[T]o what degree, after nearly five years in office, has Obama succeeded in changing the United States?
Federal spending. We are $6 trillion more deeply in debt. And there are record numbers of Americans on food stamps, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance, or simply disengaged from the work force. Obama has also fundamentally changed Americans’ ideas about the redistributive state.
Whereas, under Clinton and Bush, the argument centered on whether federal subsidies eroded the work ethic, created dependency, and led to a permanent underclass, now the discussion is quite transformed beyond the safety net. Fairly or not, Obama is seen as expanding entitlements in part as a political tool, quite apart from the question of their efficacy in eliminating poverty….
Taxes and debt. Democrats usually wish to raise them, Republicans to shrink them. Nothing new there. But under Obama, there is now a twist. Higher taxes are not a means to achieve a balanced budget, as under the Clinton-Gingrich deal of 1997. Indeed, the return of a 39 percent–plus federal income-tax rate on higher incomes will result not in a balanced budget as before (even with congressionally imposed sequestration). We will still have huge annual deficits of two-thirds of a trillion dollars or more.