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After Obama

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

We can imagine what lies ahead in 2017 — no matter the result of either the 2014 midterm elections or the 2016 presidential outcome.

There will be no more $1 trillion deficits. About $10 trillion will have been added to the national debt during the Obama administration, on top of the more than $4 trillion from the prior eight-year George W. Bush administration. That staggering bipartisan sum will force the next president to be a deficit hawk, both fiscally and politically.

In addition, there will be no huge new federal spending programs — no third or fourth stimulus, no vast new entitlements. The debt is so large and voters so tired of massive borrowing that the next president will talk not of “investments” but of balancing the budget. In 2016, President Hillary Clinton or President Marco Rubio will tell us that cutting spending and living within our means is the new cool.

If eight years of borrowing, printing, spending, and lending vast sums of money at zero interest did not lead to economic recovery, then the antithesis of all that will be the explicit platform of Republicans and the implicit one of Democrats.

Obamacare may remain in name, but in fact most of its provisions will be discarded or amended. Its full implementation next year will result in almost everything that was not supposed to happen: higher healthcare premiums, rationed care, scarcer doctors and fewer jobs. Obamacare will mostly go the way of the Defense of Marriage Act — officially the law of the land, but its enforcement simply ignored by the powers that be.

Despite an increase in carbon emissions since 2000, the planet did not heat up in the last 15 years. Scientists will continue to argue over global warming, but politicians will not talk much more of implementing costly cap-and-trade policies. They will still praise green energy as the way of the future, but they will not continue the massive subsidies to substitute it for far cheaper fossil fuels.

Instead, expect a renewal of federal oil and natural gas leases on public lands. There is too much newly discovered recoverable energy on federal property to continue to delay its full production — and too much of an upside in cheaper gas at the pump, more independence from Middle East autocracies, more jobs, more money and more economic growth.

Do not expect the same level of increases in disability and unemployment insurance and in food stamps. The trajectories of all those programs since 2009 are not sustainable. For all the talk that Social Security and Medicare are not in bad shape, Democrats and Republicans after Obama will be forced to save both programs by either upping the eligibility age, curbing some benefits or hiking payroll taxes — or all that and more.

The next president will jettison the sort of class warfare that has led only to short-term political gain and long-term polarization. Obama’s “fat cats” and “one percenters” will disappear from the presidential vocabulary. We will hear no more accusations that the successful really did not build their own businesses, or that they should have known when it was time not to profit because they had made quite enough money. Expect just the opposite: a Bill Clinton-like schmoozing of small businesses to please start buying, hiring and expanding again.

Aside from the partisan furor over whether the Obama policies have worked — Democrats will say that things would have been worse without them; Republicans will insist that a natural recovery was turned into long-term doldrums — we will not see them continued.

We are institutionalizing, in European style, huge government, high unemployment, sluggish GDP growth, serial annual deficits, ballooning aggregate national debt and massive dependency, along with near-zero interest rates. The two parties will disagree over the contours of this chronically weak economy, but not over the fact of its weakness — or soon, even its causes. Most Americans will not wish to continue down the road to Italy or Spain.

Barack Obama is a landmark figure: young, charismatic, seemingly post-national and supposedly post-racial. For those reasons alone, he enjoys a level of unshakeable political support not predicated on the actual record of his tenure as president — in the manner most remember fondly that he won the Nobel Prize but don’t quite know what he did to earn it.

Obama’s economic record will be dispassionately acknowledged to be similar to that of Jimmy Carter. But, unlike Carter, Obama will remain a mythical figure in liberal circles.

To borrow a line from a classic Western, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And so we will do just that.

©2013 Tribune Media Services

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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