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If Only D'Souza Were Right

Mises Daily: Monday, September 03, 2012 by

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2016: Obama's America

I went to see 2016: Obama's America. Dinesh D'Souza wrote, stars in, directed, narrates, and did the original research for it. If we look at this from the point of view of its success as a documentary, I think it is effective. It is making money in theaters. This is amazing for a documentary. It is a campaign-year documentary, and it is a good one.

It is also dead wrong. That is because it misses the fundamental political fact of the last dozen years: the Obama administration is the operational successor of the Bush administration. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, on Wall Street, Barack Obama is George W. Bush in blackface. Obama is the star of a 21-century minstrel show.

This fact has been deliberately ignored for almost four years by both the neoconservative Right and the grin-and-bear-it Left. Neither side will admit what I regard as the fundamental fact of this documentary. It is a long whitewash of the policies of George W. Bush.

The On-Budget Deficit

If you understand this early, you can see it in what is by far the best section of the movie. It appears at the end. It is an interview with the ever-eloquent David Walker, who resigned in 2008 from his job as comptroller general — senior accountant — of the United States.

This date is crucial: the last year of the Bush administration.

I need to make three observations. First, the deficit is vastly worse than the movie portrays. The movie sticks with the nonissue: the on-budget debt of $15 trillion, which is chump change, while never mentioning the central problem: the $222 trillion present value of the unfunded liabilities of the off-budget deficit, meaning the deficits of politically sacrosanct Social Security and Medicare. This is the heart of the federal government's highly entertaining Punch and Judy show over the deficit, with Paul Ryan as Punch and Obama cross-dressing as Judy.

Second, Walker has spent years warning the public about the unsustainable increase of the on-budget federal debt. He was eloquent on camera. But, central to that presentation is the fact that he blamed George W. Bush as much as he blamed Obama. He says on camera that the turning point on the deficit began with Bush's presidency. He showed that we are headed for a fiscal disaster, and it may overtake us during the presidency of whoever is elected in 2016.

In terms of the on-budget deficit, Obama's administration is an extension of Bush's.

Dinesh D'Souza

Miss this, and you miss the whitewash. This documentary is an implicit whitewash. It relies on an assumption, namely, that we are not dealing in 2012 with a single political administration, which began in January 2001. Sadly, we are.

The key to understanding this is Timothy Geithner, who was the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank (privately owned) in 2008, and is the secretary of the Treasury now. He does not appear in the documentary.

Third, neither Walker nor D'Souza mentions on-screen what should be the obvious constitutional fact — namely, that it is the Congress that legally initiates all spending bills, and it is the House of Representatives that holds the hammer constitutionally. There was not one word in the movie about the Congress of the United States as being constitutionally in authority over the budget of the United States government. How in the world could anyone make a documentary that focuses at the very end on the central problem that the country faces, and then try to pin the tail on Obama as the donkey?

We are living in a bipartisan, congressionally mandated, slow-motion train wreck. The Congress of the United States could stop Obama today as easily as it could have stopped Bush. Congress is not interested in stopping the deficit; it is interested in avoiding all responsibility for the annual $1.2 trillion on-budget disaster that is the federal budgetary process.

The fiscal killer of killers in Bush's administration was never mentioned: the prescription-drug law that Bush signed in 2003. The vote was close in Congress. If he had vetoed it, it would never have passed. Instead, he turned the signing into a pageant. He brought in thousands of seniors to witness it. He announced: "You are here to witness the greatest advance in health care coverage for America's seniors since the founding of Medicare."

This sell-out to Teddy Kennedy (who refused to attend), added at least $8.7 trillion to the unfunded liability of Medicare. Yet it is never mentioned in the documentary. Instead, the documentary focuses on Obamacare, whose burden is mainly on the private sector and actually relieves some of the Medicare payments. In any case, that law was really Pelosicare. She was the ramrod. The documentary has one brief segment on her. It skips the point: bad as that law is, she was far more responsible for it than he was.

The Economy

A related thing that bothers me intensely is the fact that the documentary tries to pin the bad economy on Obama. The bad economy should be pinned on Alan Greenspan, with considerable help from his successor.

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To suggest that the president of the United States has the power to make the economy worse to imply that he also has the power to make the economy terrible. He has limited power either way, unless he drags us into a war. Bush dragged us into two wars.

Ron Paul always was right for 36 years in not pointing to the president as the main economic problem, but rather the Federal Reserve System. So, any documentary that does not go after the Federal Reserve when it talks about economic problems but blames the president instead, and also ignores Congress, is doing the general public an enormous disservice. It keeps the Federal Reserve in the background in the thinking of the viewers, when the Federal Reserve ought to be in the foreground, with the presidency in the background. This is basic economics. D'Souza does not know what he is talking about with respect to economics.