Obama’s Latest Jobs Speech: “Stop the political circus,” says the Ring Master.

President Obama and I agree on at least one thing: “Washington hasn’t always put [Americans’] interests first.”

Ain’t that the truth.

With Republicans vying for his job, the economy persistently sluggish, and unemployment relatively unchanged since the Bush Administration, President Obama took to the podium to make “the big speech” before a special Joint Session of Congress to lay out his job plan.

This is not his first job plan. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a month where the news has not talked about an Obama job plan.

  • In November of 2008 (“After more than two weeks of virtual silence on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team burst on the scene with new ambition and urgency Sunday, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program.”)
  • In January of 2009 (“President-elect Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create as many as 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession.“)
  • In March of 2009, after its passage (“President Obama on Friday touted the benefits of his economic recovery plan […] the recently passed $787 billion stimulus package.”)
  • In July of 2009, after the plan failed to stop unemployment from climbing to 9.5% (“Obama, a Democrat, is trying to restore economic growth to the US but his $787-billion economic stimulus plan […] failed to stop the unemployment rate from rising to 9.5 percent.”)
  • In December of 2009 (“President Barack Obama says his administration needs to “get America back to work” as quickly as it can, and he‘s putting together a list of proposals aimed at doing just that.”)
  • In February of 2010 (“President Obama hit the road again Tuesday to promote the new job-creation program he described as his No. 1 priority, […]”)
  • September of 2010, just one year ago (“U.S. President Barack Obama will announce on Monday a six-year infrastructure revamp plan with an initial investment of $50 billion to jump-start job creation, a White House official said.”)
  • In February of 2011 (“The Obama administration outlined an “innovation strategy” for US job growth Friday, […]”)
  • In May of 2011 (“Obama, GOP unveil competing plans for job growth.”)

That’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of change. But don’t lose hope. The President has another plan for you. 

I’ll give him this: Obama’s got a lotta plans. But he isn’t making much headway. Unless, of course, you have managed to convince yourself that he actually staved off a worse disaster.  Maybe, but even President Obama sells his plans not as fingers in the dike, but as reversals.

Anyway, in America we don’t believe in treading water–we believe in winning. Why else would we keep score? 14 million people can’t be wrong–the plans just aren’t working.

So what is he proposing, this time?

Where we agree

First, there are a couple things he said that I liked…assuming he means them:

Economic Growth is  Driven by Business

Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.

Great! But why have all of your plans up to now been focused more on funding the public sector, increasing the debt that must be paid by taxes from individuals and the private sector, and not just decreasing the cost of doing business for “businesses and workers,” as per your speech? Why wait until the 11th hour to come to Jesus?

Infrastructure Helps Business and Employs Construction Workers

Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.

This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

I like upgrading our roads. But what’s new about this from promised infrastructure fixes over the last three years? What happened to the spending you’ve been talking about since 2009?

OK, so, maybe I agree, but I’m a little distrustful of his sincerity. And that the money is actually going to get the economy going again. Employing workers to build roads and bridges will get cash into the economy, but it alone won’t employ 14 million people, most of who are not construction workers.

Where  He’s Wrong

On the other hand, there are several places that I just flat out think the President is wrong.

Federal Money to Rebuild Schools

And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now.

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country.

I’m all about education (even if, as a high school drop-out, I’m not a huge fan of public ed), but I don’t agree that this has anything to do with getting the economy going or creating jobs. Yes, every kid should go to a good school, but no, that has nothing to do with the economy, or with the federal government. That’s the states’ job, and the only thing it does is redistribute money from state A to state B.

So, Mr. President, rather than increase our taxes (or the deficit, but it’s the same thing, in the long term), just let us keep our money in our states, and we’ll fix the schools ourselves.

Federal Money to Hire Teachers

Again, with the education thing.

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

My problem with this is the horribly faulty logic and the blatant pandering to the education unions.  As economist Arnold Kling explains “it assumes that state and local governments need more money in order to keep teachers. They do not. They could reduce compensation and maintain hiring or even increase it.”

