09 September 2011

Obama Does a Job in Joint Session Speech

President Obama before Joint Session of Congress giving Jobs speech/  source: AP

President Barack Obama deigned to demand a Joint Session of Congress to kick off his between the beltway re-election campaign and announce an American Jobs Act. There were a couple of problems with that plan.  Firstly, the President did not have the power to convene Congress, which is a separate co-equal branch of government in our democratic Republic. Secondly, the date Mr. Obama proposed was curiously the same time which Republican challengers for his job would be gathering at the Reagan Library for a long planned debate.

It is worth noting that during the eight years that both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush were in office, they only made two extraordinary speeches (aside from States of the Union) before Joint Sessions of Congress.  One of Bush 43's speeches was in response to the terrorist attack on America on 9/11/01.  In less than three years, President Obama has given two Joint Session speeches and both of them seemed to be partisan packages.  But it is remarkable that President the Obama was forced to switch his rhetorical road show to a non-prime time speech to Congress timed so as not to overlap the NFL opener between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints. So much for burnishing the aura of the occupier of the Oval Office.

By insisting on giving his job speech before Congress, President Obama raised expectations for his American Jobs speech.  Surely, the Obama Administration wanted to project an image of leadership and perhaps confront his political enemies in a forum where they could not really respond , as  Obama did to House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th) during a George Washington University Deficit Speech in April.   But perhaps President Obama laid off his clutch speechwriters as Mr. Obama’s rhetoric did not soar.  In fact, it seemed reminiscent of a used car salesman.  And Mr. Obama fell into his contrived campaign cadence of dropping the last syllables on words.

During President Obama’s 32 minute speech touting the new American Jobs Act, he managed to say a variation of “Pass this bill now!”  19 times.  Of course, President Obama managed to work in class warfare (tax the rich and corporations to pay their fair share), vilify bad businesses like oil companies, give pecuniary shouts out to his comrades in teachers and construction unions and hype the already hyperactive spending on dubious high speed rail projects.  Seemingly, the only things missing were actually having a bill, designating exactly how everything will be paid and calling Mr. Obama’s $450 million in spending as another stimulus package.

Even though President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act with great pomp, it is still vaporware. President Obama insisted that everything will be paid for, which is amazing as no legislative language exists.  President Obama wanted to pawn off cost cutting to the Gang of 12 Congressional Super-Committee.  And even though President Obama implored legislators to “Pass this Jobs bill now!” to alleviate this jobs crisis, he only promised to release more details which finances his stimulus jobs bill and stabilizing the debt. So, as former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 6th) would say “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.”

If history is any guide, President Obama will propose sweeping cuts which will be scheduled to take effect in the off-years of a ten year plan., which means that they are ethereal as future Congresses and Presidents will not be bound to the plan.  Moreover, it will likely have more budget gimmicks, such as counting trillions of dollars of budget savings for not having troops in Afghanistan, which will have already been withdrawn by 2014.

It is curious how legislative language is inconsequential to the Obama Administration.  In July, Congress agreed to a hard fought compromise that raised the debt ceiling by $1 trillion in return for a Congressional Super-Committee finding $1.5 trillion in budgetary savings or else impose draconian cuts on the military and social programs. Now President Obama wants to impose another $450 billion of stimulus Jobs spending to that effort.

No wonder Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) chose to sort his sock drawer rather than hear this claptrap. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) had a better plan to watch the Saints-Packers game.  When the camera panned the chamber, it was obvious that two rows in the middle section were vacant. Only 26 of the 80 seats in the Congressional Media section were filled.  Perhaps that is why disgraced former Representative David Wu (D-OR 1st) was let in for the speech.  House Minority Leader Pelosi was said to be peeved that there was no official televised Republican response to compete with the NFL opener, but really what new to which to respond?

There may be some ideas to Obama’s ethereal American Jobs Act which will not be dead on arrival. Job creators need long term financial incentives and breaking down barriers.  So one off incentives to hire workers will probably only result in temp hiring or short term governmental jobs (like the Census). Pumping government money to favored companies has proven to be a waste, such as the Solyndra green jobs which wasted $600 million before going belly up when Uncle Sugar’s cash stopped.  If Mr. Obama’s rhetoric would match reality, reducing the regulatory burden would help. If President Obama really wanted to help small businesses, he would lower the tax rate on sole proprietors rather than rail for tax increases on Millionaires (which seems to include thousandaires who managed to make more than $200,000 per annum).

 But President Obama’s “Pass this bill” mantra gives an all or nothing vibe, so the talk about working with Congress is just a mighty wind. May the 112th Congress not be cowed by the bully pulpit and the “Do Something” disease to pass this mighty wind and do a better job than President Obama did with his Joint Session shuck and jive.

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