Obama Instructs the Europeans

Today in Hannover, Germany, President Obama laid out for Europe’s citizens his vision of the world. In a wide-ranging speech, which you can read here, Obama urged Europeans to uphold the European Union–that message was directed largely to the English–to welcome endless numbers of refugees, and much more. Parts of the speech were pretty good. Other parts, one is tempted to dissect line by line. But I will try to resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s highlight just one part of Obama’s lecture, in which he acknowledged the tough economic times over which he has presided:

Across our countries, including in the United States, a lot of workers and families are still struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis in generations.

The worst since 1980, anyway. The real problem is the weak recovery, the worst in modern history.

And that trauma of millions who lost their jobs and their homes and their savings is still felt. And meanwhile, there are profound trends underway that have been going on for decades — globalization, automation that — in some cases, of depressed wages, and made workers in a weaker position to bargain for better working conditions. Wages have stagnated in many advanced countries while other costs have gone up. Inequality has increased. And for many people, it’s harder than ever just to hold on.

Obama acknowledges that “globalization,” a phenomenon for which he is not responsible, has depressed wages, especially among the less skilled. He completely fails to admit, however, that in the U.S. as well as Europe, mass immigration of millions of unskilled and semiskilled workers has likewise, and even more, held wages down. If competition from a worker in Bangladesh–globalization–holds down wages in the U.S. and Europe, why doesn’t it depress incomes at least as much, if not more, if millions of unskilled Bangladeshis (or whatever) are imported into the U.S. or Europe? Economists have documented a significant negative impact on wages resulting from our feckless policy of mass importation of unskilled workers.

It is interesting, too, that Obama recognizes that automation can unemploy workers or suppress their wages. How much greater this impact will be if we make it illegal to hire anyone for less than $15 an hour, Obama doesn’t say.

This is happening in Europe; we see some of these trends in the United States and across the advanced economies. And these concerns and anxieties are real. They are legitimate. They cannot be ignored, and they deserve solutions from those in power.

This is typical Obama: the problems that he describes “deserve solutions from those in power,” but hasn’t he been in power for more than seven years? What have his solutions been? Why have they failed? As usual with Obama’s speeches, reality never intrudes. Obama blithely encourages Europeans to admit unlimited numbers of immigrants from the Islamic world, while refusing to address the social and economic consequences of such a feckless policy.

Barack Obama’s view of the world is weirdly myopic. Thus, he said:

For a lot of years, it was thought that countries had to choose between economic growth and economic inclusion. Now we know the truth — when wealth is increasingly concentrated among the few at the top, it’s not only a moral challenge to us but it actually drags down a country’s growth potential. We need growth that is broad and lifts everybody up.

Does Obama really not understand that the ultimate instance of concentrating wealth among “the few at the top” was Cuba? Doesn’t he know that socialist Venezuela under Chavez, whom Obama apparently admired, spawned a a few multi-billionaires in an ocean of poverty? As is so often the case, it is hard to tell whether Obama is ignorant of the facts or is laughing at the poor suckers who take him seriously.

How many days before this liar/ignoramus–take your pick–departs the stage? It can’t come too soon.


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