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Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?

Let's play a fun game of "WHO SAID THAT?!?"

Here's the quote:

"I've always said, the pursuit of economic growth, job creation and trade is not a zero-sum game. One country's prosperity doesn't have to come at the expense of another."

Was it:

a) Ronald Reagan

b) George W. Bush

c) John F. Kennedy

d) Barack Obama

Well, hold on to your hat — the answer is: d) Barack Obama!


President Barack Obama speaking at the White House, November 5, 2014.
Reuters
President Barack Obama speaking at the White House, November 5, 2014.

He said it this week during a speech at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Beijing.

Yes, President Obama, the same guy who has harped on income inequality and fat cats in his domestic policy and campaign speeches for more than six years is now speaking the economic truth about how wealth for some doesn't necessarily come at the expense of the many. In fact, he seems to also get that this is basically a great way to help the poor stop being poor, as opposed to the conventional progressive misconception that more prosperous individuals and nations make their riches off the backs of the poor.

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If this is the kind of post-midterm-shellacking Barack Obama we're going to see for the next two years, then things are definitely looking up! And it's not all that much of a stretch to hope for that kind of a pivot from President Obama given the track records of the last few presidents who have found themselves in the same boat.

After his party lost control of both houses of Congress in 2006, President George W. Bush shifted his focus to trade pacts, boosting humanitarian and anti-AIDS efforts in Africa and approving the surge in Iraq that eliminated the violence swiftly. The economic collapse of 2008 meant that he left office with very low approval, but only the most cynical observer would deny that the last two years of the Bush presidency yielded some positive results.

When the GOP lost control of the Senate in 1986, President Reagan re-doubled his efforts to end the Cold War. Mr. Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech came in 1987, for example, and that speech helped keep the focus on what eventually brought about the tearing down of the entire Iron Curtain.

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President Obama can accomplish quite a bit for our economy and foreign economic policy if he continues down the road he seemed to start at APEC.

But there's a fork in that road, because just a few hours after he made that excellent and astute statement about prosperity in Beijing he also issued a decidedly anti-capitalist and potentially destructive statement regarding net neutrality.

In a letter to the FCC, the president urged the commissioners to enforce a very strict version of net neutrality and ban the ISP from tier pricing where customers would have the option of paying more for faster Internet service. In fact, President Obama even called for the Internet to eventually be regulated like a public utility.

I can't think of a worse idea, especially if the goal is to eventually see lower Internet service prices and more innovations that would help people of all income levels. Only the free market can bring prices down the way that big-screen TV's start coming down in price after a relatively short period of being too expensive for most consumers.

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The APEC President Obama needs to win out over the Net Neutrality President Obama if he wants to make the most positive economic impact for all Americans that he can during these last two years.

APEC President Obama sounds like the kind of guy who could approve the full Keystone Pipeline, sign positive trade pacts with China and other nations, and even make a real deal on corporate tax reform that would boost hiring and wages.

Net Neutrality President Obama sounds like the guy who will impose new regulations as much as possible, block Keystone, and do nothing to encourage real hiring and wage improvements.

So will the real post-midterms President Obama please stand up?

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Street Signs." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.