On Thursday, before a joint session of Congress, President Obama officially declared his intent to run for a second term
. There truly could be no other reason behind the president's address, since he didn't lay out any new ideas to create jobs. Overall, the speech fluctuated between two themes
: "Pass the bill" and "You have
to pass the bill now
During the speech, the president exuded plenty of arrogance and condescension, but he didn't come across as a president who really cares about jobs. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this speech was that, after two and a half years in office and an outright ridiculous build-up to this particular speech, President Obama once again failed to bring any new ideas to the table. He instead rehashed the same old themes that have carried his presidency through the failure that it has been thus far: more stimulus, more class warfare, more collectivism - more of the ideas and ideals that have helped to keep the American job market in the foundering stagnation we are enjoying today.
The speech gave a feeling not that President Obama cares about American jobs and wants to see our nation succeed, but instead that he wants to box Congress into a corner so that he can campaign against the Republican-controlled House in 2012.
He had two years to work on economic recovery, with a Democrat-run Congress rubber-stamping his agenda, yet while he and his administration have continually told the American people that we are in recovery, I think it's safe to say that the "recovery" is over. Now, President Obama is trying to push those same failed policies through a divided Congress. Good luck with that, Mr. President.
One of the biggest problems with President Obama's speech is that there is no bill.
"Pass the bill," he said over and over again, and his sentiment was echoed by White House advisor Valerie Jarrett
: "Congress should pass this plan, and they should do it right this minute." In the same segment, Jarrett explained that the White House was still about a week out from finishing the legislation. The only thing more glaring than that admission was the fact that Rachel Maddow didn't even seem to notice. Our legislature has enough problems passing bills no one has read - we don't need them passing legislation that hasn't even been written yet.
But the worst part of President Obama's speech was that he wasn't laying out a jobs plan, he was laying out a plan to extort Republicans for his own political benefit. It's pretty much a given that Republicans in Congress aren't going to swallow Obama's agenda lock, stock and barrel - and they shouldn't. We have separation of powers and a representative government for very good reasons. As several Republican members of Congress have already stated, portions of what President Obama talked about in his speech are good ideas, and worth enacting. Other parts are dumb ideas that have already been tried and have failed, only to be resurrected by a president desperate for re-election. Stimulus sounded like an iffy proposition back in 2009, but today, we've been there and done that. It didn't work the first time with $800 billion, so why would we expect it to work in 2011 with $450 billion? About the only things that have changed in that time are that our money is worth less than it used to be, and the American people have less confidence than ever in the government's ability to enact policies that will actually spur economic recovery.
A second stimulus isn't going to save the American jobs market any more than the first stimulus did. President Obama's promise of "no more earmarks" rang hollow, considering that he and then-Speaker Pelosi claimed there were no earmarks in the last stimulus.
But the real extortion came when the president started talking about tax cuts. This president has made it abundantly clear that he is against cutting taxes, and he isn't proposing any new tax cuts. He has thrown in a few tax credits for companies that hire people from specific demographics, but the real attempt at manipulation came with his proposal to extend his cut in payroll taxes.
One thing about President Obama: he loves permanent tax increases and temporary tax cuts. That way, Republicans will have a much tougher time undoing the tax increases, and he can attach tax cut extensions to measures he knows that Republicans otherwise would never vote for, just as he is doing with this bill - and the threat to Republicans expressed in is speech was very clear: pass the bill, or the president and his operatives would accuse them of raising taxes and breaking their tax pledges. Quite a threat for a speech that the President himself said "isn't political grandstanding."
But the grandstanding didn't stop there. According to the president, "the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for." And how does he deign to pay for it? Well, first he pushed the responsibility of cutting the deficit onto Congress - asking them to augment the spending cuts he refused to support during the debt ceiling debate. Then, he ran back to the class warfare bandwagon, pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy - right after extolling the virtues of small businesses, he proposed raising taxes on the owners of those businesses.
But it was his comments praising collectivism that stole the show for me. To hear President Obama tell it, America's greatest virtue is that we gained our superpower status by being the great communist utopia, with everyone working together for the greater good. And while one of the great virtues of America is the willingness and ability of the American people to pull together and overcome adversity in times of trouble, that is a far cry from Obama's "tax the rich to give to the poor" philosophy.
- He talked about spending money to hire more teachers, but he failed to address the growing bureaucracy in our education system that continues to eat up more and more of our hard-earned dollars, or about the teachers' unions that are sucking school districts and state governments dry with their continued demands.
- He talked about the importance of collective bargaining, but left out the part about the US Postal Service, which is literally on the verge of going out of business because it cannot meet union benefit and pension obligations.
- He talked about wanting to see American cars sold in foreign nations, but he didn't address the fact that his buddies in the autoworkers' unions are the primary reason why US auto makers continue to struggle to be competitive even within the United States.
- He talked about trade agreements, but he neglected to mention the fact that those agreements haven't been voted on because they are tied in to partisan legislation.
- He talked about doing away with subsidies for oil companies, but he didn't address the 20 oil rigs, and accompanying jobs, that could soon be leaving the Gulf of Mexico due to regulations his administration put into place.
- He talked about what a great guy he was for allowing working Americans to keep an additional $1500 of their hard-earned money, but he failed to address how that money is worth so much less than it was before he took office, or how that money will be going to pay for higher gas and energy prices, all due to his own policies.
Overall, President Obama came across as a president struggling to prove his own relevance - and failing at it miserably
. Perhaps the best part of the speech was watching the reactions of Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner as they reacted to the President's plans throughout the speech. Joe Biden looked like he had been coached on how best to cheerlead the president's plan throughout the speech - the crowning moment of the speech came when Biden threw in a fist pump to accompany the fake look of intense interest he'd had painted on his face the entire time. At least Boehner looked genuine - genuinely bored, that is. The Speaker looked like he would have preferred to have been anywhere in America other than in that chamber - complete with a few entertaining eye-rolls at some of the president's more ridiculous claims.
The president's claim that his speech was not political grandstanding rang hollow - this is a president who knows far more about grandstanding than he ever will about leadership. He made it quite clear that he cares more about politics than he does about the future of America. His lame attempts to sound bipartisan ended up sounding like he was trying to bully the Republicans into rubber-stamping his bill - which he was.
Instead of repeating "pass the bill" over and over, President Obama should have been saying "pass the buck," because that is exactly what our president is doing. He wasn't laying out a plan to restore America's stagnant jobs market, he was laying the groundwork for his plan of attack against the Republicans as he continues his campaign for a second term. He doesn't have a plan to pay for his proposals - he wants Congress to do that for him. This speech wasn't about jobs, it was about positioning himself to blame Congressional Republicans for anything and everything that may go wrong between now and the election.
When it comes to President Obama on US job creation, just remember this: when the president wanted to take his campaign on the road and get people on board with his ideas, he went out and bought a multi-million dollar bus...from Canada. So when the rubber hits the road, it's pretty plain to see how much concern America's president really has for American jobs.