In other words, states aren’t firing teachers. Teachers are leaving for better paying jobs, or the states are paying teachers too much (and that’s an entirely different conversation than this one, which is, if you forgot–THE ECONOMY).

A reduction in the number of teachers only indicates that you need more money if the reduction comes from teachers quitting their jobs. If you are laying off teachers, that shows that you are making a choice to keep their compensation too high rather than have more on staff.

Get it? States aren’t firing teachers to make cuts–they are paying them more than they should. They could pay less, and employ more, but (again, enter the unions), that’s not going to happen.

Remember, I’m not saying that what teachers are paid is fair or enough. I’m saying that there’s no correlation, in spite of what President Obama is trying to trick you into believing–that states have fired teachers because of budget crunches.

If you aren’t a teacher, you must be an oil executive

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare.

Actually, it sounds a lot like class warfare. The 14 million people out there that are unemployed are, for the most part, not former teachers. In fact, education, up until 2010, was the industry that actually increased in employment.

Enter the graphic:

And that was just as of the middle of 2010!

Who are the big losers, then? You wouldn’t know it to listen to the President’s speech, but among the unemployed you can find former professionals and business service providers , construction workers (housing industry, not bridge building, though arguably, they could cross over, I assume), durable goods (like the auto industry) and retail (where shop).

Conclusion: Fail. Just like all the other plans.

I’d like to see the economy rise in the next year, because everyone would win. But what President Obama does get is that he doesn’t get it. Like one candidate said in the Reagan Library Republican Debate Wednesday night, “the President is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have a clue.” And, as another said, “its time to get out from behind the teleprompter.”

Yes, he can speech-ify, but speeches don’t amount to results, as we’ve seen for the last three years. I hope the Congress can find the morsels within the plan that will help, pass them, and move us forward.

On the whole, though, I’m not sanguine. As one Twitter level pundit put it, the speech was not expected to offer anything new. And it didn’t fail to deliver on that point.

[Read the full text here.]

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6 responses to “Obama’s Latest Jobs Speech: “Stop the political circus,” says the Ring Master.

  1. Pingback: Obama's Latest Jobs Speech: “Stop the political circus,” says the … | All Tech Downloads

  2. “I’ll give him this: Obama’s got a lotta plans. But he isn’t making much headway. Unless, of course, you have managed to convince yourself that he actually staved off a worse disaster.”

    So do you think he didn’t stave off a worse disaster, and if not, what do you think would have happened without the stimulus package, if the banks collapsed and all those companies that received money went under? Most experts agree it could have been a full blown depression. Sure you can say “maybe not” now that it hasn’t happened, but at the time, all indicators were that it could have been much worse (of course, all indicators are that is still could get much worse, right?!?).

    Or perhaps you think it would have been best to simply let all the businesses fail; I know there a lots of folks out there who do believe that.

    Assuming you don’t believe that though, one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that in a crisis situation, action is better than no action, even if you’re not sure if your course of action is the most correct.

    Waiting for the 100% solution in a crisis will ultimately cost you time that you don’t have to wait, therefore you may have to assess the risk and take a chance on a less-perfect plan in order to avoid mission failure.

    If you make a poor decision in a crisis, ok…but at least you did something, and as soon as you discover it was wrong, you regroup, try to fix the problems, and continue doing so until you are out of the crisis.

    To me, this is what I see the President doing; I do think his stimulus package probably staved off a worse situation, but clearly it wasn’t enough to fix the whole problem. So he continues to regroup.

    But I think in decades past he would have found that his opponents would have been willing to overcome differences in order to get to a better solution faster. Today, his opponents seem more worried about their careers than fixing the problem.

    I’ve been surprised at how much he’s offered up in order to reach a compromise over the last several months, at the risk of alienating himself from the far left in his party. I’ve been even more surprised at how conservatives simply say “no” to everything, all based on a pretty flawed logic if you ask me.

