Anatomy of An Obama Jobs Speech
Rory Cooper /
Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama would once again be giving a “major jobs speech” in September after his Martha’s Vineyard vacation. If spending three years delivering identical speeches created jobs, President Obama would be taking credit for 4% unemployment today. Alas, they do not.
In fact, President Obama has given many “major” speeches and addresses on jobs since taking office. While some news organizations treated this announcement as “breaking news” yesterday, it is unfortunately more of the same from a President who is long on speeches and short on leadership.
His last major speech with new “proposals” was on April 13, 2011. In this speech, the President unveiled a budget plan that would supposedly save $4 trillion over twelve years from unidentified savings, defense cuts and tax hikes. No details were ever released, leading Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Elmendorf to tell the House Budget Committee: “We don’t estimate speeches…We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”
That speech negated Obama’s earlier budget proposal which, when scored by the CBO, added trillions to the debt and annual spending. That budget was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Senate 97-0.
The White House is already floating ideas that may be included in this latest speech. They have suggested it will be akin to the “grand bargain” Obama supposedly offered to Congressional Republicans in July. Of course, if that actually existed with any specificity, the President would not need to wait until September to share it with the American people. There is no word on whether any of this will be offered with the specificity necessary for the CBO to score it.
So what will be in this speech? Well, looking back on his major jobs addresses of the last three years, we can predict it will contain these core elements:
It’s the Last Guy’s Fault: Or “I inherited…” This is where President Obama tells you what economic conditions existed in January 2009, and ignores what happened over the next 32 months. In his December 8, 2009 jobs speech, Obama even promised to “halve the deficit [h]e inherited by the end of [his] first term.” Of course, Obama’s 2011 deficit will be nearly ten times larger than the 2007 deficit.
Infrastructure Spending: This is an actual idea. However, after billions of “stimulus”dollars were “invested” in infrastructure projects, with no corresponding job growth, President Obama continues to keep drawing from this tired well of a subsidized construction-based recovery.
On December 8, 2009, Obama said: “The last third of the Recovery Act is for investments to put Americans to work doing the work that America needs done… upgrading roads and railways as part of the largest investment in infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System half a century ago.”
On Labor Day 2010, Obama told a union audience that high-speed rail and infrastructure would again be our salvation: “We’re talking roads. We’re talking bridges. We’re talking dams, levees.” And on April 13, 2011, Obama again encouraged spending on “infrastructure,” this time wishing the U.S. were more like Brazil.
Bad Energy Policy: “Green jobs” are part of every Obama jobs speech. He wants to “double our capacity in renewable energy” and build “solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars.” The myth of “green jobs” has been busted. But furthermore, Obama’s de facto drilling moratorium in the Gulf is actually costing this nation over 230,000 jobs and needed economic growth.
Raise Taxes: Whether Obama calls it a “balanced approach” or an unidentified “fair share” or “revenue increases” it’s all tax hikes. As even the President admitted in December 2010, raising taxes in a recession is a bad economic idea, and it’s also unpopular, so he has to keep thinking of new ways to say it without the word “tax.” But alas, every major Obama jobs speech promotes taking more money away from job-creators as the answer to job-creation.
Straw Men: Some folks say this speech will invent false arguments from his opponents that cannot be attributed to anyone in particular. Those people are right. As Obama said a year ago: “Some folks in Washington see things differently. You know what I’m talking about… If I said the sky was blue, they say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they’d say no.”
Blame Congress: On his recent campaign (sorry, “official”) bus swing throughout the Midwest, the President has had a lot of blame to dish out. He mostly has targeted Congress, which for two years of his administration was wholly controlled by his party with filibuster-proof majorities.
The current Congress is half-controlled by Republicans, and their House has passed a detailed and scored budget plan while Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate is now well over 800 days without passing a budget. So in the battle of White House vs. Capitol Hill, President Obama is seemingly now campaigning against the party he leads.
Red States and Blue States: Obama likes to portray himself as above the fray. While attacking opponents and Congress on one hand, the President will undoubtedly also say: “That’s not a Republican or a Democratic idea” and cast himself as a non-partisan compromiser. (Note: It’s usually a liberal idea.) Politics do not influence this President’s decisions, according to him: “They just think it’s better to score political points before an election than to solve problems.”
Blame Everything Else: Whether it is Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Oil Prices (that he could help lower), or the Arab Spring; something else is always to blame for our current economic conditions. Obama has lately reprised his attack on ATMs as roadblocks to job creation, as if efficiency and technology spontaneously exist without human intervention or employment.
While the President talks, others are offering real and specific solutions. Heritage introduced “Saving the American Dream” that balances the budget in ten years, creates the conditions for robust economic growth and responsibly reforms entitlements. Several Members of Congress have their own proposals. Will the President substantively join this debate, or rehash a speech America has heard dozens of times before?
President Obama said in his December 2009 major address: “The storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening.” If only saying it made it so.