Austin Hill: On economic issues, President Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez have much in common.
He campaigned against private sector economic mismanagement, and the "harsh realities" of global capitalism. He pledged during his campaign to end corruption in both the government and the private sector.
After he took office, he claimed he had inherited the worst economic situation in his country's recent history. And then, the new president sought to consolidate his power. Once privately owned enterprises became government-owned and -operated entities, and were "restructured" so as to become, essentially, "workers' cooperatives."
Not surprisingly, unemployment remained persistently high, even as the new president implemented his much-celebrated "reform" measures. And while private citizens had to struggle with the worsening economic conditions, government officials nonetheless continued to exert increasing levels of control over the nation's wealth, and continued to enrich themselves from that wealth.
Does this seem like a description of the first 11 months of the Obama presidency? What I've described here thus far portrays the conduct of President Barack Obama and members of his administration fairly succinctly.
Yet, this is actually a description of the ascendency of Hugo Chavez, the once freely elected president and now rapidly-morphing-into-a-dictator of Venezuela. In fact, you could call this a textbook case - this is my paraphrase of a description of Chavez that appears in "International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace," a textbook currently used among MBA students at Arizona State University and many of America's other top graduate business schools.
The similarities between Obama and Chavez are striking. The story of Chavez's early days in office deviates from Obama's story at the point where Chavez was able to arbitrarily change the makeup of Venezuela's "supreme court," and thus rewrite the nation's constitution so as to legally enhance his own power and control.
But on economic issues, Obama and Chavez have much in common. The president "consolidated his power" as he "inherited" the worst economic situation in his country's recent history. That sounds like the rhetoric of Obama's brief few weeks as president-elect, his first six months in office, and the establishment of his many "czars." Once privately owned enterprises became government-owned and -operated entities, and were "restructured" so as to become, essentially, "workers' cooperatives." General Motors and Chrysler should come to mind on this one.
And just as it is in Venezuela, so also it is in the United States - our economy is still not growing. We may be seeing early signs of growth now (we'll know in the coming months), but I'm not offering a forecast here. My point is simply that after 11 months of the Obama administration's corporate bailouts (a perverse process that former President George W. Bush began last year, and that President Obama has accelerated), a forced bankruptcy of one of America's largest corporations, and the administration's continuous belittling and demeaning of corporate executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and even, at times, the medical profession, neither economic activity nor employment has grown, yet Obama nonetheless has much more control over our economy, and over individual people.
Along with additional control of economic resources, an augmented constitution, and a military that frequently turns against the citizenry, the Chavez administration has also pursued an aggressive path of control over Venezuela's media. This has meant implementing so-called media contents laws that define what media content is appropriate and inappropriate for children. For example, allowing TV stations to show video of military troops shooting at citizens would be too violent for children's eyes, so that kind of content is prohibited. This year alone, Chavez has closed down radio stations and seized TV stations that dared to broadcast content that disagreed with him.
While violence has not yet erupted in the pursuit of "Obama's America," our president's czar of "information and regulatory affairs," Cass Sunstein, has nonetheless proposed a notice-and-take-down law. Under this provision, those who operate Web sites - The Washington Post, radio stations, private bloggers, perhaps even you - we would all be required to "take down falsehoods upon notice" from the U.S. government. Who would determine what is "true" and "false"? The Obama administration, of course.
Thus far, control has been the predominant objective of the Obama presidency. It is difficult to argue this pursuit has produced good things for the American people. Yet the pursuit continues, just as it has in Venezuela and elsewhere around the world.
Will Americans continue to allow this?
Austin Hill's commentaries appear every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country, including Arizona's Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM). To join Austin as he talks with Arizona's newsmakers, watch "The Austin Hill Web TV Show" on Arizona Web TV.