/11 hijackers had received support from local residents.â€¨â€¨
In October 2010, Obama’s DHS also welcomed Mohammed Elibiary, a Texas-based Islamic cleric who had once spoken at a conference titled “A Tribute to the Great Islamic Visionary,” in honor of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.
In 2011 President Obama appointed Imam Mohamed Magid, who has served stints as vice president and president of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Society of North America, to be part of the DHS’s “Countering Violent Extremism Working Group.” Claiming that media references to jihadas “holy war” constitute a “misuse” of the term, Magid has helped persuade government officials to purge some 700 documents and 300 presentations from its training materials and lesson plans—on grounds that they are allegedly insensitive to the feelings of Muslims.â€¨
Another notable Obama appointee was Rashad Hussain, whom the president named as his deputy associate counsel and as a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-country coalition that seeks to outlaw any and all criticism of Islam. Hussain, who characterized the legal prosecution of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Sami Al-Arian as “politically motivated persecution, published a 2008 paper rejecting the use of such terms as “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic extremist.”
In February 2009, Muslim convert and author Eboo Patel was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. An ardent admirer of such revolutionary communists as Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Van Jones, Patel views America as a veritable den of racial and economic iniquity. Further, he asserts that “Muslim totalitarians” are not all that different from “the Christian totalitarians in America,” “the Jewish totalitarians in Israel,” or “the Hindu totalitarians in India.”
In June 2011, President Obama appointed Azizah Al-Hibri, who formerly served on the advisory board of the American Muslim Council, to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Al-Hibricontends that when America’s founding fathers sought to establish freedom of religion, they likely drew their inspiration from “the Islamic model of 1500 years ago.” She defends Wahhabism, the extreme brand of fundamentalist Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, as part of the “religious diversity” in Islam’s “marketplace of ideas.” And she maintains that Islamic law “is deeper and better than Western codes of law.”
In 2009, Obama appointed the Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The first veiled Muslim woman ever to serve in the White House, Mogahed has depicted supporters of violent jihad as people who crave freedom and democracy but “believe [that] their faith and their way of life is threatened … by the West.” She also laments that “Islamophobia” is a “disease of racism” that “presents a grave danger to America as a whole.”â€¨
In March 2010, Obama appointed Syrian-born Nawar Shora, a former legal advisor with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), as a senior advisor to the Transportation Security Administration’s Civil Rights and Liberties Office. During his time with ADC, Shora, lamenting America’s “post-9/11 backlash, sought to recast the war on terror as a narrative of ethnic discrimination perpetuated by America’s intransigent bigotry. Shora also taught FBI agents, disingenuously, that the literal meaning of the termjihad is “struggle”—specifically, “the daily struggle to be a better person, to resist temptation.
All of the foregoing appointments make it evident that President Obama has been quite willing to fill key positions in his administration with individuals who can be described as radical Islamists. Just as disturbing, however, was Obama’s 2013 nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as his Secretary of Defense. Hagel’s track record is that of someone with virtually no understanding of the concept of Islamic jihad, and no discernible ability to draw a moral distinction between Israel and its Islamist enemies. Consider, for instance, that in 1999 Hagel was the only U.S. senator who refused to sign the American Jewish Committee’s statement against anti-Semitism in Russia. In October 2000, with the deadly Second Palestinian Intifada swinging into high gear, he was one of only four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of the Jewish state. In August 2006, Hagel was one of just 12 senators who refused to ask the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. During a January 2007 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, he lamented the dashed aspirations of “the Palestinian people who have been chained down [by Israel] for many, many years.” And two years after that, he signed a letter advising President Obama to engage in direct peace negotiations with Hamas rather than isolate the group. Moreover, it is reported that Hagel once accused Israel of keeping the Palestinians “caged in like wild animals.”
Equally clueless about the aspirations of jihadists is John Brennan, whom Obama named as his CIA director in early 2013. Brennan is on record saying that while Hezbollah “has a terrorist arm to it,” it “has a social and political nature to it as well.” He has praised the Obama administration for trying to establish a positive relationship with Hezbollah’s “moderate elements”; has expressed satisfaction over the fact that “a lot of Hezbollah individuals are … renouncing … terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion”; and has advised the U.S. to “tolerate, and even … encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.” Similarly, Brennan views Hamas as a group that “started out as a very focused social organization that was providing welfare to Palestinians,” but later “developed an extremist and terrorist element” that “unfortunately delegitimized it in the eyes of many” and thereby diminished the chances of the Palestinian people getting “what they truly deserve, which is a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.” Emphasizing the need to target “extremists” rather than “jihadists,” Brennan explains that “jihad” means “to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal.” The use of that term, he elaborates, “risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself.” Consistent with this perspective, Brennan has called for a purge of FBI curriculum and training materials that make any reference to “jihad” or “radical Islam.”
Notably, the Obama administration’s appeasement of jihadists has had no discernible positive effect on U.S. relations with the Muslim world. A June 2010 Saban Center/University of Maryland/Zogby poll of respondents in six predominantly Muslim nations—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan—found that between 2009 and 2010 the percentage of Midddle Easterners who held a favorable view of President Obama and the U.S. had declined from 45% to 20%. In April 2011, a Pew Research poll reported that only 20% of Egyptians had a positive opinion of the United States. Three months later, a poll conducted by IBOPE Zogby International for the Arab American Institute Foundation found that in most of the countries surveyed, the percentage of people who had favorable attitudes regarding the United States had dropped to levels lower than they had been during 2008, the last year of the Bush administration. For example, favorable ratings in Saudi Arabia had fallen from 41% to 30% since 2009, and in Egypt they had declined from 30% to 5%. Moreover, a February 2013 Gallup poll found that 92% of Pakistanis disapproved of U.S. leadership, while an all-time low of just 4% approved.
