As I've previously explained, I don't watch President Barack Obama when he gives a speech. I read it afterward - and if you preferred reruns and football last night, the complete text is available here.
I did, however, hear parts of it. And while I admit I may have taken some of the tone out of context, what I heard came across as angry and demanding. It sounded like a petulant child who hasn't gotten his way and is demanding an unreasonable action. It did not sound presidential - and failed to do what it promised: lay out a plan to move the nation forward.
Oh, it had 'ideas,' but the most critical part of any idea is the implementation and, in this regard, the President failed miserably. He took several weeks to put together his 'plan' and then told us he'll let us know how in the world he's going to pay for all his grand ideas. Of course, he's not going to develop the funding plan - except to tax the rich like he always wants to do - he's pushing that off on the 'super committee' charged with finding ways to cut the budget. He assumes no responsibility whatsoever for the actual implementation - hardly what you'd expect of a leader.
Additionally, throughout his speech he gives clear evidence that his 'solutions' are not going to work - not just because they're exactly what he did with the first stimulus, but because he starts with an incorrect premise. And when you start with an incorrect premise, you cannot help but arrive at the wrong conclusions - or, in this case, a 'jobs' plan that won't really result in sustained job growth.
So let's get started with what he actually said (in order, but not his complete speech):
Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that’s made things worse.
This past week, reporters have been asking, “What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?”
I don't really think we have a political crisis - we have political wrangling and divergent philosophies. Disagreement as to best way to address a problem is what our nation is all about and disagreement does not equal crisis. In fact, it isn't the 'political crisis' which has made things worse. No - it's the policies of this President that have given us increased unemployment (despite claims that it would remain under 8%), increased spending, increased debt, increased regulations that cost us a fortune, increased mandates that limit our freedoms and no certainty as to what is to come which results in a lack of confidence from the business community - the very people we rely upon to actually create the jobs Obama says he wants.
And it's interesting that he knows what the reporters are asking - and that he believes it's all about him. Narcissistic, perhaps?
But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don’t care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by -- giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.
These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share -- where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in a while. If you did the right thing, you could make it. Anybody could make it in America.
Obama's basic misunderstanding of America and its history is astounding. Our nation isn't one where 'everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share.' Where does he get such distorted ideas?
Our nation is one where what you accomplish is up to you. You can be whatever you want to be - if you work hard and are persistent. Our constitution guarantees equality under the law - not equal outcomes. Our nation rewards those who work harder than others. In fact, if our founders were interested only in doing their 'fair share,' I doubt our nation would have survived.
Our nation is not a collective. It has been successful as a whole because individuals have been successful.
And he seems to have so little expectations for Americans - as if all we want in life is to do a job, be loyal to our employer and maybe get a raise once in a while. Is that all Americans want for themselves? Perhaps George W. Bush's phrase should be brought out again: the bigotry of low expectations. I don't know about you, but my goal for my life is more than to just labor at a job hoping to maybe get a raise once in a while.
For decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the decks too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.
While I can certainly agree that the politicians in Washington rarely put the interests of their constituents first, I take great exception to the characterization that we are victims. Of course, when you grow up the philosophy that the only reason you're not successful is because someone is preventing you from being such, it's only reasonable to think of everyone as a victim - and to treat them accordingly. And unless you're a victim, you don't need these wiser, smarter, better people to 'save' you.
The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. (Applause.) The question is -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.
If Obama truly wanted to stop the "political circus" he would have denounced the recent threat by Jimmy Hoffa; repudiated Rep. Maxine Waters saying the "tea party can go straight to hell", and rebuked Rep. Andre Carson's for saying that some of us want 'blacks hanging on a tree.'
Mr. President, your actions speak louder than your words.
And again, he reveals his complete and total lack of understanding about America. Our nation has not been defined, from the beginning, by 'fairness and security.' Our founders did not create a nation in which things would all be 'fair' - they clearly recognized that, while we are all created equal, what we make of ourselves is up to each of us and when some work harder than others, there will be different outcomes. I cannot help but wonder where Obama got such a twisted and distorted view.
Those of us here tonight can’t solve all our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.
