Free Markets, Free People
A reasonable summary? How about, ‘”let’s put aside partisan bickering because I need a political boost and spend half of what was spent on the stimulus to do exactly the same thing that hasn’t yet worked.”
As most predicted two things were evident in the speech. A president out of ideas and trying once again to shift blame to Congress. And the fact that he still doesn’t understand that the spending spree is over.
Instead of suggesting a regulatory roll back, or cutting government red tape, or even, horror of horrors, a corporate tax cut, we’re essentially get much of the failed stimulus plan repackaged. The entire purpose of addressing a joint session of Congress (instead of doing the speech from the Oval Office) was to again attempt to establish the House GOP as the bad guys in all of this.
The proposal is simply a redo of the stimulus plan, something Obama has been trying to get Congress to do since the first one failed. Obama proposed a payroll tax cut extension, an extension of unemployment benefits, the creation of an infrastructure bank, a new job training initiative, and providing aid to state and local governments, which have been hard hit by job losses.
The infrastructure bank is somewhat new, but aimed at the same sort of programs at which we previously threw over $800 billion in stimulus money. How did that work out? The payroll tax and unemployment benefit extensions haven’t produced more jobs yet, have they? In fact some argue the continuing extension of unemployment benefits works to the opposite effect. We’ve had job training programs since time immemorial and they too have very little positive effect. The one key point that those who propose such initiatives always seem to miss is there have to be jobs available for such a program to be successful. And finally, pumping money into state and local governments is a very temporary fix. It allows them to keep employed workers who they otherwise couldn’t, at least for a while. But, as they learned with the stimulus funds, once the money ends, so do the jobs. Hardly what one would consider a “jobs program”.
Obama also tried to waive off criticism of cost by claiming his plan was all paid for. AP disputes that:
OBAMA: "Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
THE FACTS: Obama did not spell out exactly how he would pay for the measures contained in his nearly $450 billion American Jobs Act but said he would send his proposed specifics in a week to the new congressional supercommittee charged with finding budget savings. White House aides suggested that new deficit spending in the near term to try to promote job creation would be paid for in the future – the "out years," in legislative jargon – but they did not specify what would be cut or what revenues they would use.
Essentially, the jobs plan is an IOU from a president and lawmakers who may not even be in office down the road when the bills come due. Today’s Congress cannot bind a later one for future spending. A future Congress could simply reverse it.
Currently, roughly all federal taxes and other revenues are consumed in spending on various federal benefit programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, food stamps, farm subsidies and other social-assistance programs and payments on the national debt. Pretty much everything else is done on credit with borrowed money.
So there is no guarantee that programs that clearly will increase annual deficits in the near term will be paid for in the long term.
To actually pay for this, the revenue must be diverted from this years budget, not some future year(s) budget. Again smoke and mirrors to sell more spending. Eric Cantor caught all sorts of grief for claiming disaster relief needed to be paid for elsewhere in the budget. That is how you cut and control spending. What Obama has again done is use the old DC jargon that claims something is paid for if they say they plan for it in the future.
That’s simply not acceptable.
Obama challenged the Republicans with a falsehood:
OBAMA: "Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight."
THE FACTS: Obama’s proposed cut in the Social Security payroll tax does seem likely to garner significant GOP support. But Obama proposes paying for the plan in part with tax increases that have already generated stiff Republican opposition.
For instance, Obama makes a pitch anew to end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which he has defined as couples earning over $250,000 a year or individuals over $200,000 a year. Republicans have adamantly blocked what they view as new taxes. As recently as last month, House Republicans refused to go along with any deal to raise the government’s borrowing authority that included new revenues, or taxes.
So, as AP points out, the claim is fraudulent. In fact, there are many things in the proposal that the GOP has been against.
And perhaps the biggest falsehood of the night?
OBAMA: "It will not add to the deficit."
THE FACTS: It’s hard to see how the program would not raise the deficit over the next year or two because most of the envisioned spending cuts and tax increases are designed to come later rather than now, when they could jeopardize the fragile recovery. Deficits are calculated for individual years. The accumulation of years of deficit spending has produced a national debt headed toward $15 trillion. Perhaps Obama meant to say that, in the long run, his hoped-for programs would not further increase the national debt, not annual deficits.
Perhaps. But then if that was so, he should have said it, shouldn’t he? Instead he played politics.
Probably most interesting was the man who has been driving the lead clown car in the political parade admonishing Congress to “stop the political circus and do something”. It has taken the circus ringmaster 3 years to figure out this is what he should have been focused on from the beginning. And for 2 of those years, he had an all Democratic Congress.
They guy who called for an end to politics has done nothing but played politics throughout this whole ordeal. And now, with his popularity at an all time low, his political future dimming and with him finally turning from his political agenda to that to which he should have been paying full attention from day one, he falls back on one of his favorite political tricks – blame shifting.
What he doesn’t seem to understand is this is all his now. And while the GOP should consider the proposal, it should also be unremitting in pointing out that the proposal isn’t paid for, will add to the deficit and is simply another attempt at a second stimulus throwing money at old programs and ideas which have yet to prove their worth in either improving the economy or increasing jobs.
(UPDATE) If you really want to know how bad the plan is, Krugman liked it:
First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.
Yeah, just like the last one did, huh Paul?
pparently the fact that President Obama scheduled a speech to a joint session of Congress that coincided with a GOP debate and was informed by the Speaker of the House that the date was not acceptable has now worked its way into a full blown brouhaha. Perhaps the best summary and most breathless and silly conclusion comes from Tommy Christopher in Mediate:
The mainstream media, and even some in the liberal opinion media, have completely missed the point of President Obama’s dust-up with Speaker John Boehner over the date for Obama’s address before a joint session of Congress. MSM yakkers have advanced the “pox on both their houses” meme, while liberals like Ed Schultz accuse the President of “caving,” all ignoring the fact that Boehner has insulted and disrespected the office of the President of the United States, and should resign.
Of course, because we all know it is a deadly thing to insult the President of the United States, especially when you’re one of the leaders of a co-equal branch of government.
The sort of nonsense Christopher is pushing is interesting because it was so absent when the former president was in office. Insults from Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid were as common as their poor performance in office. In fact, Obama is a president and head of one of three co-equal branches of government. He’s not a dictator or a king, although given his style in the 3 years he’s been in office, those are roles he’d prefer.
Obama essentially tried to play a little politics with the date of his speech and steal the limelight from the GOP debate. However, in order to address a joint session of Congress, he had to have the permission of both the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader in the Senate (and that should tell you all you need to about "co-equal"). The Senate was in the bag, Reid being perfectly amenable to the politics of the request. The Speaker, John Boehner, wasn’t. He quickly figured out the ploy and said, ‘no’.
Cue the whiners, complainers and drama queens. In fact Obama played politics and lost. End of story. He assumed he could push Boehner into doing something that was advantageous to him and detrimental to the GOP. He was wrong.
The resulting fallout is his problem and what looked like something that had a net potential positive for him politically has now turned into a net negative. Obama miscalculated and had his miscalculation handed back to him. Welcome to full contact politics.
But lets be clear about something. John Boehner acted within his rights as a co-equal leader of the government and member of his party in saying “no” to a request that was clearly unacceptable because of the politics involved. He insulted no one. If any “disrespect” was shown, it can just as easily be laid at the President’s feet with the claim that he deliberately scheduled his speech to coincide with the GOP debate in order to show them up.
Which day his speech is made is of little consequence in the big scheme of things, it’s what it will lay out that counts. But as usual, in the highly partisan atmosphere found in Washington DC, even the most routine politics is now framed as some sort of major confrontation requiring the heads of those who disagree with the president.
Obama tried some slick politics and ended up getting stung for it. For those like Christopher, get over it. He’s a president, not a king.
Let’s just say I was “underwhelmed”. As a friend ask in an email, “where did the great speech maker go?” I can only contend that this speech was like a task you know you have to do, but really don’t want to do. And the results are usually along the lines of what you saw or heard last night.
The big questions were would he acknowledge success, victory or George Bush?
While he didn’t come right out and acknowledge success with that word, his “turn the page” comment implied success. Victory? No way, no how does that enter into the speech. And his acknowledgement of George Bush explains why:
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
How does one who so adamantly opposed a war he ended up in charge of characterize it as anything but a mistake that somehow, in general, turned out well? After all he was a “patriot who opposed it”. And please, let’s turn the page.
No acknowledgment of the fact that the surge worked when all – to include our “patriot who opposed it” said it wouldn’t. And even though he and his staff are now trying to rewrite history, it’s clear he was against the surge and claimed it wouldn’t work.
“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” – Senator Barrak Obama in response to the PSOTUS. (January 10, 2007 on MSNBC)
Of course, they had precisely the opposite effect. Why this is so difficult to acknowledge even when there’s video of him saying it remains a mystery.
And, of course, even with the acknowledgment of Bush, Obama couldn’t resist a shot as well:
Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.
That “trillion dollars” for war is not what has put us in the financial shape we’re in today. And anyone following the news knows that. That canard has been laid to rest. However, if you read the paragraph carefully, you find the usual lefty talking points firmly embedded in the substance of the message. Government is the answer and is the entity which should be making “tough decisions” about everything “from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform”. Of course not acknowledged in the paragraph is its previous decisions about those areas has given us what we have today. A pure mess.
