"But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that's moving through Congress is designed to do."
First, the Congressional Budget Office has already said that the 'porkulus' bill is worse than doing nothing, contradicting Obama when he said, "I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis..."
Second, the 'government' has no resources it doesn't first take from someone else. If the American public doesn't have the resources to "jolt our economy back into life," then neither does the government. After all, government only has what it taxed us to obtain.
Third, spending more money isn't going to solve the problem, especially if you have to go into debt to do so. As South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said on CNN on Sunday:
“A problem that was created by building up of too much debt will not be solved with yet more debt.”
Also, encouraging people to keep buying will just make the inevitable more difficult when the bills finally come due.
Fourth, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill will not break the cycle of 'not spending.' Our economy goes through ups and downs and has proven its ability to continue that cycle. Government spending and 'stimulus' plans have proven to prolong the down turns, not reverse them. And we don't need to go back to the 1930s for an example. Japan's 'stimulus' actions in the 1990s give us a clear example of what not to do.
The President then complains about the $1 trillion debt he inherited, but then says the only solution is to double that debt. Maybe it's just me, but I don't get it. If $1 trillion in debt is bad, how can increasing that debt be good, as well as be the solution to what ails us?
He then urged Congress to act quickly, again, which means that despite his claims of transparency and openness, he really doesn't want to give the public any time to examine what's in the Senate version of the bill. The more the public learns about the bill, the more it disapproves, with support down to only 37%. Will the support continue to decline as more details are revealed?
When the questions began, Pres. Obama referenced Japan, indicating that he failed to learn the lessons of that country's 'lost decade.' His perspective was not that the actions in that country failed, but that "they did not act boldly and swiftly enough." In his opinion, it wasn't the concept but the implementation. This is what leftists usually think: 'the concept is good, it's just that it needs more money and it needs ME to do it instead...I'll be successful, even though everyone else who's done this hasn't been.'
And I'm tired of the claim that "We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." I was a child in the 1970s but I know that, compared to today, unemployment numbers were higher, interest rates were higher, inflation was higher - double digits, we could only gas on even numbered days because our license plate ended in an even number ... and it was these days that led to the Midwest earning the moniker of "Rust Belt."
The sad part is the justification of government spending as the solution. The idea of people keeping more of their own money to spend as they see fit, versus government giving us money taken from other through taxes, never even enters into the equation. Taking a line from Al Gore, Pres. Obama says that those of us who believe government shouldn't interfere in the marketplace are just wrong - and that we're "...fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago." See? I've declared my economic philosophy conclusively decided so there's no need for any discussion or opposition to my plan....
The President then goes on about how corporate American should reduce what it pays people. And while Obama has said he will do the same thing at the White House, that's a pittance compared to the size of the federal government. And again, there is no talk of reducing the cost government - only its expansion.
Chip Reid asked the following:
"You have often said that bipartisanship is extraordinarily important overall and in this stimulus package. But now when we ask your advisers about the lack of bipartisanship so far -- zero votes in the House, three in the Senate -- they say, well, it's not the number of votes that matters; it's the number of jobs that will be created.
Is that a sign that you are moving away, your White House is moving away, from this emphasis on bipartisanship? And what went wrong? Did you underestimate how hard it would be to change the way Washington worked?"
As I've said many times, getting good answers and learning facts is dependent upon being able to ask the right question. If I had been Reid, I would have phrased the question thusly:
"You have often said that bipartisanship is extraordinarily important overall and in this stimulus package. You met with Republicans on the Hill and they expressed gratitude at your outreach. However, your efforts to reach out to the minority party were not duplicated by the leadership in the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi did not allow Republicans to have input into the bill and did not allow amendments from the floor. How do you plan to work within your own party so that leaders on the Hill have the same commitment to bipartisanship that you have?"
Pres. Obama then says:
"...although there are some programs in there that I think are good policy, some of them aren't job creators. I think it's perfectly legitimate to say that those programs should be out of this particular recovery package, and we can deal with them later."
He's absolutely right! I'm glad he has this position - but my concern is that Congress has other ideas and won't support him on this issue. But then he goes back to the rhetoric:
"But my bottom line is, are we creating 4 million jobs, and are we laying the foundation for long-term economic growth?"
If this is his criteria, why does everyone else use the term "creating or saving" jobs and why is he insisting on a plan that the CBO says will harm long-term economic growth?
Chuck Todd then asks if spending isn't what got us into this mess in the first place? Obama says "...I don't think it's accurate to say that consumer spending got us into this mess." But then, a couple of sentences later, says, "And this economy has been driven by consumer spending for a very long time. And that's not going to be sustainable." His conclusion is then that government has to spend money - it has to put money into the hands of people who will spend it and then, when everything is back to normal, "...we're going to have to change our -- our bad habits. But right now, the key is making sure that we pull ourselves out of the economic slump that we're in."
Talk about circular logic - or no logic at all.
Jake (no last name given) then asks how we can measure the success of his plan, considering all the 'stimulus' we've had so far from the government, and Obama replies, "I think my initial measure of success is creating or saving 4 million jobs."
Again with the 'saving' jobs added in. So how do you determine if government spending has 'saved' a job as opposed to any other action in the market? He doesn't say.
Having been on the receiving end of questions from the press, albeit certainly not at the President's level, I can tell you that the questions were relatively tame, though I'm beginning to see a bit more of an adversarial relationship between the media and the elected official.
But nothing in the prepared statements or the question and answer session led me to reconsider my position on the stimulus. There were a lot of appeals to emotion to help the laid-off worker and the single mother trying not to lose her home, but facts and logic and reason on how the government spending will actually result in changing the economy were missing. If he hoped to convince the majority of Americans who oppose the package that it's a good idea, I don't think he succeeded.
People on both the right and the left are criticizing or praising, respectively, the President's performance. The nervousness of anyone in such a 'first' event is inevitable and so I had no high expectations. But had he faced tougher questions on the campaign trail, I believe he would have been better prepared for this prime time event.
(Side Note: The President blames his predecessor for the current financial crises saying that 'tax cuts alone' don't work. However, if you look it up, you will find that the Bush tax cuts resulted in higher income to the federal government. But if you look also at spending, you will see that spending by the federal government increased more than the additional revenue could cover. It wasn't the tax cuts, it was the spending - and I blame both Congress and Bush for that.
Also note that no one asked about the Bush tax cuts which are set to expire. Will they be extended? Or will everyone in Washington allow them to just go away, resulting in huge tax increases for every single tax bracket - not just 'the rich' like the Democrats always claim?)