Pres. Obama’s detractors in the media compare him to Pres. Carter, whose watch included economic malaise, foreign policy failures, and leftist politics, but Obama’s attitudes and policies are closer to Pres. Nixon. From enemy lists in the media, to manipulating the legal system, to attempting to half win / half exit a war, to disastrous monetary policy, Obama is Nixon part II.
It is hard to believe now, but Nixon, like Obama, ran on a platform of bringing America together. Neither president advanced that goal, of course. Nixon taped himself committing to “screw” his enemies both in the media and in politics. Obama is no better, publicly denigrating targeted media outlets and referring to whites as “enemies,” who should be “punished.” Nixon did his fair share of spying; Obama is more open about his intrusions into personal privacy via federal control of the internet. Both men turned out to be polarizing, largely due to their personal styles.
Both Presidents inherited protracted wars without a clear definition of victory. Both promised to end their wars once in office. Nixon simultaneously sued for peace in Paris and expanded Vietnam War’s theater to include Cambodia and bombing of Hanoi. Obama has promised a withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan while also escalating drone assassinations against the Taliban. Sending mixed signals was bad strategy in Vietnam, and seems to also be encouraging the Taliban to persevere in Afghanistan. The fact that Pres. Karzai is negotiating with the Taliban for a future without the US shows that he is not optimistic about Obama’s strategy.
The greatest parallel between Obama and Nixon is in their common belief in central economic planning. While Nixon was a Republican, he was also a left wing Keynesian and a command and control regulator. Nixon destroyed the oil industry’s incentive to increase production through regulation. In moves repudiated since FDR, Nixon instituted wage and price freezes four times. Nixon took the US off the gold standard and created a monetary system based solely on government fiat. While Carter often gets the blame for the hyperinflation of the 1970’s, Nixon’s destruction of confidence in the US Dollar and his return to FDR’s communist economic central planning were the real causes. Carter was mostly a hapless observer to the wreckage he inherited.
Nixon followed the standard Keynesian central planning economic model, and whenever Keynesianism is applied, economies fail. Whenever an economy gets into trouble, the academics prescribe Keynesian currency devaluation. In theory, devaluation makes sovereign debt more affordable, imports more expensive, and exports more marketable – good things for an economy. In reality, devaluation causes hyperinflation, a collapse in capital investment, unemployment, and economic stagnation. The reason for the difference between theory and reality is that investment relies on confidence in a currency’s value. If devaluation can wipe out savings at any time, capitalists have no foundation for investment that fuels employment and economic growth. Devaluation is just a kind word for stealing private savings to pay for public debt. Devaluation always causes economic destruction (e.g. Argentina in 1999, the US in 1933, Japan in the 1990’s, the US in the 1970’s, Mexico in 1994). How many times must a theory fail in real world trials before it is abandoned?
The current Obama policies of currency devaluation through quantitative easing and deficit spending, if not reversed immediately, will result in the same economic failures as before. By taking the Keynesian prescription, Obama is repeating Nixon’s mistakes. The parallels are probably coincidental, but like Nixon, Obama is polarizing and thuggish, he seeks to regulate the economy to his tastes, he fights a war without absolute victory as a goal, and most strikingly, he has waged war on the US dollar by pursuing a discredited economic model. So, the next time someone compares Obama to Carter, give the Georgian a break; Obama is much more like Nixon.