(Newsroom America) – Worried that a collapse of Europe's economies could threaten his own presidency, President Obama used an impromptu press conference to offer "advice" to counterparts across the Atlantic on Friday, apparently completely unaware of the hypocrisy of his message.
Though he took pains to insist he wasn't lecturing or chastising leaders of the economically struggling continent – an effort that no serious observer of U.S. and European politics believes for a nanosecond – Obama nonetheless laid out a few specific recommendations for the leaders of Spain, Greece, Portugal and other countries on the brink of collapse.
For starters, though some cuts are needed to trim Europe's bloated, socialist budgets, Obama said European leaders should avoid just "cutting and cutting and cutting" in order to balance their books. A more prudent approach, he believes, is more government spending, even if just temporarily, because government spending will somehow lead to private-sector growth, though historically, in economic example after economic example, that fallacy has never proven itself.
And if government spending doesn't create new, real economic growth, well, at a minimum more government spending would at least preserve more government jobs, and for now, that's okay. That should keep the masses out of the streets, at least, even if it will do nothing but add even more debt to Europe's already cash-strapped countries. More to the point, new spending will keep Europe's struggling economies temporarily solvent – at least long enough for Obama not to have to deal with the effects of Europe's economic collapse before the November elections.
Cynical? Perhaps, but think about it – on what did Obama have to base his advice? Personal success?
Obama, and before him George W. Bush, backed massive government spending to "stimulate" a flagging U.S. economy that plunged deeply into recession following the collapse of the housing and financial sectors which, by the way, were largely congressionally induced. Obama doubled down on the stimulus spending after he took office, promising the country that the gargantuan "investment" would pay off in terms of higher economic growth and lower unemployment.
Only, neither of those promises has been fulfilled.
Instead, Obama became the first president in U.S. history to jack up the national debt as quickly as he has; his administration has added nearly $5.5 trillion in new debt in the three-and-a-half years he's been in office. Economic growth in the 1st quarter of 2012 was an anemic 1.9 percent; 4th quarter of 2011 was 2.8 percent; third-quarter growth was a tepid 1.8 percent. Growth needs to be in the 4-percent realm to sustain an economic recovery, economists say.
What about unemployment? In 2009, when backing more than $1 trillion in new government spending, Obama's economic advisors promised the package would lower unemployment to below 8 percent; by 2012, the rate was supposed to fall to 6 percent or less. According to the Labor Department, unemployment actually ticked upward to 8.2 percent in May, though a closer look at the actual numbers of jobless Americans – including those who have given up looking for work – is closer to 14 percent.
In 2009, Obama said the stimulus package would lift more than 2.2 million Americans out of poverty; rather, since he took office, 6.3 million Americans have slipped into poverty, and now more Americans than ever are receiving government assistance as a percentage of the population.
Who's to blame for these failures? The president, in his lecture to Europe, says it's not him. No, he says, it's the Republicans in Congress who are blocking his "growth" agenda, which, by his own words is more of the same: More government spending and fewer spending cuts. This, despite the fact that he and fellow Democrats owned the government for his first two years in office. Every economic policy and every economic plan Obama wanted was passed over Republican objections, and without GOP involvement.
And still, more spending is the advice he gave the leaders of flagging European economies on Friday.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and most other Republican leaders have been equally guilty of saddling the federal budget with more debt. Bush the Republican was one of the most profligate presidential spenders in recent history, a trait which ran completely afoul of the GOP's long-stated platform of smaller, less expensive and less intrusive government.
But now he and his party appear to see the writing on European walls. Boehner, in response to Obama's counsel to the continent, said the reason why a number of European governments are in economic dire straits is because they waited too long to act – waited too long to cut overly generous public benefits that were being funded by fewer and fewer workers (Europe's got a zero-population growth problem as well, meaning countries are not replacing older pensioners with younger workers to support them and the system). The U.S. doesn't have that population growth problem, but it does have zealous lawmakers who love to spend to buy votes.
Boehner says the U.S. should act now to trim the budgetary fat before Washington finds itself in the same position as Athens or Madrid. Boehner is right; Obama, judging by the results of his Keynesian experiment, is wrong.
Both share blame, however, for not acting sooner. Both share blame, however, for not acting now, and it's for the same reasons.
Leaders in the U.S. are as fearful of the street mobs as they are in Europe. Nobody wants to have to deal with tens of millions of disillusioned citizens flooding the streets in protest of broken government promises that, frankly, could never have been kept in the first place. And if anyone would have stopped to have actually done the math years ago when these governments launched their vote-buying spending sprees, they would have realized that the numbers didn't match up and they would eventually paint themselves into a corner. Maybe they weren't worried about it then because they knew they would not be the ones having to deal with it now.
But budgets be damned. Elections are just a few months away. And votes must be bought. That's why Obama is still pushing the notion of more government spending as the prescription for European economies already collapsing under the weight of bloated budgets. Cuts create unrest and he doesn't want to have to deal with unrest, either in Europe or at home. He knows if Europe's economies implode, there will be a ripple effect that will reach all the way across the Atlantic.
With the U.S. national debt spiraling out of control at nearly $16 trillion, the last thing Washington needs is more profligate government spending. It's also the last thing Europe needs as well, which is what makes Obama's "advice" so ridiculous on its face.
The hypocrisy becomes hardest to choke down, however, when you realize the president is saying what he is saying because he's more worried about his own job than the future of Europe's struggling countries.
Let's hope that, mobs or no mobs, Europeans are smart enough to ignore the hypocrite-in-chief and that they realize the party's over and it's time to pay the bill, even if doing so hurts for the time being.
Jon E. Dougherty is the U.S. editor of Newsroom America.
© 2012 Newsroom America.