Obama's job speech may save just one: his own

The president's new jobs initiative is too little, too late - and has little chance of congressional approval.

    Obama's jobs speech stressed that he was not proposing class warfare - but given the situation in the US, some more extreme sloganising might be needed [GALLO/GETTY]

    The Hill newspaper reports President Obama will again press Congress to pass his American Jobs Act during a Rose Garden event on Monday. Obama has begun a full-on campaign to rally the public behind his plan in an effort to both spur the economy and put Republicans on defense.

    "The Speech" did what it was supposed to do - associate President Barack Obama with a bold programme for creating jobs, even though skeptics and critics alike thought it was more about keeping one job - his own.

    The rhetoric and style of delivery was classic campaign-mode Obama, soaring along the high road, calling on his adversaries to embrace it, appealing to the public to support a new multi-billion dollar jobs act. 

    The next day he was off and running, "selling" his plan and himself at a variety of venues organised by his reelection apparatus.

    To disenchanted liberals, it sounded like an energised, even passionate gloves-off clarion call by a president who seems to have been more comfortable projecting a cool persona, playing to the independent in the centre more than to his left-leaning base.

    The BBC's Mark Mardell commented, "This was not of course a new President Obama, but it was a style of speech I have never heard him make before. Fired up, yes, but using plain language.

    The call, if not the response, of a preacher. The chorus line: "You should pass this jobs plan right away."

    Jumping in to back the president was the AFL-CIO, the union federation that has grown more critical of the Democrats lately. Union President Richard Trumka said the American Jobs Act that President Obama proposed shows that he "is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale".


    Another long-time booster, liberal journalist Howard Fineman, was taken somewhat aback, noting, "Friends and foes alike had to wonder watching him tonight: Where has that Barack Obama been? The other question, of course, is: Why did it take so long for 'Give 'Em Hell, Barry' to appear?"

    No doubt this not-so-new Obama is aware that his declining polls and the growing disenchantment of weary supporters requires a new, more militant public tone.

    But The Hill newspaper that covers Congress reported that many Democrats "say that President Obama is great at delivering speeches, but they claim that if he is going to govern effectively, he must walk the walk and not just talk the talk".

    How likely is that with Wall Street now his biggest support of campaign cash?

    How likely is that given that Obama has also raised the prospect that the future of Social Security may be on the chopping block?

    And how likely is it that with businesses all saying that they won't do what he asks because the economy is too perilous to invest in new jobs? The people he is counting on to come through seem to be saying he is through!

    Two organisations that support Social Security issued a statement of critical support because they worry Obama will chop entitlements: "As advocates of a strong Social Security programme, we would be remiss if we did not note our concern that the Administration is also proposing a potentially harmful change to the programme's financing."

    So here we go again: Obama postures left but moves right, making big-money blue-sky proposals that seem likely to be shot down by a rigidly right-wing congress.

    At the heart of his $447bn package are tax cuts that are not likely to cause much job creation.

    Comments economist Dean Baker: "At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the two percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth."

    And at a time of a crisis brought about in part by banks, the golden bullet also being touted is a National Infrastructure Bank. The idea: Give investors who already have too much a chance to make even more by bailing out an economy they helped wreck.

    Obama's timing and political environment couldn't be worse. Republicans were attacking his plan before he even outlined it. His efforts to get conservatives on board seem to be a non-starter. Despite his efforts to reach out across the aisle, most of his adversaries began denouncing it on cue as a rehash even if he incorporated some of their ideas into it

    Why is this happening? The smart folks at the Economic Cycle Research Institute point to structural problems beyond the reach of any president.

    Ed Harrison reports on Credit Writedowns: "We are in a decade-long post-credit crisis struggle which will mean high unemployment even if policy makers focused on jobs (which they have not, I would add) ... The likely outcome for the next decade is one of sub-par global growth with short business cycles punctuated by fits of recession."

    What's taken Obama so long?

    So, yes, while it may be wrong to blame Obama for forces beyond his control - beyond any president's control - it isn't wrong to ask what has taken him so long to make jobs a priority.

    Just as justice delayed is justice denied, waiting too long to do what has to be done ensures that we may be beyond the tipping point, too late to get much accomplished, given the political realities and uncertainties in this government-killing environment.

    Concludes Harrison: "Obama's failure to understand where we are in the economic cycle and the relationship to historical precedent has been catastrophic to the conduct of economic policy and critical in his missteps. There is more to Obama's misfortune than a bad economy."

    Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism says that Obama is on the wrong road:

    "We need more debt restructurings and writedowns to get the debt overhang resolved faster, and fiscal deficits to offset the deflationary effects. Monetary policy is not an adequate substitute, as we have seen, and barely stimulative stimulus programmes, like inadequate doses of medicine, destroy faith in the remedy when the flaw is in how it is being administered."

    Financier Eric Jantzen of iTulip.com says that the time is up:

    "Attempts to restart the FIRE Economy - the economy oriented around the finance, insurance, and real estate industries - will fail at the expense of the Productive Economy - the economy of goods and services produces that employs over 90 per cent of consumers. If policy makers persist with this wrong-headed approach ... the result will be persistent high unemployment, a depreciating dollar, rising consumer price inflation, falling home prices, and rising budget deficits."

    And let's not talk about our divided, ineffective Federal Reserve and squeamish Justice Department, which has never seen a big bank it is willing to prosecute. Not to mention the deficit-buster gang in Congress who won't provide a single centavo to do what needs doing and should have been done in the first place: a sizable investment plan to seriously stimulate job creation.

    Each day brings new reports of more jobs lost, not found - at banks; in local, state and federal government agencies; in manufacturing. When you hear the term job creation, think job destruction.

    But confidence artists on Wall Street say that if it is adopted - a big if - it can create jobs. Bloomberg reports:

    "The proposal, which would raise infrastructure spending and cut in half payroll taxes paid by workers and small businesses, would add 2 per cent to next year's GDP, create 1.9 million jobs and lower the unemployment rate by one percentage point compared with current policy," according to Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi.

    The problem here is that Zandi has been wrong so often in the past that his prediction is just raising eyebrows.

    Former Clinton Labour Secretary Robert Reich asked, "Why did the President include so many tax cuts, and why didn't he make his proposal sufficiently large to make a real impact on jobs and growth? Because he crafted it in order to appeal to Republicans. To get it enacted, he needs their votes. I'm having a dizzying sense of deja vu."

    Also, no one is taking any bets on it becoming law, either. Economist and columnist Paul Krugman asserts: "Of course, it isn't likely to become law, thanks to GOP opposition. Nor is anything else likely to happen that will do much to help the 14 million Americans out of work. And that is both a tragedy and an outrage."

    In his speech, the president was quick to say he was not proposing class warfare. But, given the extreme realities we are facing, some more extreme sloganising might be exactly what's needed.

    News Dissector Danny Schechter is a blogger (Newsdissector.com,) author and filmmaker. His latest DVD is Plunder the Crime of Our Time. (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com.) He also hosts News Dissector Radio on ProgressiveRadioNetwork.com. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org

    Follow Danny Schechter on Twitter: @dissectorevents

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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