Even in a speech about ending the combat mission in Iraq, Obama seems unable to avoid politicizing it. And, as usual, the blame Bush card – not as blatant as usual – is played.
Acknowledging the role of the military and the sacrifice of the troops, as well as the herculean job they did in filling roles outside their job description, was a good and appreciated part of the speech by all, I’m sure.
The rest – eh. The usual boilerplate, wordy finger-pointing delivered in an uninspired and flat speech. You can always tell when someone doesn’t have their heart in something. My guess is he’s not over his vacation-lag yet.
Perhaps – after that arduous night’s work, it’s time for another one.
UPDATE: And finally, Joe Biden is heard from on the subject:
Vice President Biden said the day after President Obama’s Oval Office address that the debate over who deserves credit for removing troops from Iraq isn’t “worth arguing about.”
And why is that Mr. Biden? Oh, yeah:
“At the end of the last administration, the transition was in place.”
Yes it was – which is another explanation for the lackluster speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq.
I have to say, the “unclenched fist” diplomacy is just working out swimmingly with Iran. From a speech Iranian president Ahmadinejad gave on Thursday:
“It is God-given that all the anti-human plans in the world, and all the crimes and bloodshed, are being carried out under U.S. government supervision, but that the demand [to stop them] comes only from our nation… This move of theirs [apparently a reference to calls by President Obama to support the Iranian protest movement] forces us to adopt yet another international mission, because today the most brutal dictatorship is being implemented against the American nation, which is subject to the worst suffocation – the press is not free to depict the crimes of Israel and America, nor can demonstrations in response to these crimes be held freely…
“I hereby announce that from this point forward, one of the Iranian nation’s main aspirations will be to deliver the American people from [its] undemocratic and bullying government.”
Thank goodness someone is going to help us in that regard /sarc.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how he plans on accomplishing that but his take on Jews remains about the same as when we had a clenched fist.
“…Sixty years ago, they [i.e. the West] gathered the filthiest and greatest of criminals, who [only] appear to be human [i.e. the Jews] from all the corners of the earth, organized and armed them – on artificial and false pretexts, fabricating information and inventing stories [hinting at the Holocaust]. They gave [the Jews] propaganda and military backing so that they would occupy the lands of Palestine and uproot the Palestinian nation…”
Rhetoric says, at least to me, that the Islamists are warming up to another run at Israel sometime in the not to distant future.
In a word, unimpressive.
Now there are those who are going to say that this man could say nothing that would impress me. Not true. He could say I’m resigning for the good of the country and I’d be mightily impressed. Mainly because that would be the right thing to do and I’d respect that.
However, that’s not his choice. Instead he gave an uninspired speech with a few falsehoods and a few mixed messages.
Primarily it did absolutely nothing to ease my mind or calm my fears that there is any coherent plan in place. In fact, if you review the so-called “response”, it has three components.
1. Continue to try to clean up. We got a lot of statistics and a lot of claims, but essentially oil is still washing up on the shore.
2. Make BP pay. Of course that’s been the plan since the beginning.
3. Appoint lots of commissions. Ray Mabus will form one to develop a “long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan” as quickly as possible. And Obama claims to have established a “National Commission” to “offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.”
And that’s pretty much the plan. Of course we will have a czar appointed as well, so that Obama can remove himself from these pesky leadership demands once again.
The rest of the speech was an exercise in what Obama does best – selling smoke. He begins it with a false premise:
But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
Of course his claim about drilling in deeper water because we’re running out of places to drill in shallow water is false. 97% of the shallow water on the Outer Continental Shelf -97%- has been placed off limits by government. The oil companies are forced into deeper water not by the lack of oil, but by government refusing to allow them to drill there.
He also uses the figure for “proven reserves” of 21 billion barrels. However, estimates for the OCS run in the 150 billion barrels and the Bakken Formation (on land) 134 billion barrels.
But those falsehoods provide a platform to launch into another “crisis” that only government can handle – completely revamping our energy mix and insisting on changing it now. After this and health care, who would trust him and the Congress to do that?
And, he tells us the solution he prefers – the House version of cap-and-trade (what he calls “a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill”). He further states, in the midst of a horrible recession, that “there are costs associated with this transition”. Of course there are – and certainly no guarantee any of it will do anything to either “change” the climate or mitigate our energy needs. But it will certainly give government control over another aspect of our lives.
Finally, he throws out a bunch of legislative and regulatory trial balloons all based on breaking our “addiction to fossil fuels”. Like “raising efficiency standards in our buildings” – straight out of the House bill which would require a federal inspector to OK your house before you could sell it to ensure it meets all fed standards. He pitched wind and solar energy as a new “standard”. And he also wasn’t happy with the amount the energy industry was spending on research and development for new sources of energy. He’d like to see that boosted.
