Ed Morrissey and Rich Lowry have noticed that Obama has not laid out any vision of what he might do in a second term as President. They think he’s put his energy into attacking Mitt Romney rather than developing and explaining a second-term agenda. They’re right to notice that Obama is making no positive case for his reelection, but wrong, I think, to believe that he doesn’t have one. Lest this sound conspiratorial, all one has to do is look at the agenda of various regulatory agencies to understand what Obama’s second term might look like.
First, the EPA. It’s already claimed the right to regulate carbon emissions. That’s going to accelerate in a second term. Obama promised in 2008 to get rid of coal as an energy source; that’s going to happen early in a second term. (Austin Energy is trying to sell its interest in a coal-fired plant—a move that makes no economic or environmental sense—because they fear that soon the plant will be worthless.) As Obama promised, electricity rates in much of the country will skyrocket. The EPA is going to mandate that coal generation be replaced by renewable energy sources, which are roughly ten times as expensive as running coal plants. They’re also far less reliable. The result: electricity costs are going to soar to three-to-four times their current level, and the electricity grid is going to become far less reliable. Brownouts and blackouts are going to become frequent occurrences. It’s not easy to run on the agenda.
The EPA is also going to crack down on fracking and refining, doing its best to impede the domestic energy industry. That will drive up the price of gasoline—Secretary Chu wants it to double again, to $8-10 a gallon—which will devastate the economy, adding significantly to the price of everything that has to be shipped to market, which is just about everything. Heating oil, natural gas, and other energy sources will all become more expensive. This will have important foreign policy implications, too, keeping us dependent on foreign oil and maintaining a large flow of funds from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Middle East.
Since this will hit the poor and middle class most of all, expect moves to expand welfare programs. We’re already spending over a trillion dollars a year on welfare. Expect to see that soar further. Subsidies for public transportation boondoggles, such as California’s high-speed rail system, are also going to expand.
All this will make the federal deficit even larger than it is now, with alarming economic implications. Expect Obama to propose tax rates like those Hollande is proposing in France, as well as a Value-Added Tax. An economic crisis will hit soon enough, and Obama is going to use it to impose draconian tax rates, not just on the rich, but on all those who manage to have a job after other elements of his agenda are implemented.
This just scratches the surface, but you get the idea. He does have a second-term agenda. It’s just that these aren’t very effective bumper stickers: