August 29, 2014

The Obama majority? [Contributor]

57th Inauguration President Barack Obama

Rhett Wilkinson is a senior at Utah State University. He is studying journalism and political science. The opinions expressed are his own.


American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson opined for the Washington Post that there is “an Obama majority in American politics, symbolized by Monday’s throng on the Mall, whose existence is both the consequence of profound changes to our nation’s composition and values and the cause of changes yet to come.”

In that case, be ready for an upheaval.

Given that Obama begins his second term more popular than he has been for most of the past three years, an endorsement of increased welfare is disappointing. His approval rating is 52 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics average shortly after the election, against 43 percent who disapprove of his performance. The president’s numbers in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll are similar: 51 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval.

That majority, the president emphasized in his inauguration remarks, “would not exist but for Americans’ struggles to expand our foundational belief in the equality of all men.” That sounds great, and the duration of his speech sure sounded like an earnest preview of bridging the gap between elected officials on both sides of the political spectrum. Female workers should be paid equally (hopefully, it’s business owners who make that call). Maybe some Americans — usually minorities — should not need to wait hours to vote. And perhaps a softer immigration policy is welcome, as a larger percentage of illegal immigrants create businesses than U.S. citizens do. The president is even overseeing increased social equality, as he apparently supports as of last May.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

But it doesn’t look like that’s enough for this administration.  “Our country cannot succeed,” Obama said, “when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” The president seeks for policy changes to tax increases and school reform, for instance, that “rewards the effort and determination of every single American.”

Does it mean that a higher percentage of a person’s income is taken than the amount they comprise of the nation’s GDP? According to Meyerson, more than half of U.S. citizens don’t know — or don’t care to know.

That’s a bad omen given that the national debt is at $16 trillion, more than the entire GDP of the United States last year. High as it is, that debt is about to soar. More than 78 million baby boomers are retiring onto Social Security and Medicare in the next 15 years or so. Under Obamacare, Medicaid is set to explode as well. Within just one generation, total federal spending could reach nearly 36 percent of GDP, and the Congressional Budget Office says debt held by the public could reach nearly 200 percent of GDP.

The president’s current approval ratings are not that high as compared with other recent presidents at the start of their second terms. George W. Bush’s approval ratings in January 2005 were similar to Obama’s. But Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were more popular than Obama at the start of their second terms.

“We, the people” may have been the familiar empowering phrase mentioned time and again by the president on Inauguration Day. But in the coming term, those who accept it find a U.S. population less in control than ever before as the welfare state expands. With popularity on the line, the guy in the Oval Office has no intention of reversing that trend.

About Rhett Wilkinson

Rhett Wilkinson has interned for U.S. Congress, the State of Utah and Salt Lake media, including Utah Policy Daily. He earned a BS in Journalism and an Area Certificate in Public and Social Affairs.

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