    No matter how much you cut government spending (and I CERTAINLY believe we need to cut government spending drastically), you have to have an increase in revenues too. President Obama didn’t just make that up; the majority of economists, and history, agree! (How can any Republican seriously claim to revere Ronald Reagan, and yet still be so inflexible on taxes? He raised taxes 7 times as President!)

    It surprises me to hear your reference to “coming to Jesus” at the eleventh hour. Ok, so you think it’s late…but that’s really not true; the man’s got over a year (that’s over 25% of his term, or if you prefer the hour analogy, it’s more like 8:45pm).

    Anyways, great post; it got me thinking a lot. Unfortunately I no longer have cable tv, so I haven’t been able to watch any of the Republican debates. I’d really like to see them because other than the highlights from internet, I haven’t heard much.

    • Sterfryiv: I think you make some relevant points. However, I think your assumptions about my premises might be missing the point and what I actually said.

      First, I was not suggesting that nothing should be, or should have, been done. In fact, the stimulus that saved the banks, right or wrong, was not done by the Obama Administration, but under the Bush Administration. In the waning months of the Bush Administration, it was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that brokered TARP I with the intent to save the banks. Obama didn’t have anything to do with that, nor did I suggest that he did.

      Second, my critique of Obama is a response directly to his own assertions. In the January after his election, as I cited in the post, Obama argued that his plan would create 4.1 million jobs. His stated intent, then as I stated above, was not just a finger in the dike, but to turn back the tide, to “lift the country from depression.” You can read the article from the AP here. http://bit.ly/r0eG3m

      Third, Obama has over the last three years put more an emphasis–legislatively–on expanding health care entitlements than on lifting the economy, and the economy is persistently stuck at 9%+ unemployment.

      Combine these three points–that it was not Obama’s Administration that stopped the banks from failing, that Obama’s plan was intended to grow ft the economy not maintain it, and that Obama has worked harder on expanding the locked in costs of the federal government than on decreasing them and increasing wealth creation–and you have an Administration that has, arguably, failed Americans at what they want most: a growing economy.

      Other than that, I think most of what you argue is a tangent to the main point–the economy needs to grow, and the Obama Administration’s policies are not helping it grow.

      Need more evidence? In March, during budget debates, Obama’s budget was submitted and voted down by 97 members of the Senate. That means his own party, which controls the Senate, voted against his plan alongside Republicans. (At the very least, agree with it or not, the Ryan plan got the vote of Republican members http://bit.ly/qdsXbs). That’s not exactly the kind of confidence that lifts an economy. If the President’s own party doesn’t like his plans, how could anyone call it bipartisan? I’d call it bi-rejected.

      As for the logic of “cut spending and raise revenues,” I completely agree. However, this post has not been about the manner in which such revenues should or ought to be increased. It’s been about the flawed logic of spending in areas of the economy that will not benefit the economy. Teachers are not losing their jobs due to the tough economy. Construction workers have, but they are only a small portion of the individuals that are out of work. Obama’s failure is his inability to see beyond the interests of union represented voters to realize that the real economy is not in government workers (teachers) or construction. It’s a lot bigger and it’s out of his hands. The best thing he could do is to stop creating government programs to solve it, to allow unsustainable entitlement programs to be reformed and made viable, and to end the lawsuit defending the unconstitutional Affordable Health Care for America Act. By creating more costs, introducing uncertainty into the business environment (here’s a great post on that you should read http://bit.ly/mSXerr ) , and allowing the debt ceiling to rise absent a plan reduce the debt and deficit (as requested by the rating agencies), President Obama has signaled that he’s not interested in the boring,difficult, and complicated world of real economic policy, but in pandering, rhetoric, and speeches.

      You and I both know that communication is important. However, President Obama seems to think that it is everything. However, as much as he wants to rely upon it, you and I can both see that there is one measure that no matter how much he speaks, he cannot affect, and that’s the economy. Unfortunately for him, Americans are tying their opinion of him to that unemployment number.

