Is Obama a Traitor to His Class?

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As businessmen, including many who supported Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, continue to go public with complaints about regime uncertainty and its discouraging effect on the economy’s recovery, some observers are speculating that the tycoons’ animus is driven at least in part by their sense of betrayal: they had recognized Obama as a member in good standing of their class (aptly known as the ruling class) and supported his rise to power, yet his policies have brought about conditions in which it is impossible for them to prosper.

As Andrew Ross Sorkin has written recently in the New York Times:

Mr. Obama was viewed as a member of the elite, an Ivy League graduate (Columbia, class of ’83 . . .), president of The Harvard Law Review — he was supposed to be just like them. President Obama was the “intelligent” choice, the same way they felt about themselves. They say that they knew he would seek higher taxes and tighter regulation; that was O.K. What they say they did not realize was that they were going to be painted as villains.

So, once again, Barack Obama’s presidency reflects that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the well-heeled playboy-politician who ascended the political ladder while living very comfortably, owing to his forebears’ accumulation of wealth, and circulated with complete ease among the “best people.” (Note: In FDR’s case, the credentials were the reverse of Obama’s — Harvard College, graduated 1904; Columbia Law School, attended but dropped out in 1907, having already passed the New York State bar exam.) After Roosevelt became president, however, especially from 1935 onward, he was reviled as a “traitor to his class” because of his attacks on “economic royalists,” whom he blamed for the Depression and for the New Deal’s failure to restore prosperity. Perhaps before long the contemporary moguls will revive the American Liberty League.

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Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.

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