Instead of implying that political officials are simply too busy to run car companies and banks, he should have made clear that though an extraordinary short-term government intervention was necessary, long-term commercial success will continue to depend on the private sector, and not on officials who weigh the political implications of every decision. Similarly, he should avoid comments like the one he made recently in reference to Romney that “there may be value for [private sector] experience, but it’s not in the White House.” In fact, he should make clear that a flourishing private sector is as core an American value as any constitutional principle. Failure to properly regulate markets is not a failure of markets themselves, a point President Obama should have made in 2009 and that he should be making now, forcefully and often.
Over the past year, in cities across the country, the Occupy movement has staged protests aimed at policies and a political culture that they say benefit the wealthiest 1% at the expense of everyone else. As the movement has drawn new followers, some members have moved from attacks on capitalism’s excesses to an assault on capitalism itself.
President Obama should seize the opportunity to explain why this is foolish. Growing public unease with globalization’s progress and its effects on middle-class livelihoods leave politicians of all stripes more ready to defend a free lunch than a free market—and more eager to build barriers to try to protect their constituents.