BY FRANK DOWD, IV
The morning after the 2012 presidential election, I jotted down 10 things we could expect in a second term from President Obama—some positive in a hopeful sense, and others quite negative. A year later I looked back on my predictions and found that I had been far too optimistic; the record of the Obama administration was abysmal, and the state of our Country reflected it. The Charlotte Observer published my one year assessment as an Op-Ed in October, 2013. Now, as I reassess the Obama record on the second anniversary of his 2012 re-election, my conclusion is that things have not improved, but in fact have considerably worsened—to the point where I actually wonder if the United States as we know it can survive two more years of this President.
After the 2012 election, I was concerned that the U.S. was reaching a tipping point, where those dependent upon government benefits and subsidies for their livelihood, and who pay little or no federal income taxes, were approaching fifty percent of the U.S. population. Let me be clear, I am all for government programs to help those truly in need and unable to otherwise support themselves and their families. This would include temporary benefits to the able-bodied unemployed, to assist them as they actively seek employment, and ongoing benefits for those unable to work, including elderly and disabled folks. But my fear was that the unchecked provision of government benefits to those otherwise able to work would create a disincentive to seek employment, further expanding a government-dependent segment of our population that would become an insurmountable voting block. By supporting those liberal candidates and political parties promising government largesse, this growing block would effectively be able to vote themselves increasing amounts of government benefits. Unabated, this situation is a recipe for never-ending increases in spending that will inevitably bankrupt the nation. President Obama has added $6.6 trillion to the national debt in just six years – more than all other presidents combined. Even though our annual deficits have been smaller in the last two years – if two-thirds of a trillion dollars a year can be considered “small” – the cost of Obamacare and unchecked entitlements will eventually lead to an explosion of our “debt bomb.”
In addition to record numbers of people receiving government assistance and not participating in the work force, we have allowed close to 200,000 illegal aliens to overwhelm our southern border since late 2012 alone. The government’s own estimates of the number of illegal aliens in the United States are on the order of 8 to 12 million; other credible sources put that number as high as 40 million. President Obama has made it very clear he has no intention of sending people who entered the U.S. illegally back to their home countries. Through a series of unprecedented and continuing executive actions, Obama has ensured that the enforcement of our immigration laws has effectively been halted, thereby guaranteeing that our welfare rolls and our debt will continue to soar. Supporting the President’s objectives, a complicit U.S. Department of Justice is fighting those states which seek to prevent illegal aliens from becoming illegal voters. The Justice Department has sued to enjoin states such as North Carolina from enacting and enforcing common-sense voter ID and registration laws, thus moving us even closer to the tipping point which I fear. To put this issue into perspective, the outcome of the last four presidential elections has hinged on an average of 4.5 million votes.
I wrote last year about how shocking Mr. Obama’s anti-business rhetoric was, and it remains so. Safely re-elected, the only conclusion I can draw from his continued attacks on job-creators and employers is that he truly means it and either doesn’t understand or doesn’t appreciate the positive, job-creating role of businesses in our economy. Consider the tsunami of government regulations on business that has not only continued, but accelerated in Obama’s second term. Unwilling to seek a middle ground with its political opponents, or participating in the legislative process at all, the Obama administration has imposed—on its own, and many say illegally—a punitive agenda of regulatory enforcement from out-of-control federal bureaucracies.
For example, the EPA’s proposal to tighten the air quality standard for ozone to nearly unachievable levels could cost the U.S. economy $3.4 trillion through 2040 and become the costliest regulation in our nation’s history. This, despite the fact that the most recent scientific evidence shows that the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer has slowed more than previously understood, and is now showing signs of substantial and growing recovery, thanks to measures already taken. A state-by-state study predicts that North Carolina will lose 127,000 jobs and $150 billion in economic growth due to this new ozone rule, a drastic and highly damaging regulation, far in excess of what is needed to address what the latest evidence shows to be a diminishing problem.
EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations on new and existing power plants amount to a de-facto ban on coal-fired electricity generation, which currently supplies the United States with an estimated 40% of its electricity needs. As these new rules take effect, Americans will see their electric bills “necessarily skyrocket,” as candidate Obama told us they would in the 2008 campaign. This is one campaign promise the President intends to keep. By the EPA’s own conservative estimates, nationwide electricity prices will increase by up to 12% in some locations. And for what? Upon full implementation of the new rules, global carbon emissions will only be reduced by 1.3% – that’s just 13 days of emissions from China. Moreover, market forces have already set in motion a dramatic reduction of our reliance upon coal for electricity generation. Six years ago coal accounted for some 50% of U.S. electricity generation; soon that percentage is expected to drop below 40%, and by the end of the decade it is likely to be closer to 30%. Coal is largely being supplanted by natural gas, a cheaper, more abundant, and much more environmentally friendly source of energy. Given that market forces are already taking care of the coal “problem” in an effective and timely way, what is the logic of imposing draconian regulations which will abruptly and dramatically increase energy costs for consumers, hobble the competitiveness of U.S. industry, and throw hundreds of thousands more people out of work in some of the most economically depressed areas of the country … in order to achieve an almost meaningless reduction in emissions?
While the President’s penchant for ruling by decree may have been predictable, I could not foresee the blatant abuse of power we have witnessed in Mr. Obama’s second term. Beginning in 2010 and continuing right up to the 2012 presidential election, the IRS targeted groups engaged in conservative political activities by harassment and “slow-walking” their tax-exemption applications, in direct violation of federal law. IRS intimidation of conservative organizations, and suppression of their participation in the electoral process very possibly altered the outcome of the election. Caught red-handed, the IRS destroyed evidence, laughably claiming the laptops and Blackberry’s of dozens of IRS staff were damaged and email communications were not backed-up—again in violation of federal law—and lost forever. The Administration has stonewalled every Congressional effort to get to the bottom of this law-breaking, enlisting the services of a highly politicized Justice Department led by Eric Holder. The mainstream media seems not to care, but they too have been the victims of heavy-handed tactics by the Obama administration. These tactics have taken the form of attempted censorship and prior restraint to prevent the publication of stories critical of the administration, and punishment after the fact where critical stories have been published. This punishment has consisted of prosecution of individual journalists and news organizations by the Holder Justice Department on trumped-up charges, and denial of further reporting access to the White House and the President. It is no wonder that we see so little balanced reporting on the Obama administration and its actions by the mainstream media.
Finally, my greatest fears following Obama’s 2012 re-election are coming true with a vengeance. These are in the areas of foreign policy and international affairs, in the form of severe and mounting threats to our national security and vital U.S. interests. Emboldened by five years of feckless and incoherent U.S. foreign policy, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea without firing a shot and brazenly invaded Ukraine, daring NATO and the U.S. to stop him. Having watched Obama fail to enforce his recklessly-declared “red-line” in Syria, Putin correctly judged that there would be no meaningful consequences for his actions. Who can argue that the tiny Baltic countries of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are not next? These events and the muddled or non-existent responses to them by our President send dangerous signals of encouragement to all those who would do us harm.
Among our newest enemies is The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). By precipitously withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq, the President created a power vacuum that was filled by the most barbaric terror cult the world has seen. ISIS now occupies vast swaths of Iraq and Syria and is slaughtering any who stand in their way. Bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate, ISIS’ torture, rape, crucifixions and genocide may well drag us into yet another Mideast war. Beheadings of American journalists, the lack of a coherent strategy, dismissing ISIS as a “JV team” and a problem to be “managed” and “degraded” have all contributed to a deep unease among Americans. The realization that the President lacks the will or vision for achieving long-term strategic victory over Islamic terrorism has convinced many that it is only a matter of time before America suffers another 9/11-style attack on our soil. And with Obama inexplicably relaxing sanctions on Iran, that country is now being allowed to finish the development of nuclear weapons, which they have vowed to use against Israel and the West, including America.
President Obama has been wildly successful in one respect . He has succeeded in “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” as he promised on the campaign trail in 2008. From the government takeover of our healthcare system to the abandonment of protecting our borders, from regulating our economy into a state of seemingly endless recession to running rough-shod over our Constitution, the Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law, from fomenting division of our society by race, class, and religion to suppressing an open and free press, from estranging us from our traditional friends and allies to seeking alliances with and appeasing our enemies, Barack Obama’s America is fast becoming a Country that I barely recognize.
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Frank Dowd, IV is Chairman of the Board of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company, a 113 year-old manufacturer of cast iron and plastic pipe and fittings headquartered in Charlotte, with seven plants scattered across the Country.