After the president delivers a speech there is a rush to comment on it, make a bon mot, give it thumbs up or down. Often, these are knee jerk reactions, with the emphasis more on jerk than thought. I like to let a little time go by for analysis.
First off, I don’t think Americans particularly enjoy a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress. It always looks partisan and rarely is unifying. I would prefer the presidents to issue written state of the union addresses rather than subject everyone to all the sound and fury. This close to an election it did smack of another stop on the campaign trail.
So I don’t think this jobs speech was helped by its place and certainly not the timing. People on the West Coast got it at 4 p.m.; hardly prime time. Obama looked grim and scolding. I don’t like it when anyone points a finger at the audience repeatedly. Did you notice he didn’t drop his ‘g’s’ like he does when the “folks” are around? And what was Hillary Clinton wearing? It looked like a black burka. Did she think she was going to a funeral?
Economists have gone over his jobs remarks in the speech, although it was pretty thin on substance. A few lines stood out.
Obama said “And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?” OK, but they had to pull most of their high speed trains out of commission because they were malfunctioning and causing deaths. That didn’t seem like a selling point to me.
I noticed he picked out places in Republican areas to hammer the need for more money. For instance, he cited “a bridge that needs repairs between Ohio and Kentucky.” Was that a barb directed at Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul? He talked about “a public transit project in Houston.” Would that be to fault red state Texas? He mentioned a jobs program in Georgia that ‘several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills.” Fine, but what would the unions think of that?
Obama also asked that unemployment insurance be expanded by another year. We’re already at 99 weeks. Do we need to add another 52? It seems he would sabotage his own unemployment numbers to keep that many more people on the rolls. And isn’t that a disincentive? After 24 months of searching, many will just give up if they can get another year’s benefits. Who wouldn’t be worn down at that point?
The president complained that “while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves here.” I wonder. In New York, many teachers are never fired, just put in rubber rooms to collect their pay. The Teachers unions fight hard to keep their people employed, often at the expense of newer, more enthusiastic teachers because tenure keeps the older ones in the classroom. What about Wisconsin? Governor Scott Walker merely trimmed some benefits from teachers’ salaries and saved jobs. If others did that, maybe there wouldn’t be the layoffs.
Assuring us that he would not do all this and let the budget deficit climb, Obama tasked the super committee with an additional “1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas.” That seems like shoveling off the distasteful work on others. In this climate, it also appears an impossible feat.
“And a week from Monday I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan – a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.” Why did Jon Lovitz’ pathological liar character Tommy “Yeah, that’s the ticket” Flanagan pop up in my head when I heard that?
“We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and everybody pays their fair share,” President Obama continued. But what is a fair share and who determines it? It seems whatever share we pay it’s not fair enough for the Democrats.
I laughed when I heard him say he “won’t wipe out rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury.” I agree. Let’s stop pushing CFLs that when they break – and who hasn’t broken a light bulb? – spew enough mercury to require a Hazmat team to clean up.
Wrapping up, President Obama said “we all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican party.” Only Lincoln wasn’t the founder of the Republican party. The first Republican convention was held in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. Lincoln joined two years later. This gaffe was removed from the PBS transcript to read “we all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union.” George W. Bush would never have been given that kind of cleanup, would he?
Although Obama calls his plan the American jobs act, one wag called it the SOBJ act. That is, Save Obama’s Job act. Most Americans probably agree.