President Obama gave his much anticipated speech on jobs (links to full text and video below). While many were looking forward to some plan from the leader of the country, and his supporters were glad to have something to justify their reverence for the man they will vote for next year, the speech falls incredibly short when analyzed from a real-world perspective.
To be perfectly honest, I would have rather spent this time analyzing the actual legislation the president is proposing than on the speech he gave. From an academic standpoint, it is always preferable to begin any analysis with original source material rather than someone’s summary or belief on what may or may not be in there. Yes, this is even true of politicians who supposedly write the bills, something that was made inherently clear in the Obamacare debates where even House Majority Leader Pelosi stated we needed to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it.
But since nobody in the administration thought it prudent to post a bill, and the only thing they did publish is a “fact sheet” consisting of little more than a reference list of talking points as well as op-ed pieces here and there, we are left with the speech and the promises made therein. In the interest of brevity, meaning that this is an article and not the book I could write on this subject, I only chose five of the more problematic parts of the speech for inclusion here.
Let us begin:
“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. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent and for good purposes, we’re building on reforms we’ve already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere.”
There are two main issues to take with this part of the president’s pitch. The first has to do with the fact that most of the projects he mentions have questionable needs, both in general and regarding federal involvement. For example, high-speed internet connections are not expensive and can be done by a local cable provider. Routers are cheap and available at Wal-Mart for around $40. Is there such an immense need to go all the way to D.C. to fund one of these systems a local superintendent could fund by having students hold a bake sale?
The second has to do with how many of these projects will require perpetual funding by the localities in which they are instituted. If you are wondering why this is important, imagine someone gives you a puppy as a gift. You were not planning on a puppy, did not ask for one, and you cannot just give it back. You have to feed it, train it, schedule your time around it to take it out to do its business and go for walks, seek out and pay for boarding if you go on vacation, etcetera. This is a huge demand on money and time that you had never had to budget for in the past but now have to take into consideration with ever thing you do from now on.
The same could be said with, say, a new light rail. You will now have to plan for it to be built, suffer through the traffic problems that will come about with its construction, and pay the maintenance and repairs for as long as it is in service. That’s not to mention all of the people that will work there, driving the trains, issuing tickets, and providing security. All of these added costs will now go to the people you depend on to get elected, most of whom will probably never ride it.
(Before people start calling me a dog hater, it should be noted that I love dogs and currently have two in my “pack.” I have had dogs all of my life and was simply using that as an analogy to make a point).
“And everything in this bill will be paid for. And here’s how:
The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act.”
This is probably the biggest falsehood and attempt at misdirection that the president or anybody could have said if nothing else than due to the fact that we are running consistent deficits. Remember the debt ceiling debate in July and August? That was because we had no money and had to borrow more to pay for what we have on the books now. We still don’t have any money because our monthly obligations dwarf what we take in, which means we still have to borrow or print to pay for much of what we spend on. Somehow we are expected to take on more debt to the tune of $447 billion in what amounts to yet another stimulus bill.
I know what you’re thinking. He’s attempting to be deficit-neutral with that proposal, and that would be fine if we had spending under control, but we do not. This approach still adds to the deficit and overall debt because the money is still being spent, albeit on this new program. In short, it is not paid for.
For some perspective on stimulus, and if you want to be really strict with the definition, there were seventeen stimulus programs instituted from March 2008 through June 2009. Yes, you read that right. We have had 17 different stimulus bills pass through the federal government during that timeframe. While the official unemployment rate has come down from its peak at 10.1% in October of 2009, it is still at 9.1% and the overall economy is stalled. They have not worked regardless of the size or where they were targeted. Neither will this one.
He went on to quote President Kennedy by stating:
“Our problems are man-made — therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.”
While it is true that all of our economic problems we are facing now are man-made, it is ironic that he is proposing another version of a bill that has not worked in the past three and a half years. One could make the argument that since the economy has done nothing despite those bills being passed, they are the cause of this economic malaise we seem to be stuck in.
Yes, sometimes the treatment is worse than the illness. If this is the result of the president’s focus on jobs and the economy, perhaps he should go do something else.
“Pass this jobs bill.”
This phrase and similar appeals for this nonexistent bill’s passage occurred 17 times throughout the speech. If you are wondering why this is important, stay up past your bed time and watch some infomercials. Keep track of how many times the phrase “buy now” is said. It is a marketing gimmick, and the fact that he did not bother to make public the bill he wants passed, we would probably be better off simply buying something from late-night television.
“I’m also well aware that there are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary – an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share.”
I was hesitant about including this part of the speech in here because it is simply worn out class warfare catch phrases. What changed my mind was the fact the president followed it up with “this isn’t class warfare” four paragraphs later. Let us take it at its face:
Raising taxes on the “rich” do nothing to make the lives of those under them any better. While I am personally far from being considered rich, I noted in an article on American Thinker how taking money from someone that is better off only hurts everybody involved.
Perhaps instead of trying to take what a few successful people have, he should direct the audience to look at those successful people at try to emulate their success. Such an approach would be more ethically sound and would seek to build people up rather than tear a few down. After all, the majority of those doing well did not start off that way.
It was unsurprising, yet at the same time disappointing, that he would bring up the “Warren Buffett’s Secretary” argument. For those who haven’t been paying much attention, Mr. Buffett made headlines not too long ago by blasting the US income tax system because he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. What was not mentioned, and apparently still isn’t, is why he pays a smaller rate: He essentially has no income in the way most of us earn income. Most of what Mr. Buffett earns comes in the form of dividend payments and other investment options, so while he may pay a lower rate on his personal income due to his type of income, he still pays more in taxes in one year than many people will earn in a lifetime.
The bottom line is that this speech was simply a political ploy to pass another stimulus bill. Since he failed to provide the bill itself, all of the benefits, as seen from both a Democrat and Republican perspective, amount to nothing. We are asked to support, we are asked to trust, we are asked to believe, but are given nothing tangible that would support such acts on our part.
Because of stunts like this, I would add that it is a profound shame that we have to treat our politicians like President Reagan treated the Soviet Union: Trust but verify.
Rand Paul issued a statement on the president’s speech and class warfare argument: