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Yet after a few more details about “strengthening competitiveness” and working “side-by-side with America’s businesses,” Mr. Obama returned to ideological brow-beating. “Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations,” the president said, after which he promised to get rid of wasteful spending and burdensome regulations.
But then he erected a series of straw men. “But what we can’t do–what I won’t do–is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades,” he intoned. “I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients…that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.”
One is left to imagine which group of Americans (read: Republicans) wants to be in a race to the bottom.
The president then ran through a litany of achievements fostered by government that made it sound like America would have been a shell of a nation otherwise. Once again this is unsurprising. Despite all the rhetoric about the nation being composed of “rugged individualists” who are “strong and self-reliant,” with the “drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world,” Mr. Obama remains firmly convinced that government is the engine of prosperity, and that Americans should “tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option.”
Perhaps the most disingenuous moment of the night came when the president noted that there is “skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan–or any jobs plan,” and that “some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.” He further noted that “the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here–the people who hired us to work for them–they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.”
That is incorrect. Americans needed help two and a half years ago. It is Mr. Obama, whose approval ratings with respect to the economy are in free fall, who is currently in need of the most help.
Moreover, context is everything. Every proposal the president made last night must be viewed within the framework of legislation that he and his party have already passed. For example, no matter how sincerely the president proposes “cutting red tape” or getting rid of “rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it,” he is not about to jettison the 800-pound gorillas of red tape and burdensome regulations known as the health-care and FinReg bills. Those two pieces of legislation alone comprise 4700 pages of mandates, which will more than offset any savings to be found in last night’s speech. They are also the primary generators of the massive uncertainty that currently inhibits job creation.
And the additional spending, “paid for” or not, must be viewed within the context of an Obama administration that has amassed the highest annual deficits in the history of the nation, and is well on its way to obliterating the record levels of debt the Bush administration accrued in eight years in less than half that amount of time. The newfound affinity for small businesses must be seen within the context that “millionaires and billionaires paying their fair share” of taxes really means individuals making $200,000 per year and couples making $250,000, many of whom are exactly the small business owners the president ostensibly aims to help.
And despite Mr Obama’s assertion that he is not engaging in class warfare, the context remains that people who champion limited government really want to, as the president contended, “just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own…”
The president needed a home run last night. He didn’t hit it out of the infield.
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