Obama’s Economic Speech Heavy on Rhetoric, Light on Solutions

It must be getting really boring to be one of the President’s speechwriters. How many different ways can you say the same thing? For over a year now, as employment has remained stagnant despite the President’s stimulus plan we’ve heard the same thing: “I didn’t get us into this mess, but now that we’re here I’ve met with some people and we’re working on it.”

So count me as shocked, literally shocked, by Obama’s completely different speech yesterday in which he clearly laid out answers and a plan to fix this problem. Ah, who are we kidding? It was the same old, same old speech we’ve heard a thousand times before.

He kicked off the speech by saying, “What we did know is that it took nearly a decade to dig the hole that we are in, and that it would take longer than any of us would like to climb our way out.” That’s the passive-aggressive Bush attack. Lamenting how hard he’s been fighting to extricate our nation from this massive mess and yet the hole is so deep that it is almost fruitless. Nevertheless, ever the valiant leader, President Obama will continue to give it his absolute best.

To that end, he says “My administration remains focused, every single day, on pushing this economy forward, repairing the damage that has been done to the middle class over the past decade, and promoting the growth we need to get people to get people back to work…”

Sadly, whether or not he has been focused, doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen no solutions. President Obama is an academic, more comfortable in talking about and debating hypotheticals, than implementing actual plans. We’ve had a jobs summit, a healthcare summit, and a deficit panel and to my knowledge nothing has come of any of them. We don’t need talks or lectures, we need jobs.

Moreover, businesses have been clear on how to accomplish that task – get out of our way. Daniel Loeb, ultra-successful hedge fund manager and one of Obama’s largest campaign backers, has been the latest in the chorus of criticism. In a letter to investors he wrote that,

“So long as our leaders tell us that we must trust them to regulate and redistribute our way back to prosperity, we will not break out of this economic quagmire.

Perhaps our leaders will awaken to the fact that free market capitalism is the best system to allocate resources and create innovation, growth and jobs. Perhaps too, a cloven-hoofed, bristly haired mammal will become airborne and the rosette-like marking of a certain breed of ferocious feline will become altered. In other words, we are not holding our breath.”

Loeb’s not exactly known for holding back.

By this we should all know what comes next in the prototypical Obama speech. If you said “small vague solutions” congratulations, you’re correct, and you’re likely watching too many Obama speeches. Right on cue Obama spit out the line, “my economic team is hard at work at identifying additional measures that could make a difference.”

This sounds an awful lot like super-hyped Oval Office speech after the Gulf oil spill in which he announced that he established a “commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations.” Does any of this really pass for solutions? Obama is great at creating commissions, setting up taskforces, and “working hard” to identify things. But do any solutions really ever get identified or is this just an attempt to look like your doing something when you’re really not doing anything. If, after two years and very little economic improvement, the only solution you have is that you’re going to look for solutions, you really don’t have squat.

Then, and this is the genius of the man, he uses whatever crisis he is talking about to push for his pre-existing policy agenda. President Obama walked into office with a game plan. In the two years since, he’s been attempting to fit his problems to the solution and not his solutions to the problems. That is exactly the reason every bill that Democrats’ pass somehow gets labeled a jobs bill. Nevertheless, Obama, or Mr. Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste, was at it again, saying:

“Steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year.  Redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D.  Rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future.

None of that is new. It’s stuff he’s been talking about since he got elected. If these are the ideas that his economic team is hard at work creating, then it simply shows they are out of ideas.  It’s all well and good to have an agenda and stick to it, but save us from the sales pitch. We’ve heard it before…many times.

And finally, because no Obama speech would be complete without it, comes the shot at Congressional Republicans. He argues that there is a jobs bill before Congress but it’s being “held up by a partisan minority that won’t allow it to go to a vote . . . So I ask Republicans to drop the blockade.” I’ll save you the spiel on why that’s a distortion of the facts, for that read this. The larger point is that excuses are really the only solution that the President has perfected. Whether it be Bush, banks, Wall Street, big business, or Congress, the President has placed the blame for our dire economic state just about everywhere but with himself. Let’s set aside the petty finger pointing and channel that energy into crafting some policies that actually encourage our economy to grow. With November elections right around the corner, count me as skeptical

So there you have it the Obama speech recipe: 2 parts blame, 1 part “we’re trying really hard,” and a pinch of rehashed solutions, mix until fully blended. Despite the pretty packaging it tastes like what you’d expect – BS.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee