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Don Severe: Obama: Just smooth talk

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During my career in the employee benefit marketing and administration business, I came in contact with some of the most convincing and glib sales people. One who comes to mind was a fellow who was the one of the best “on his feet” salesman … quick, smooth, convincing and believable. He would tell the prospective clients what they wanted to hear. Never mind whether he or his fellow company employees could deliver the promises made. But, he often got the sale. Then, the problems began. He would inform administrative personnel what they needed to do to meet the requirements of the new contract. In many instances, they involved services that the company was not “geared” to handle. He got the sale, but then it was their problem to deliver. Unfortunately for his company and its employees it was a slow course to disaster. Eventually, the company went out of business.

After watching President Obama deliver the State of the Union address, this anecdote came to mind. The president is a smooth talker, somewhat charming, somewhat attractive, convincing and glib. The problem is that his actions oftentimes do not match his words. He has problems matching sentiment with policies. In short, he proposes government programs that cannot be delivered. But, they are problems for bureaucrats to solve and handle, not him.

President Obama stated that “this is our generation’s Sputnik moment.” Further, that “we need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” In addition, “our free enterprise system is what drives innovation”. Then he proceeds to propose taxing the so-called “rich” ($250K+/year) even though they are the ones who, oftentimes, are entrepreneurial, innovative, free enterprise people who create jobs. He did not express any well-formed ideas of policies reflecting his authentic belief in the private economy. He did propose green jobs such as installing solar panels and wind turbines. High speed rail is another of his Sputnik moment ideas. However good these might be, they have very little to do with the next two years of his presidency.



After touting free enterprise in a private economy – “… the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny …” – he proposes more infrastructure and more government-funded programs. Does chameleon come to mind?

The president stated the nation was “poised for progress.” However, the day before Mr. Obama took office, 142 million Americans were employed. Today, that number is 139 million. Before his inauguration, the total debt was $10.6 trillion. Today that number is $14.2 trillion. There are approximately 2.13 million federal employees (excluding postal workers) and it is reported that the average wage of federal employees exceeds the average for individuals in the private sector.



Mr. Obama did not offer one new idea or spending cut. Within hours of his address, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual budget review and expressed how deep the fiscal mess is facing the nation. In a word they called it “daunting.” The federal deficit for fiscal year 2011 is expected to increase by $1.48 trillion. CBO estimates that on the current trajectory the debt held by the public as a share of GDP will be 73.9 percent in 2012 – up from 39.7 percent in 2008.

The deficit must be cut, entitlements are unsustainable, government should be smaller as well as more efficient, and the tax code impairs growth and must be reformed.

But, what will President Obama do to resolve these problems? Nothing?! Time will tell but it may be too late. With all the smooth talk has he simply entered the campaign mode for 2012 leaving the state of the economy in the hands of Congress?

President Obama campaigned on “Hope and Change”; buzz words that made many voters feel good. He rode the wave as the first minority president in the history of the nation. He made many promises and kept very few. Was he like the salesman who made promises that his company couldn’t keep?

Time will judge the effectiveness of President Obama. Is he one who enjoys the challenge of campaigning while extolling virtuous rhetoric and promises that the Americans wanted to hear? What a tremendous ego boost. However, once getting the job as president did he find that he was ill prepared for such a daunting task?

Voters will have a clear choice to make in 2012 as to whether they want more hope and very little change. Unfortunately, presidential elections are like beauty contests. Many voters are swayed by the appearance of the candidate and the rhetoric that flows so easily from their mouths. Superficial appearance trumps substance.

What will the State of our Union be two years from now?

Don Severe lives in Dillon.


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