President Obama last night continued his hijacking of the American Dream. Using language long accepted as part of the American tradition, he struck a pose as a defender of hard work, responsibility, and other traditional values. We should not be fooled. His vision of the American Dream is not the real deal. Rather, it is an imaginary vision long dreamed of by America’s progressives, but also long rejected by the American people.
Obama’s “North Star,” a phrase he used in last night’s State of the Union speech, is to redefine what Americans expect of their government, and in turn, to transform what the government has a right to do to Americans.
He claims he wants to restore the “basic bargain that built this country.” If that were true, he would be reducing the dependence of people on government. After all, for most of its history, Americans looked to themselves, not government, to get ahead in life.
But that is not what he means. It is clear from all the new programs he proposed last night, and before, that Obama’s American Dream is mainly about what the government can do for people. It’s about government benefits and services. It’s not what people should be given a right and freedom to do for themselves.
When the President says he wants to restore an American where “you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like or who you love,” you can rest assured he doesn’t mean what most Americans are hearing. It sounds as if he’s raising a flag in defense of self-reliance and responsibility. But that’s not what he’s doing. From all the new government programs he has proposed it’s clear he means the exact opposite: doubling down on the welfare state and adding a crippling debt that mortgages our children’s future.
When he talks about building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” you can bet he doesn’t mean empowering individuals with the equality of opportunity. He doesn’t think of liberalizing the economy to get it growing again, which would help bring lower-income people into the middle class. Rather, he means using government programs for lower-income people, which traps them in poor and dangerous neighborhoods.
When he calls for stronger families, you would think that he means reducing that welfare dependency that has accompanied the breakup of families in low-income neighborhoods. But in reality, he has only doubled down on the welfare state that has decimated these families.
When he suggests encouraging “free enterprise,” you would think he means cutting regulations so businesses can start hiring again. But his support for the Dodd-Frank financial bill and other regulations imposed on the economy is moving the country in the opposite direction.
Here’s an idea: How about we start a truth in advertising campaign concerning the American Dream? No spin. No twisting of meanings of words. Just a straightforward understanding of what it has meant to Americans down the ages.
Maybe then, at least the American people would understand where Obama is taking the country.
Kim R. Holmes is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of a forthcoming book on how to get America back on track.