During the last administration Charles Krauthammer identified “Bush derangement syndrome”, which he defined as, “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.” Apparently, it’s contagious because I am noticing more and more people on the right who seem to have been inflicted, albeit with a different strain. Case in point: George Melloan’s op-ed on the Wall Street Journal this morning.
In the op-ed, Melloan laments Obama’s rhetoric and rising food prices:
Barack Obama spends much of his time these days running for re-election, campaigning as a populist, bashing millionaires and extolling the Occupy Wall Street movement. Although “populist” means different things to different people, the Oxford American dictionary says it describes a politician who seeks to represent the interests of ordinary people. So how does the president measure up as a true populist? Not well.
Food prices are an important component of the living expenses of ordinary people, especially the elderly or families struggling to make ends meet. Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast that food prices will rise by 3.5%-4.5% this year, the sharpest year-to-year increase since 1978. (That year, by the way, was prelude to 1979-80 double-digit inflation, when prices at one point in 1980 were soaring at nearly 15% annually.)
Subsequently, one waits for Melloan to tie those two points together, but to no avail. The remainder of the piece is about how the Fed is monetizing the debt and how inflation hurts the poor. Then we get the conclusion:
As Mr. Obama flies from speech to speech at taxpayer expense in his fuel-guzzling Boeing 747, he may well have little understanding of how much his campaign rhetoric rings false in light of the economic realities he as president had an important role in creating. He probably thinks it’s still 2008 and he is still campaigning on a platform of “hope and change.”
But it’s 2011 and the president’s economic policies have been a disaster. The auguries for the future are not looking good. He is unlikely to change policies; it would be very difficult to do so with the federal fisc in such a mess. So his chosen solution is populist rhetoric. As the old saying goes, that won’t put food on the table.
I read the article twice and I’m still confused. So here are my questions to Melloan:
1. What can Obama do about rising food prices?
2. Is populist rhetoric causing rising food prices?