      I’ll give you this last caveat, though: even if I am wrong, and his policies are right reasons I disagree with–why is the economy stuck at 9.5% unemployment, and why should we give him another term if he is unable to enact policies conducive to a better business environment? Why does he deserve another term?

  3. Sorry for confusing TARP and the Recovery Act.

    I know I deviated from your main points; I realized my comments were tangents when I wrote them. I don’t really disagree with most of what you say and don’t really have much to add to your main topic.

    So don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying he does deserve another term. Like you, I think he spent the first couple years focused on the wrong things.

    The big sign to me was when he ignored the recommendations of his own bi-partisan economic commission. When I heard their recommendations, I thought “Wow, this is great, the President’s going to get us back on track.” When it became obvious he wasn’t going to act on their recommendations, I was pretty disappointed.

    Now a year or so later, he wants to create the Grand Bargain, which I still agree with, but yeah, it’s getting late in the game to do something that could have / should have been done a year ago.

    You ask the question why give him another term if he’s unable to enact policies conducive to a better business environment. You’re right, we shouldn’t…if he can’t deliver, he shouldn’t be re-elected. But then you tell me who CAN do that? Mitt Romney? Rick Perry? I’m not really sure about that.

    Mitt Romney may be a great businessman, but that doesn’t automatically make a great political leader; an economy is not a business. And he doesn’t have a great record of creating jobs when he was a governor…didn’t Rick Perry point out Mass was like 47th in job creation under Romney? From the little I’ve seen of him, I think Rick Perry is too much like G.W. Bush to get elected…maybe it’s that Texas swagger.

    I know you think I’m not sticking to the topic at hand (your analysis of the President’s jobs speech). I guess I don’t think you are focusing on the right topic at this point, which is who out there really can fix this mess if the current President cannot.

    Rather than hearing how you disagree with the President, it would be interesting to hear about someone with ideas you do agree with. Who are you supporting these days and why? Who is doing something good in your opinion? How do you envision our political leaders overcoming their differences and working together to pass something like a “Grand Bargain”, rather than just do temporary fixes?

    Do you think any of the Republican candidates can accomplish what this president has not, and if so, who and how? I’d be really interested in your thoughts on that.

    If I seem to be still holding out hope for the current President, it’s because I just don’t see any of the other current options as being any more effective than President Obama, no matter what they say right now.

    So yeah, sorry for going off on tangents when you’re trying to keep on topic. I just think you’re beating a dead horse when you go after the President and break down every little thing that was wrong with his speech.

    • Sterfryiv: no apologies needed. I was just responding.

      I’m not sure that I agree wholeheartedly with any of the Republicans, or that I’ve settled on one candidate. I like that Mitt Romney actually has a specific set of plans. I think it trumps throwing red meat to the base any day of the week. I like that he is unwilling to wholeheartedly jettison social security, as other candidates are so cavalier about. I like that he is gracious, but effective. I am unclear how i feel about what he will do once in office, but I don’t think he’s likely to be near as controlled by one wing of the party or another as he is going to be willing to walk a moderate stance. Right now, then, i guess I am leaning Romney.

      Bachmann and Perry are just too anti-intellectual. Gingrich is untrustworthy, though very intelligent and very wonkish, which I like. Santorum is, well, a frat boy wannabe. Paul has some good ideas, but he has some loony ones, as well. Huntsman can’t win unless we skip the primary season or straight to 2016, so why even discuss it.

      What do I think could be done on a policy level? Check out this post on a book that I think takes a very moderate non-partisan approach: https://lawafterthebar.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/4462/ It’s by David M. Walker, former Comptroller of the United States. I believe he did an interesting and laudible job looking at raising revenues and cutting taxes, removing waste and increasing efficiencies, taking on the so-called “Golden Calves” of both parties, including entitlements AND the military. Is anyone listening to him, though? I doubt it.

  4. Pingback: Another Jobs Speech from Obama » Suburban Insanity

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