He is absolutely right - politicians in Washington cannot solve all our woes - and we don't expect them to. And the economic recovery will be driven by businesses - they are the only ones who can actually create jobs and create wealth (there is a difference). But Obama routinely demonizes businesses - different ones and different industries...a contradiction he fails to address and the main stream media continually ignores.
And yes, Washington can help and there are steps they can take. But his purpose - 'to improve people's lives' - is wrong. Here is his incorrect premise. The majority of us don't look to Washington to improve our lives - we're perfectly capable of doing that on our own, if Washington would just get out of the way. No, we look to Washington to take care of our national defense, to regulate commerce between the states and with other nations - to do the thing detailed in the Constitution. Much of our problems today are a direct result of D.C. politicians thinking they can - and should - take care of us.
I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything. (Applause.)
I really don't get his urgency. If he needed Congress to rush this, why did he wait until after his vacation to present it? Also, shouldn't Congress do what we hired them to do - read it, deliberate, consider consequences, think of unintended outcomes, evaluate and then decide? Isn't that why we sent them to Congress in the first place?
Or does Obama believe they should hurry up and pass the bill in order to find out what's in it???
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. (Applause.) It will provide -- it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. (Applause.) It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away. (Applause.)
Again with the incorrect premise... Obama thinks that the way to address our economic issues to have people work and earn money. Actually, that is the outcome of economic activity - not the impetus. If we could solve our economic problems by just hiring and paying people, then we might as well hire a whole bunch of people to dig holes - with spoons - and then hire a bunch more to fill the holes - also with spoons. Just think of how many people will employed then!
The jobs he wants to 'create' are government jobs - teachers and government contracts for public works - most of which will end up going to unions who support him. What a surprise!
The payroll taxes he wants to cut are actually the Social Security taxes. While I certainly believe businesses pay too much in taxes in general (despite instances of some companies not paying anything at all - see below comment when Obama mentions Warren Buffet), I must question their logic of cutting the amount going to Social Security when the same people supporting this move are also talking about increasing Social Security taxes because the fund is broke! You cannot have it both ways. Well, perhaps they believe they can.
Obama says his bill will "give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers." There is no way government - and certainly not a particular bill - can do this!!! No company is going to hire a person unless they actually need the worker. To do otherwise is fiscally irresponsible and just plain stupid. And business owners responsible for making such hiring decisions aren't going to just believe Obama when he says, "trust me - my bill will provide you with customers."
Obama's complete lack of understanding about how a business works, what motivates them and why decide to purchase equipment and hire people is just too evident to anyone who has ever been in business. Again, with an incorrect premise: that if companies would just hire people, all the problems will be solved.
It's simplistic thinking - we don't have enough people employed so the solution is just to have companies employ them. My head hurts just thinking about this!
Pass this jobs bill -- pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. (Applause.) If you have 50 employees -- if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.
See? If you will hire someone, we'll give you a tax cut - $1,600. Yippee!!! What Obama and his administration fail to understand is that the costs of bringing on another employee must be less than what you think that employee will give you in profits - otherwise, it makes no sense to hire someone. And a $1,600 tax break pales in comparison to the additional costs of Obamacare, plans to raise taxes in others areas, regulations and new requirements coming from the EPA, OSHA, the NLRB, etc...
And do you remember all the demonizing of the corporate jet owners??? I didn't see the main stream media (MSM) questioning him on his original vote in favor of this particular tax break and now it seems his plan to continue letting businesses write off 'investments' would continue the corporate jet tax break. Does he never see his own contradictions? Don't his staff people tell him about these things? Is he so arrogant to believe no one will notice?
Well, maybe, since the MSM are so reluctant to do anything that might cast him in a negative light.
Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It’s an outrage.
Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us a economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? (Applause.)
There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them, if we act now. (Applause.)
This is another stimulus - no matter what he calls it. He made a joke about the last 'shovel-ready' infrastructure plan and now he wants to do the same thing. He apparently has no clue about the rules, regulations, time frames, requirements, etc... of doing such projects if he thinks they can all get under way right away. And exactly how much of the last stimulus is still waiting to be spent???
