The most striking sentence in President Obama’s second inaugural address was his assertion that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”–by which he means more government. It is a succinct statement of the equation of government with freedom, and of the implicit corollary: the more government, the more freedom it can provide. This is why Obama expressed no concern yesterday about the multi-trillion-dollar government debt he once thought unpatriotic: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other government spending “empowers our citizens” and “free us to take the risks that make this country great.” When freedom is defined in this fashion, those who want to reduce government spending are striking a blow against “freedom.” They’re unpatriotic.
Obama reportedly said last month that government has no spending problem–only a problem of reducing the cost of healthcare. Yesterday he said we must “make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit”: in other words, deficit reduction means giving government more power to control the cost of providing freedom. Reduce the cost of health care, and the deficit will go down, but do not restrict government itself–that would be restricting freedom. This is why Obama insists on raising tax rates without spending reductions; on increasing the debt limit without spending reductions; and on enacting any future spending reductions only if “balanced” with new revenue (so that if you want him to reduce spending, you must give him more money to spend). Higher tax rates, more debt, and new revenues give government the resources to keep us free–thus the more, the better, by definition.
In his erudite and important book, I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, Claremont professor Charles R. Kesler explained that Obamism is the logical outcome of the progressive redefinition of freedom over the past century–and is creating a tipping point as the price of government-provided “freedom” increases beyond the ability of the private sector to finance it (my PJ Media review of the book is here). With his single sentence yesterday, Obama provided the movement with its new clarion call: ask not what “freedom” costs (or even what it means); ask what you can do to let government tax, borrow and spend to provide more of it.