In light of all the aforementioned realities—President Obama’s support for Islamist revolutionaries in the Middle East, his appointment of both radical Muslims and native-born appeasers to key posts in his administration, and the Muslim world’s growing antipathy toward the United States—young Americans today find themselves coming of age in a world that is as dangerous as it has ever been. This danger is further exacerbated by the fact that President Obama has telegraphed, many times, his intent to dramatically scale back America’s military capabilities. In a February 2008 campaign ad, for instance, Obama proudly pledged to “cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful [defense] spending,” “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” “slow our development of future combat systems,” “not develop new nuclear weapons,” and negotiate with Russia “to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals.” Consistent with those promises, in the summer of 2011 Obama authorized approximately $489 billion in defense cuts to be implemented over a ten-year period. All told, he has cut or delayed more than 50 major weapons programs since taking office. Notably, one budget item that Obama originally slated for the chopping block was America’s arsenal of 44 ground-based missile-defense interceptors, which the president planned to reduce to 30. He abruptly changed course on that decision, however, when North Korea threatened to launch a nuclear attack against the United States in April 2013.
President Obama made one of his more significant national security-related decisions on September 17, 2009—the 70th anniversary of the day the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939—when he submitted to Russian pressure and abandoned plans (forged during the Bush administration) to set up a missile defense shield in Europe. Heritage Foundation scholar Nile Gardner called the move “an appalling surrender to Russian demands, and the shameful appeasement of an increasingly aggressive regime that is openly flexing its muscle in an effort to intimidate ex-members of the Warsaw Pact.” According to political analyst and retired military officer Ralph Peters, “Obama got nothing in return [for his concession]. No Russian commitments on Iran’s nuclear program. No sovereignty guarantees for Georgia. No restrictions on arms sales to Venezuela.” Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose government had signed treaties with the Bush administration to build the system, lamented: “The Americans are not interested in this territory as they were before. It’s bad news for the Czech Republic.”
Obama further compromised American security in 2010 by signing the New START Treaty, a bilateral arms-control agreement with Russia, limiting each country’s long-range nuclear weapons stockpile to 1,500. Scholar Phyllis Schlafley has explored the details of this deal and reports that it “allows Russia to build new and modern weapons to reach New START limits, whereas the United States is locked into reducing its current number,” meaning that “Russia will have new and tested weapons, but the U.S. will be stuck with its current, out-of-date, untested warheads.” The treaty also gives Russia veto power over all U.S. missile-defense systems, as reflected in Russia’s warning that it will abide by New START “only if the [U.S.] refrains from developing its missile defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively.’” Moreover, the treaty places no limits on tactical nuclear weapons, thereby leaving Russia with a 10-to-1 numeric advantage.
President Obama has laid the groundwork for a future that will pose many substantial—even grave—challenges for young Americans as they come of age. For one, he has propelled the U.S. national debt to heights that were previously inconceivable—and young people, as they enter the ranks of our nation’s taxpayers, will be saddled with the burden of paying off that debt for decades to come. In addition, Obama’s tax-and-spend fiscal policies have produced a stagnant, moribund economy where young people are already experiencing extremely high levels of unemployment and financial hardship. As a sop to those who view economics as a zero-sum game between victims and victimizers, the president has proposed minimum-wage hikes and living-wage laws that have a long track record of diminishing the employment and earning opportunities of young people. He has implemented a host of new, permanent taxes that will drain the wallets and sap the spirits of young Americans year after year, until the end of their lives. He has spearheaded the creation of a new, government-dominated healthcare system that clearly will be far less efficient and much more costly than the system it is replacing, and will cost countless Americans not only their financial nest eggs, but their lives. He has engineered a complete government takeover of the student loan program, resulting in tuition costs and borrower default rates that exceed anything we have yet seen. And he has made the world a more dangerous place by emboldening and even supporting Islamist radicals both at home and abroad, while betraying America’s closest ally, Israel, and weakening our nation’s defense capabilities. These are President Obama’s dubious gifts to the young people whose support was so crucial to his election and re-election.
This essay was authored by John Perazzo.
- Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns, The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy (570-71).
- Since Obama’s inauguration, the total number of working-age people not in the labor force has increased from 80.507 million to 89.967 million.
- Betsy McCaughey, Decoding the Obama Health Law, 36.
- 4 When calculating compliance with the law, two 15-hours-per-week employees equal one 30-hour worker.
- Betsy McCaughey, Decoding the Obama Health Law, 10.
- Ibid., 9, 20, 23.
- Ibid., 22.
- Ibid., 9.
- Ibid., 12.
- Ibid., 13.
- Ibid., 20.
- Ibid., 9.
- Ibid., 8.
- Ibid., 18.
- Sally Pipes, The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care, 17-18. Betsy McCaughey, Decoding the Obama Health Law, 41.
- Betsy McCaughey, Decoding the Obama Health Law, 20.
- Ibid., 34.
- Ibid., 11.
- Ibid., 11.
- Sally Pipes, The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care, p. 129.
- Ibid., p. 125.
- Banks could continue to make private, non-guaranteed college loans, but because these are generally more expensive than guaranteed loans, the private student-loan industry was essentially driven to ruin.
Obama’s War on the Young (pamphlet)
By John Perazzo
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