But what upsets me the most is his comparison of America to China. China is a communist country with a communist mindset when it comes to economics. Why in the world would we want to duplicate what they are doing?!?
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.
Umm....We don't need this in Ohio. Ohio passed its own school modernization program with tobacco lawsuit settlement monies. We matched those funds with our local taxes specifically for the building a new schools. So how, exactly, will a plan to duplicate what we've already done help Ohio? It won't. It will suck our tax dollars out of our state and send it to other states where either the politicians or the tax payers have decided NOT to make such investments.
So much for the idea of 'fairness.'
Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)
In community after community, state after state, schools are making decisions to reduce both their size and the costs. Their primary expenditure is in salaries and benefits. The teachers unions - supporters of Obama - are the problem, yet this plan will reward those unions by keeping their members employed despite the wishes of the local communities. This is just plain wrong.
Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America’s veterans.
Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents -- (applause) -- their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.
Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. (Applause.)
The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. (Applause.) If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy.
Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year.
A tax credit for hiring veterans is not a bad idea - probably one that will garner support from all.
Unemployment among youth (teens, actually) was 25.4% (almost 49% for African-Americans teens and 35% for Hispanic youth). And why is unemployment among the teens so high? It's not just because of the recession. No, it's because they cost more than what they are worth. For the most part, they are unskilled and inexperienced. The minimum wage - what they must be paid under law - has been increased beyond their value to a company, resulting in their high rates of unemployment. Couple that with a recession where you have more skilled and experienced workers out of work and available to take jobs that would have otherwise gone to the teens and you have record unemployment.
The solution for this is not to pay companies to hire the teens - it's to make them attractive to employers overall which means that companies need to be able to pay them what they're worth.
As for their parents, the policies of this president and his party have done nothing but keep the poor mired in poverty; they are 'taught' that it's not their fault they're poor and that they are victims who can only 'make good' by electing Democrats who would rather have them dependent upon the government for largesse than have them independent and successful where they might actually realize that Democrats don't really have their best interests at heart.
Again, actions speak louder than words and good intentions are not enough to ensure positive outcomes.
The plan calls for $4,000 to anyone who hires a person out of work for more than six months. Again with the wrong premise - that companies just need to hire people, regardless of their need. Obama's plan, in an attempt to address the long-term unemployed, wants to subsidize their employment. But why are they unemployed for so long? Are they less skilled than their competitors? Are they less capable? Are they comfortable in continuing to be on unemployment compensation because it gives them more than what they could make by taking a job?
I think that the last point is it - but then Obama contradicts his own plan by extending unemployment insurance. It's already around two years now - just how long is it that we pay people to not work? And if it's bad now, what will happen when the government no longer grants the extension?
What happened in the past? Well, people went out and actually got jobs. They didn't always get a job that paid them the same - most often it was less. But they didn't stay in that lesser pay for very long - no one really does. They either gained new skilled or more experience, became more valuable and then went on to something better. Was it difficult for their families? Yes - for a while - but that plan is so much better than the contradictory plan presented by Obama which only extends the problem.
And how will he pay for all of this? He doesn't know - he's abdicating the responsibility for funding his plan to the super committee:
The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan -- a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run. (Applause.)
What a plan! Oh - and tax the rich!
I am also -- 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 most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix. (Laughter.) We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share. (Applause.) And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.
How much more should these wealthy people pay? They already pay half of what the nation collects despite the fact that they don't represent half the population. And he cannot tax those 'wealthy' people enough to address all the spending he's done so far, much less this additional amount.
As for Warren Buffet - perhaps Obama could just tell him the address of the U.S. Treasury and ask him to send a check? If Buffett (and others) are so keen to pay more taxes, there's nothing stopping them from writing a check. Of course, they pay accountants tons of money to avoid taxes in the first place, so maybe they could fire all those accounts and just fill in the 1040EZ and take no deductions. Better yet, how about if Buffett just has his company pay his back taxes - $1 billion dating back to 2002?!?
