Fixing The Trust Deficit By Nation Building At Home


President Obama used two particularly grating phrases in his State of the Union address that former GOP presidential candidate (and Obama’s former ambassador to China) Jon Huntsman was noted for using, in most of the Republican presidential debates.

First up was “nation building at home”:

In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

Huntsman was last heard to talk about nation-building at home during the ABC News New Hampshire debate:

We have strengthened civil society. We’ve helped the military. We’ve helped the police. I believe it’s time to come home. And I would say within the first year of my administration, which is to say the end of 2013, I would want to draw them down. And I want to recognize Afghanistan for what it is. It is not a counter insurgency. I don’t want to be nation building in Southwest Asia when this nation is in such need of repair.

(Emphasis mine.) This was a very important talking point for Huntsman.  He used almost exactly the same words at the CBS News / National Journal foreign policy debate two months earlier:

I say this nation’s future is not Afghanistan. This nation’s future is not Iraq. This nation’s future is how prepared we are to meet the 21st Century competitive challenges. That’s economic and that’s education. And that’s gonna play out over the Asia-Pacific region. And we’re either prepared for that reality or we’re not. I don’t want to be nation building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.

But Obama didn’t swipe this rhetoric from Huntsman.  It’s the other way around.  Obama was talking about “nation-building at home” as far back as his Afghanistan draw-down speech in June:

Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource – our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.  America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

It’s a mystery why Huntsman didn’t sweep the Republican primaries after borrowing Barack Obama’s offensive rhetoric, isn’t it?  “Nation building at home.”  As if America is some kind of Third World wasteland waiting for a benevolent authority to come along and rebuild it.  As if our economic disaster wasn’t caused by the same politicians who want us to lie back and refrain from struggling while they “rebuild” us.

Along similar lines, Obama said in the 2012 State of the Union that he wants to “renew” America, as well as rebuilding it:

No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

Listening to the man who is on track to single-handedly double the national debt – he will unquestionably succeed, if he gets re-elected – carp about “bad debt” is grimly amusing.  There’s no debt as bad as Barack Obama’s.  No CEO who spilled that kind of red ink would survive at a private corporation, and no private concern would survive Obama-style leadership.  A business is in trouble when its liabilities exceed its assets.  All of the nations of the Earth, acting in unison, could not pay off our new $16 trillion national debt.

But on the subject of renewing those American values: who’s been in charge for the last three years, while they expired?  Maybe this fiery Obama fellow should look up that miserable failure of a President and give him a piece of his mind.  The key to the Obama 2012 campaign lies in convincing gullible voters that Obama just got to Washington yesterday, and is astonished by the mess he discovered.  Shouldn’t the candidates running against the incumbent President be the ones talking about “renewing” and “rebuilding?”

The other idea Obama and Huntsman both pushed hard is the “deficit of trust.”  Here’s Obama talking about it during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech:

The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?

I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad – and it seems to get worse every year.

Huntsman hit this point constantly during his campaign ads and debate appearances.  The “trust deficit” made its last prominent appearance during the ABC News New Hampshire debate:

Because let’s face it, we have a serious trust deficit in this nation. The American people now longer trust our institutions of power. And they no longer trust our elected officials. And I’m here to tell you that we must find, not just a commander-in-chief, not just a president, not just a visionary, but we’ve got to find somebody who can reform Congress and do what needs to be done with respect to leading the charge on term limits.

Obama and Huntsman profoundly misunderstand the central “trust” issue in America today.  There is no way to build broad-based “trust” between a redistributive State practicing command economics, and the people it taxes and compels.  The people targeted for the confiscatory side of re-distribution have every reason to distrust the State, especially when its demands are so mercurial. 

The hated “top One Percent” earns about 17 percent of the income in the United States, but pays 37 percent of the taxes… and yet, they are angrily told they’re not paying their “fair share.”  Obama does this incessantly, and did it again during the State of the Union address.  None of the class warriors ever gets around to saying what a “fair share” would be – it’s obviously not taxes commensurate with their share of overall income, because they’re paying more than double that now.  There is no logical way to predict what the State and its worshippers will decide is “fair” tomorrow, so why should the targets of their envy ever feel inclined to “trust” them?

Command economics, which are the defiance of market logic, can never be “trusted.”  The political class does what its ideology suggests, after receiving plenty of input from top campaign contributors.  Almost every force they exert upon the economy is, by definition, contrary to the choices of free individuals, and is designed to over-ride the judgment of the free market.  All the political class can offer is promises, and the promises of today’s Administration and Congress cannot bind their successors.

But more importantly, the real “deficit of trust” in this country runs in the opposite direction from what Obama and Huntsman complained about.  The real problem is that our government no longer trusts its citizens.  They can’t be trusted to manage their own health care, make their own employment decisions, or buy the products they desire.  They can’t be trusted to invest for their own retirement, manage natural resources, or take entrepreneurial risks.  This long, rambling, frequently delusional State of the Union address was more evidence that Obama’s not going to renew his faith in the American people any time soon.