By Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott
President Obama’s latest catch phrase, “new economic patriotism,” is neither new nor necessarily patriotic.
In Europe, the term historically has had a socialist connotation. It has been used to describe the government takeover of private industry.
In a two-minute Web advertisement released last Wednesday, Obama delivered a video message calling for a “new economic patriotism” that purportedly benefits the middle class while taxing the rich.
“It’s time for a new economic patriotism,” Obama declared in the ad, “rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class.”
Some in the conservative blogosphere have been hard at work guessing what the mantra means.
Erika Johnson at Hot Air attempted to interpret the Obama ad’s “economic fairness” as code language for “more stimulus.” Johnson concludes with “‘New economic patriotism’? Does that sound severely creepy to anyone else?”
Becket Adams wrote at The Blaze, “We suppose the president refers to his ‘economic patriotism’ as ‘new’ because, obviously, he’s not opposed to adding trillions of dollars to our national debt.”
“Four years ago, you may recall, he thought it was ‘patriotic’ to oppose this sort of fiscal insanity. But that was then, this is now. Out with the ‘old’ economic patriotism and in with the ‘new,’” Becket added.
Obama first teased the term several weeks before last week’s ad was released.
In an Aug. 28 speech in Ohio, Obama echoed the charge by former Ohio governor and current Obama re-election co-chairman Ted Strickland, who claimed Mitt Romney’s overseas investments were an example of his “lack of patriotism.”
Alexander Burns pointed out at Politico that Strickland also used the phrase in his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Burns wrote:
“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands, and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps,” Strickland said then.
Toward the end of his speech, Strickland said: “Barack Obama is an economic patriot. Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer.”
However, these authors found the use of the phrase “economic patriotism” did not originate with Strickland, Obama, or Biden – nor is Obama’s “economic patriotism” plan “new”.
In September 1988, presidential candidates Michael S. Dukakis and Richard A. Gephardt both spoke of “economic fairness.”
T.R. Reid reported in the Washington Post in 1988 that Dukakis used the phrase to refer to “good jobs” at “good wages”:
(I)ncreasingly these days Michael S. Dukakis is coming to resemble one of the Democrats he defeated in this year’s presidential primaries: Rep. Richard A. Gephardt.
As he shapes and tones his basic set of speeches for the fall campaign, Dukakis has been echoing the populist, nationalistic message, absent the legislative prescriptions, that Gephardt used last spring. His message then was that American workers need Democratic leadership to protect them from merger-minded financiers on Wall Street and from competition abroad where workers benefit from government help.
When Gephardt enunciated it, this line of argument was capsulized in terms such as “competitiveness” and “economic nationalism.” Dukakis has repackaged it under the label “economic patriotism” and has added a new phrase at the end of his favorite campaign promise. These days, after pledging “good jobs at good wages,” he adds “in the good old U.S.A.”
The “good jobs at good wages” mantra is a major progressive policy agenda that commonly refers to government regulation of jobs as well as a “living wage” – meaning the government raising the minimum wage to meet the so-called basic needs of the worker.
Gephardt himself did not engineer the introduction of the “economic patriotism” meme in 1988, according to the Washington Post.
The man behind the mantra was veteran Democratic “wordsmith” Robert Shrum, “who crafted Gephardt’s embrace of economic nationalism in the primaries. A key element of Gephardt’s message was his backing of tough trade legislation that Dukakis at the time criticized as protectionist,” the Post reported in 1988.
Democrats running against President George H.W. Bush in the next campaign – Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas – renewed the use of “economic patriotism.”
In Europe, “economic patriotism” routinely refers to the government takeover of private industries.
In March 2006, the European Report reported, “The reappearance of the old problem of economic patriotism and its protectionist undertones was the flavour of the month at the euro-zone Finance Ministers’ meeting in Brussels on 13 March.”
Alex Brummer reported in the London Daily Mail on the intra-European Union squabbles between England, France and Italy:
France has a long and honourable tradition of economic patriotism dating back to Jean-Baptiste Colbert in the 19th century.
The difficulty is that its one-sided approach to takeovers is opposed to the idea of the free and open markets espoused by the European Union. …
Backdoor nationalization and dilution of governance are unacceptable however big the price tag.
A few months later, in June 2006, Deutsche Bank published a study emphasizing the negative effects of emerging “economic patriotism,” or government takeovers, on the development of the EU’s single market”:
The study summarizes the theoretical arguments against protectionist industrial policy, pointing out that the damage caused to the economy by active intervention far outweighs any benefits thus gained. All the evidence indicates that state activity should focus on creating development-friendly framework conditions in line with Single Market principles rather than resorting to protectionist measures, says Deutsche Bank.
The report noted France “is perceived as the home of economic patriotism.”
Continued the report: “The French government deliberately pursues a strategy aimed at creating national champions by offering financial assistance and political support to specific companies. This involves direct intervention by the state in corporate decisions.”
Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott are the authors of the recently released New York Times bestselling book, “Fool Me Twice: Obama’s shocking plans for four more years exposed.”