The occasionally-maligned Lou Dobbs sort of gets it. Earlier today he tweeted: Pres. Obama’s new stump phrase “economic patriotism” has [an] Orwellian cast that is both meaningless and vaguely sinister. Syn., redistribution.
Erika Johnson at Hot Air dissected and attempted to interpret the Obama ad to which Dobbs alludes (below) as code language for “more stimulus”. Johnson concludes with “‘New economic patriotism’? Does that sound severely creepy to anyone else?”
Severely creepy is an understatement.
Zoleka Ndayi, the head of the political science department at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, has another name for “economic patriotism” — “embedded liberalism” — which is a compromise between nationalism and liberalism.
Dobbs’ reference to “economic patriotism” as being a new stump phrase is way off the mark. A wee bit of research would have readily revealed that it is not. In 2008, for example, both candidates Obama and Biden employed the phrase. In fact, at the time, Biden used the mischaracterized version of the phrase as meaning that paying more taxes was “economic patriotism”.
In a campaign stop in North Dakota, Obama stated:
- “The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion dollars for the first 42 presidents — number 43 added $4 trillion dollars by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion dollars of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child ” — That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”
Nevermind that this is a laughable statement given the Obama economic track record for nigh onto four years. Before that, George W. Bush was “unpatriotic”; now it’s Mitt Romney.
In an August 28 speech in Ohio, Barack Obama echoed the charge by former Ohio governor and current Obama re-election co-chair, Ted Strickland, who claimed Mitt Romney’s overseas investments were an example of his “lack of patriotism.”
This was followed up a few days ago with the two-minute Obama campaign video featured above.
Alexander Burns points out at Politico that Strickland also used the phrase in his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Burns wrote:
- “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands, and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps,” Strickland said then.
Toward the end of his speech, Strickland said: “Barack Obama is an economic patriot. Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer.”
However, the use of the phrase “economic patriotism” did not originate with Strickland, Obama, or Biden — nor is Obama’s plan “new”.
- In fact, in 2008, Obama said, “Number 43 added four trillion dollars [to the national debt] by his lonesome…that’s irresponsible, that’s unpatriotic.” Obama, of course, has been adding to the debt at double the rate of his predecessor.
Now he’s running an ad saying his platform is a “new economic patriotism,” tacitly inviting viewers to think of opposing views as unpatriotic. Obama’s “economic plan” has never changed: It involves more federal spending and an almost religious faith in the soul-cleansing effects of more taxes on high earners.
What’s old is new again
Looking backwards to September 1988, twenty years prior to the Obama-Biden era, T.R. Reid reported in the Washington Post:
- … increasingly these days Michael S. Dukakis is coming to resemble one of the Democrats he defeated in this year’s presidential primaries: Rep. Richard A. Gephardt.
As he shapes and tones his basic set of speeches for the fall campaign, Dukakis has been echoing the populist, nationalistic message, absent the legislative prescriptions, that Gephardt used last spring. His message then was that American workers need Democratic leadership to protect them from merger-minded financiers on Wall Street and from competition abroad where workers benefit from government help.
When Gephardt enunciated it, this line of argument was capsulized in terms such as “competitiveness” and “economic nationalism.” Dukakis has repackaged it under the label “economic patriotism” and has added a new phrase at the end of his favorite campaign promise. These days, after pledging “good jobs at good wages,” he adds “in the good old U.S.A.”
(Those who have read Fool Me Twice, which I co-authored with Aaron Klein, and which released the first week of August 2012, will recall the sections on “good jobs” in chapter 4, “A Jobs Plan for America”, and the one on the Democrats’ plan for “good wages” in chapter 7, “‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ and Other Acts of ‘Fairness’”.)
The man behind the meme in 1988 was veteran Democratic “wordsmith” Robert Shrum, “who crafted Gephardt’s embrace of economic nationalism in the primaries. A key element of Gephardt’s message was his backing of tough trade legislation that Dukakis at the time criticized as protectionist.”
See if this doesn’t sound familiar; T.R. Reid wrote in WaPo:
- As has been true of most of Dukakis’ speeches since the end of the primary season, he has sketched the idea of “economic patriotism” in broad strokes, with few details.
He tells audiences that “it’s time to make the changes necessary to restore America’s economic might,” but he doesn’t set forth the changes he has in mind.
He insists that “We’re not going to sit on the sidelines while the merger and acquisition binge gobbles up our capital and destroys our competitiveness.” But he has not provided specifics of regulations or legislation he might favor to limit such financial transactions.
Democrats — Iowa senator, Tom Harkin, and former Massachusetts senator, Paul E. Tsongas — running against President George H.W. Bush in the next campaign, renewed the use of “economic patriotism” in their spiels. Adam Pertman wrote in the Boston Globe:
- A few days ago, when President Bush used a campaign stop in Oregon to take a verbal shot at politicians who had initially opposed using force in the Persian Gulf, Democrats heard a preview of a major theme for the GOP reelection campaign.
They also heard echoes of 1988, when Bush seized the patriotism issue and wielded it effectively against his opponent, Michael Dukakis.
This time, even though many acknowledge they are in for a tough struggle, Democrats vow that they will not let the president take the flag from them again.
“I know he did it before, and he’s obviously trying it now,” said Ronald Brown, the Democratic national chairman. “But we learned from our mistake, and we’re going to be a lot more hard-nosed, a lot more aggressive, and we’re not going to let him get away with it.”
Though the Gulf War may provide Bush with a popular focus for attacks during this campaign, these Democrats say, they have considerable ammunition of their own. But the biggest change, they said, is that they will initiate assaults rather than merely respond. Already, Democrats are lacing their speeches with nationalistic themes, and they are invariably surrounded by American flags and signs advocating, in the words of candidate Paul E. Tsongas, economic patriotism.
In his September 27, 2012 op-ed at Forbes.com, Kyle Smith commented:
- In times of war, it is Democrats who can frequently be heard to mutter, quoting (out of context) Samuel Johnson, that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Liberals, sometimes correctly, make the case that acts of war are meant to create a rally-round-the-flag effect as a distraction from our leaders’ other failings. But to Obama, we should rally round the flag not because we’re endangered by Nazis or Hirohito. We should rally round the flag simply because he is the one holding it.
“Backdoor nationalization” and picking winners and losers
The Obama regime could have avoided a lot of America’s economic woes had it paid close attention to parallel failures of democratic socialist governments in Europe.
In March 2006, the European Report reported, “The reappearance of the old problem of economic patriotism and its protectionist undertones was the flavour of the month at the euro-zone Finance Ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 13 March.”
Alex Brummer reported in the London Daily Mail on the intra-European Union squabbles between England, France, and Italy:
- France has a long and honourable tradition of economic patriotism dating back to Jean-Baptiste Colbert1,2 in the 19th century.
The difficulty is that its onesided approach to takeovers is opposed to the idea of the free and open markets espoused by the European Union. …
Backdoor nationalisation and dilution of governance are unacceptable however big the price tag.
A few months later, in June 2006, Deutsche Bank “published a study emphasising the negative effects of emerging economic patriotism on the development of the EU’s single market.”
- The study summarises the theoretical arguments against protectionist industrial policy, pointing out that the damage caused to the economy by active intervention far outweighs any benefits thus gained. All the evidence indicates that state activity should focus on creating development-friendly framework conditions in line with Single Market principles rather than resorting to protectionist measures, says Deutsche Bank.
This, regarding the report, should also sound familiar:
- France is perceived as the home of economic patriotism. The French government deliberately pursues a strategy aimed at creating national champions by offering financial assistance and political support to specific companies. This involves direct intervention by the state in corporate decisions.
It should not come as a surprise that the 2009 Obama admin auto bailout “rescue”, as the Washington Times reported that November, was a false “economic patriotism” operation:
- From the moment congressional leaders began contemplating a bailout for automakers, massive waste was a virtual guarantee. At the very least, taxpayer funds would go to subsidize one group of American workers (at Chrysler and General Motors) who are taking a public handout to compete against other American workers (at Ford) who are paying the taxes. Now American workers are forking over their cash to subsidize jobs overseas.
And now, if re-elect candidate Obama is to be taken at his word, he plans much more of the same in a second term.
At an August 9, 2012 campaign event in Pueblo, Colorado, Obama said America should “repeat [his] auto industry success.” Donovan Slack reported in Politico:
- … while villifying Mitt Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout, bragged about the success of his decision to provide government assistance and said he now wants to see every manufacturing industry come roaring back.
“I said, I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back,” he said. “Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.”
Surprised? Not one bit. If it walks like nationalization, and it looks like nationalization, and it stinks like nationalization, then it must be another really bad Obama plan.
1 Jean-Baptiste Colbert served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. He is credited with improving France’s manufacturing and bringing the economy back from the brink of bankruptcy although, despite his efforts, France “actually became increasingly impoverished because of the King’s excessive spending on wars.” He also “worked to develop the domestic economy by raising tariffs and by encouraging major public works projects” and had 150 edicts issued to regulate the trade guilds.
- Colbert from 1661 was for more than twenty years of responsible for the finances of France. He believed that material prosperity would raise the yield of taxes but that this prosperity would grow only with a managed economy: that is, with the mercantilistic encouragement of native industries and exports and the discouragement of imports from abroad.