In effect, the bottom line is more government – much more government. The same government so magnificently handling this crisis in the gulf and may others.
If nothing else, this speech cemented in my mind what this President is – an administrator, not a leader. And in that position, that is not a good thing to be.
In all honesty, I don’t have a big problem with Obama’s impending speech, primarily for tactical reasons. If he gives the speech that the right is worrying about (i.e. indoctrination towards his policy preferences such as universal health care, cap and trade, etc.) then his political world will crumble. Obama is smart enough to realize this. And I, as I expect are most American parents, am vigilant enough not to let such a message get too far with my kids. However, it’s the fact that any of us have to be on guard to such a speech that makes it creepy. Well, that and the President’s track record of seeking to use children to advance his own goals.
However, there is a current of thought that thinks it’s hypocritical to challenge Obama’s address to the nation’s children while ignoring others:
All this over a video address to kids telling them to stay in school.
I’ve got to wonder how these people felt twenty years ago when a Republican did it:
President Bush pleaded with young people around the nation today to stop using drugs and ”not to look the other way” when others do.
In a 15-minute nationally televised plea from the White House library, the President presented the latest round of an anti-drug campaign that began a week ago with another nationally broadcast message announcing a $7.9 billion package.
In the speech, Mr. Bush said that saying no to drugs ”won’t make you a nerd.”
”Presidents don’t often get the chance to talk directly to students,” Mr. Bush said. ”So today, for each of you sitting in a classroom or assembly hall, this message goes straight to you.
”Most of you are doing the right thing. But for those of you who let drugs make their decisions for them, you can almost hear the doors slamming shut.”
Equating drugs with death and displaying the badge of a slain 22-year-old rookie policeman, Mr. Bush said, ”I keep this badge in a drawer in my desk to remind me of that.”
Yea, I’m guessing they were pretty quiet back then when Bush 41 was advancing his ideological agenda and fighting the War On (Some) Drugs.
While I understand Doug’s disaffection with the Republican Party and its die-hard adherents (with good reason), I really don’t understand this line of attack. Is it really the same thing for a president to encourage kids to stay off of drugs as it is for a president to encourage school children to contemplate the many ways that they can fulfill the government’s wishes?
When Bush 41 was delivering his speech to the nation’s youth, he was at least spreading a message that had individual importance. There’s no question that avoiding recreational drugs is healthy way to live one’s life. It doesn’t justify the War on (Some) Drugs, but it’s not necessarily a message advocating fealty to government authority. In fact, the quotes above speak more to individual responsibility rather than respecting the president’s wishes: i.e eschewing drugs won’t make you a nerd, don’t let drugs make your decision for you, etc.
Again, I’m not trying to condone the destructive policy pursued by the federal government with respect to certain drugs. But when a president encourages our children to stay off them, I’m hard pressed to see that as some sort of intrusion into the realm of the parent or individual, much less a blatant call for nation’s kids to ponder what it is they can do to further the president’s goals.
Therein lies the rub.
President Obama has already shown that he’s not above using children to advance his political agenda, so it’s not surprising that those opposed to his aims would be a bit skeptical of his speech. Adding to the wariness is the fact that he only seems to make these speeches when he needs help with bolstering his political capital (e.g. the “race speech” after Jeremiah Wright blew up in his face). After the battering his health
care insurance reform plans took in August, it almost seems too convenient that he would suddenly want to address all the school kids in the nation, right about when he’s planning to try and save the one program he truly wants to enact.
On top of all these legitimate worries is the fact that Obama’s administration has prepared lesson plans for the kiddies to absorb in the afterglow. Surely it’s not the first time that a president has done so, but have any other post-speech plans been so blatantly pro-subservience? I mean, look at these suggested lessons:
What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What, no questions such as “do you agree with the President’s position? Why/Why not?” Or how about, “Why should you do anything the President says?”, or “What are the pros and cons of the President’s proposals?”
Some of these wouldn’t make any sense if all Obama is going to do is encourage kids to stay in school and try theor best. But, then again, neither do the administration’s lesson plans. Nor the fact that Obama intends to do a live address rather than a taped PSA of some sort. All of which, again, provides plenty of reason to be skeptical of Obama’s speech.
In light of all the above, and regardless of whether anyone is being hypocritical or not, shouldn’t we all be a bit skeptical when the President of the United States decides to address our children when, at the same time, he is politically vulnerable and seeking some means of righting his listing ship? Maybe Republicans who are complaining now should have had more to say 20 years ago (if they were even politically aware back then), but that doesn’t mean they are wrong now. Charging hypocrisy does not negate the potential ill that may result from being less vigilant to government indoctrination. It only make that ill more possible