Article published Monday, April 14, 2008, at Fox News.

Obama Bitter About Free Markets

By John R. Lott, Jr.

"In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations." — Barack Obama, Chicago Reader, Dec. 8, 1995.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was not only the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in 2007, according to the National Journal, but if he becomes the Democratic Party's nominee, he will probably be the most liberal politician to ever to get it.

Obama’s past stands, including opposing the death penalty under any circumstances, believing that people should not be able to own handguns, talking about doubling the capital gains tax or opposing free trade are not the only things that get him classified as a liberal.

Nor is it just his statements that paint an elitist, snobby, liberal view of the world.

For example, as most people now know, on April 6 in a fundraiser to extremely wealthy donors in San Francisco, Obama said people living in “these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest ... cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

But, while his left-wing economic views are much less well known, they show a similar pattern.

Obama also never seems to have found a market that can work without extensive government regulation. During Obama’s big economic address at the very end of March, little attention was given in the American press to his deep distrust of the free market and his laundry list of failures of deregulation.

From telecommunications to electricity to banking to accounting, he blamed the failures as a product of markets out of control, with not enough government regulations to rein in "an ethic of greed, corner cutting, insider dealing, things that have always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system."

According to Obama, deregulation, even under the Clinton administration, produced an “'anything goes' environment that helped foster devastating dislocations in our economy.” The proper government regulation can prevent the “chaotic, unforgiving” nature of capitalism.

For almost 30 years, Republican and Democratic administrations realized that mergers might create monopoly power, but that they often make it possible for firms to be run more efficiently — allowing firms to survive and grow and providing customers with lower cost products.

Obama’s view is that even the mergers the government did allow were largely not about making the economy better off, they were allowed because lobbyists successfully pushed through mergers that benefited firms at the expense of others. He implies that the firm’s gains were even smaller than the damage inflicted on consumers.

To Obama, the mortgage market problems arise because of unscrupulous lenders forcing fraudulent loans on unsuspecting customers. But why adjustable rate mortgages are fraudulent or so difficult to understand is never really explained. Do people not really understand that if interest rates go down, their monthly payments go down? If interest rates go up, the payments go up?

If interest rates go down and lenders lost money, would politicians be talking about unscrupulous borrowers instead of unscrupulous lenders?

Unfortunately, Obama thinks that he is not just running for president, but for America’s chief banker. He is so much smarter than the bankers, who have their jobs and money at stake, and who he thinks have messed up the mortgage market. He never even acknowledges that government regulations might be responsible. But a solution that he claims will prevent “larger losses” to the lenders requires that lenders must voluntarily “offer workouts and reduce the principal on mortgages in trouble.”

If accepting lower mortgage payments was such a clear solution, wouldn’t one think that even if the companies hadn’t seen this solution to begin with, you could just offer them the advice? Would it really be necessary to pass a law forcing them to do it?

Obama’s faith in the government to solve problems could also be seen earlier this month in Pennsylvania. Obama was asked about whether universal government health care insurance would result in the type of rationing that can be seen in other countries, but Obama claimed that a government run system would be much less expensive than a private system.

If true, it would be a first.

From exploring the Arctic to providing education, government provision has consistently proven to be much more costly than private operations.

He blames the U.S. health care system for any differences in life expectancy with other countries, but fails to acknowledge that people’s own behavior involving diet, exercise, use drugs and weight also affect how long people live. Nor does he acknowledge that people in countries such as Britain are much more likely to die from the same surgery as those in the U.S.

What was most disturbing was the end of his answer to the question: “I’m not advocating a government-run system, right now.”

Possibly, Obama’s approach for government to solve everything is what people are looking for. But it will cost them. People work harder and figure out solutions better when their own money is at stake. Hopefully, the lesson won’t be too costly.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

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