But Obama doesn't really want a tax code where "everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share." No, what he advocates just before that sentence is a direct contradiction. The rich should pay more because they can 'afford' to. The rich can also 'afford' to spend more for medical care and somehow that's not fair, but being able to 'afford' to pay more in taxes is???
A 'fair' tax code wouldn't expect some to pay while others don't, nor would it take from some to give to others. That's not 'fair' by any definition of the word.
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future -- an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth. (Applause.)
First, I don't want an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs - I want one that creates all kinds of jobs - lower-, middle- and upper-class ones. I want a thriving economy that has jobs for all skill levels. My goal isn't to just have a good middle class position, but to excel. Why does he have such mediocre 'hopes' for us?
Then there is the incorrect premise: that is business is to stay here in America, we have to out-build, out-educate and out-innovate other countries. Actually, what's encouraging companies to locate in other nations has nothing to do with education, building and innovation; it has everything to do with being able to make a profit. If a company can make more money for its shareholders (most of whom are middle-class workers who have their retirement funds and pensions invested in such companies) by going overseas, it will do so. There is also the logistics to consider. Many companies want to have a manufacturing presence in countries where they sell their products. This is both logical and profitable from a public relations standpoint as well as from a fiscal one.
And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America’s businesses. That’s why I’ve brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.
Despite three years of demonizing businesses he now wants to work side-by-side with them? I doubt many businesses are going to believe he's sincere. As for a Jobs Council - most companies don't need a government committee to tell them how to grow and create jobs; they just need government to get out of their way so they can do what they know they need to do.
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own -- that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.
First, conservatives, Republicans, tea party groups and members do NOT want to "dismantle government." We believe in a limited government - not an absence of government. We don't want to "refund everybody's money" - we believe that government takes too much of our own money to spend in ways we wouldn't and for things the federal government has no authority to do and would rather let people keep their money to spend as they want. I mean, really - does a tea pot museum really deserve national tax dollars???
Second, he's wrong because a limited government with taxes only sufficient to support that limited government is exactly who we are! And that IS the story of America.
Ask yourselves -- where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance? (Applause.)
How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? (Applause.) How many Americans would have suffered as a result?
Another incorrect premise: that if government hadn't done these things, none of them would have happened. Yet, we have plenty of private schools and universities, people build roads and bridges long before the federal government started to do so and people have been finding a way to go to college long before the federal government started subsidizing it.
As for the last two questions...
"What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?"
... all I can say is 'wow!' We all know he believes there is nothing sacred about the limits placed on our government by our constitution, but this blatant, outright disregard for the document he swore to preserve, protect and defend is just unbelievable! Our constitution is not just some 'rigid idea' - it is the defining document that grants authority to the government for specific tasks, recognizing that it is 'we the people' who are supposed to be in control - not some far-off bureaucracy with the unlimited power to do whatever it sees fit.
Again, how is he so very wrong?
The President also says he wants to "listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it." Well, here's an idea: lift the moratorium on oil drilling. The American Petroleum Institute said lifting restrictions could allow them to create 1,000,000 jobs - actual jobs that don't rely upon government funding to exist. How's that for a job plan?
But since the President hates the oil industry (at least publicly despite accepting campaign donations from them), I doubt this will be one of those ideas he wants to 'listen' to.
In the end, the plan he put forth is just more of the same: nothing new in terms of policies, philosophies or actual substance; no funding plan; more class warfare pitting rich against poor; more politicking despite claiming not to be; and nothing different in terms of the last stimulus which failed miserably.
It's just the second verse, same as the first - and the outcome will also be the same.
Some other perspectives on the speech:
Warner Todd Huston's "Live Tweeting Obama's Job Speech: More Big Government Boondoggles"
Leslie Carbone's "Same Scheme, Different Speech"
Ken Marrero's "Congress Should Not Pass American Jobs Act, it Should Just Pass"
David McElroy's "Trusting Obama to create jobs is like trusting an arsonist to put out fires"
Ed Morrissey's "Which word was missing from Obama's speech last night?"
Ed Morrissey's "AP fact check skewers Porkulus II: Economic Boogaloo speech"
Wall Street Journal Editorial: The Latest Jobs Plan