On this Good Friday—Passover—Easter weekend observance, I present an email that has just arrived. It is from the person veteran readers will recall as "the Atlas Shrugged Guy." Its subject line was "So..." and it read in full:
Still worshiping at the alter of socialism?
Here is why I find this fascinating.
Back during the 2012 Obama-Romney re-election battle, a reader (whose real name, location, and business details I have known from the start) sent in a series of increasingly impassioned "we're about to lose our country!" messages. A sample from just before election day:
Subject: What happens if Obama wins?
I will tell you what happens, I close my business of 10 years and lay off my employees. I am done. Thats what happens. You might consider me one of those know nothings but I am highly educated, run a high technology company with several very high paying positions and am very much steeped in US History and am a stalwart in the notion of individual liberty and self reliance. Freedom and liberty built this nation, not parasites like Obama and ilk. Obama has never produce anything in his life. Nothing, zero. Yet he is qualified to lead? Really? I have worked for leaders and he is no leader.
He ended up sending many, many messages, including his responses to criticisms from other readers. I have a compendium and chronology in this post; the full Atlas Shrugged Guy archives are here. Some historian, at some point, could have a Hofstader-style field day with this material.
As the months have gone on and most economic indicators have improved, I've sometimes wondered what happened to this guy.
Obviously there is more to national life than economic indicators. And obviously too a case can be made against Obama's record from a variety of perspectives, even though (as I argued before his reelection run) I think he's avoided or corrected a far larger number of mistakes than he has made.
But even those who think Obama is American's worst president must have realized that the hardest way to attack his record would be on the specific grounds the Atlas Shrugged Guy was worried about: the overall performance of the economy.
For instance, consider the two best-known measures of financial-asset trends, the Dow Jones Industrial and S&P 500 averages. Let's not have the argument over how much these indicate about real national welfare, where the gains have gone, and so on. Let's just look at the trends. In each case, the first red arrow on the charts shows roughly when Obama began his first term, and the second is around his re-election. Here is the DJ:
And the S&P:
And the unemployment rate:
Or the federal deficit:
Or U.S. oil production.
And on through a bunch of other indicators, from net job creation to long-term interest rates or even to "strong dollar" indicators. You can argue that Barack Obama is an utterly failed president. But you cannot sanely do that on the grounds that the economy has gotten worse.
So I've wondered whether the Atlas Shrugged Guy was reconsidering any of his end-of-America fears or his John Galt-like threats. Now he re-appears, unbidden, to say that quite obviously he has not. I go back and forth between two hypotheses:
1) He is more cunning than I thought and has in fact been playing out a multi-year long-con game, to see whether I would actually believe that someone held his (ridiculous) views. If he's been setting me up, a political troll-Catfish all this time, I have to say: Well done.
2) He is being utterly sincere and thus is the latest sign of a political ecosystem so effective in its isolation that people actually believe that an administration's most evident strength is yet another example of its utter failure.
As I say, you cannot sanely base your criticism of Obama on overall economic trends. But people still do so.