Obama Doesn’t Really Believe in Free Enterprise

The president says he believes in capitalism but his policies suggest otherwise.

President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16
President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16 (Obama for America/Scout Tufankjian)

President Barack Obama hailed free enterprise in his debate with Republican Mitt Romney in Hempstead, New York on Tuesday night. His policies in the last four years have shown anything but an appreciation of capitalism.

“I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known,” said the president. “I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But,” he added, “I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules.” Specifically, he called for tax increases on the rich as part of a “balanced” approach to fiscal consolidation.

Even if taxes on incomes over $1 million were raised to 100 percent, the revenue would fall roughly $300 billion short of mending a $900 billion deficit. That is assuming those people would keep earning money and why should they?

So the president’s program of giving everyone a “fair shot” isn’t really about taxes. It’s about the government deciding that certain people and certain industries don’t have a “fair shot” in the free enterprise system and should intervene to make sure that they do.

The president was far more earnest in Virginia three months ago when he spoke about government investments in infrastructure. “If you’ve got a business,” he said, “you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

So much for his professed respect for “self-reliance” and “risk takers.” What about his belief in free enterprise?

If the president believes in free enterprise, why did his administration spent nearly $40 billion in energy subsidies last year? Why has it all but stopped issuing permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, made it nigh impossible to build coal plants but pushed Renewable Fuel Standards that increase the cost of gasoline?

American energy policy has little to do with capitalism. Taking money from coal producers to prop up solar panel companies distorts the market. If consumers really would rather have solar panels on their roofs than buy electricity that is produced from coal, they would. They don’t because coal is cheaper. Hence the need for subsidies.

Similarly, if consumers would rather drive an electric car than one powered by gasoline, they would them but they don’t, unless there is a subsidy on them that is financed by taxing Americans who do drive a traditional car. How is that giving everyone a “fair shot”?

That is what “doing things together” amounts to though — government taking from some and giving to others. It’s the very opposite of everybody “playing by the same rules.”