Government & Politics

Obama’s Speech Job
In case you were busy washing your hair, rewinding your CDs or getting a root canal last night, Barack Obama gave a speech. Yes, another one, and with warmed-over recycled ideas, to boot. He made sure we all knew his speech was about jobs because he used the word “jobs” 44 times. (Given his narcissism, we wonder if that number was intentional.) Indeed, he centered the speech on his “American Jobs Act,” which, by the way, aims to create jobs. He hasn’t yet sent an actual bill to Congress, though he called for Congress to “pass this bill right away” (or some variant) 17 times, but … jobs.

In the spirit of bipartisan comity, we’ll start by lauding something with which we agreed: “Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes,” the president said. “Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.” We couldn’t have said it better. Government doesn’t create jobs; it can only create conditions under which the economy can flourish. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there, because Obama’s very next sentence began, “But…”

Obama repeatedly framed his proposals as “nothing controversial” because “everything in here” has already been proposed by “both Democrats and Republicans.” We hate to disagree, but nearly everything in the speech was controversial. From tax hikes on job creators in exchange for gimmicky tax credits, to more money dumped into the bottomless pit of education and infrastructure, to the very premise that government must grow in order for the economy to grow — the ideas presented last night were the wrong ones.

Taxes were a major theme, but instead of proposing permanently lower rates and a broader base — something that would actually work — the president called for more temporary complications and supposed sweeteners. Obama said that Congress must extend the temporary payroll tax cut they passed last year, because, he warned, “If we allow that tax cut to expire — if we refuse to act — middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time.” That’s interesting: A tax cut expiration is a tax increase. Funny how that didn’t apply to the Bush tax cuts, which were good for 10 years, not just one. And funny how it doesn’t apply to increasing the taxes of job creators “at the worst possible time.” Indeed, that was his next proposal.

“[T]here are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it,” he said, but, “We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.” Of course, “everybody” means the top 2 percent. He then declared with a straight face, “This isn’t class warfare.” Republicans in the chamber gave him the only appropriate response: laughter.

Estimates are that this stimulus package as proposed would cost about $447 billion. That’s about half of the first stimulus, and we saw how well that worked. (Little wonder that Democrats have stricken the word “stimulus” from the lexicon.) How on earth will another few hundred billion dollars suddenly fix anything? “Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything,” Obama insisted, but how?

First of all, through the aforementioned tax increases on a select and punishable few. Primarily, however, Obama wants the debt reduction committee, created in the debt ceiling deal to find $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years, to come up with even more savings, again over 10 years. In other words, let’s spend another $450 billion now and have future presidents and Congresses pay for it later. Also, “a week from Monday,” Obama will release “a more ambitious deficit plan.” If this all wasn’t so preposterous, it would’ve been another laugh line.

Obama also mocked those who think that government is too big. He trotted out his predictable straw-man arguments about Republicans wanting to cut “most government spending” or eliminating “most government regulations.” He certainly intends to fight hard for the new floor of government spending and regulation he has established. He may offer a concession here or there, but by and large the damage has already been done. Even rolling back to the bloated and costly — but still far smaller and cheaper — government of 2008 will be impossible while he occupies the White House. Finally, there’s a big difference between limited government and no government. It is the former that we must seek.

Just how half-baked was this speech?

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