Old-fashioned Obama

by Ryan Streeter on September 27, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Michael Barone picks up on the theme Walter Russell Mead has been hammering away on for awhile, and which I think is the biggest overall shortcoming of the Obama presidency: Obama’s outdated, old-fashioned model of policymaking.

Obama continues to appeal to younger voters, though not nearly as much as in 2008, and yet his biggest policy gambits are, as Barone says, industrial age solutions to information age problems.

Mead, who as Barone points out voted for Obama in 2008, has referred to Obama’s policies as a war on the young. The President applies Great-Society-type solutions, built for a bygone age, to today’s problems, with Millennials ironically as the biggest losers.

Barone writes:

Post-World War II America was a nation of big units: the leaders of big government, big business and big labor made decisions and provided security for those in their organizations.

If you went to college, you could go into management or a profession and expect a lifetime of good earnings and a comfy pension. If you got a factory job, it was for life, and unions bargained for ever-higher wages and benefits.

That’s not the America we live in anymore. Government has grown bigger. But big business doesn’t generate jobs; most are created by small businesses and startup. Unions have shrunk, and most union members are public employees.

Meanwhile, public policies have remained in place. Every year government transfers increasing amounts from working-age taxpayers to the elderly through Social Security and Medicare. Obamacare amplifies this by requiring young workers to buy expensive insurance far beyond their needs.

Obama supporters would point to his stance on student loans and Obamacare’s provision that young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 as evidence of his progressiveness. But that’s exactly the point. These policies are holdovers of clunky solutions to problems that need new solutions today.

Look around and see where the most cutting-edge innovation is happening on K-12 education reform, higher ed reform, green tech, energy efficiency, energy exploration, financing new businesses – we could go on – and Obama’s fingerprints are nowhere to be found on any of them.

Barone points to one example that sums it up well: Obama’s fascination with high-speed rail just at the point in history when Google is developing driverless cars. The future of personal transport is heading in one direction, and Obama – once again – is going in the other.