Inflated self-esteem can be decidedly counterproductive.
American students, for example, took first place in self-judged mathematical ability in a comparative study of eight countries, but last place in actual mathematical competency.
Korean students, in contrast, ranked themselves last in self-judged mathematical skills and took first place in actual mathematical performance.
The idea that self-esteem produces better performance, reversing the direction of better performance boosting self-esteem, is clearly a concept that’s been oversold. But we feel good — whether it’s self-evaluations of leadership skills, looks, personality or math ability, it’s not unusual for 25 percent of American students to self-judge themselves to be in the top 1 percent.
The downside can be a declining nation that’s over-stocked with egotistical and incompetent narcissists.
That might be the problem at the White House.
Rep. Marion Berry (D, Ark.) made public President Obama’s answer to conservative Democrats, worried about the unpopularity of ObamaCare in their home districts, when they asked in a White House meeting why 2010 might resemble the negative backlash that greeted Bill Clinton’s 1994 flawed attempt at health care reform. "Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me." That’s what Sonny said to Cher, 1965.
The actual "big difference" turned out to be Obama losing even more seats than Clinton. "The Democratic Party under Barack Obama in 2010 suffered the greatest defeat for a newly elected president in a midterm since the Republican Party under Warren Gamaliel Harding in 1922," reports James W. Ceaser, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
Patrick Gaspard, former community organizer, ex-lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and now Obama’s Director of the Office of Political Affairs, is quoted in a 2008 New Yorker article describing what Obama said to him during his job interview: "I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director."
In his biography of Obama, "The Bridge," David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, quotes White House senior adviser and longtime Obama friend Valerie Jarrett: "I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do."
Talk about a Yes-man — or a Devotee-girl. The boss is so "extraordinary," so above the "ordinary" man, that he’s been long-term bored to death — untaxed, unhappy, uncanny and unchallenged.
And now unappreciated — now simultaneously called "pathetic" and "tone-deaf," respectively, by the left in The Progressive and the right in The Washington Times.
Turns out that Jarrett’s wrong — there’s nothing "extraordinary" about Obama’s talent in reading people or understanding economics. She should’ve seen that Obama was, more than anything else, a self-inflated bubble that was bound to burst.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh
Ralph R. Reiland
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