Liddick: Same old song
By all accounts, there’s going to be interesting television Thursday night, and not just the kickoff of the NFL season. The pregame show is going to involve the president addressing a joint session of Congress, something usually reserved for the State of the Union, declarations of war and other such goings-on. But such is the brilliance of the Dear Leader that a plan – which has not been committed to paper, let alone reviewed by politicians and economists – is seen as a compelling reason for a command performance. His command, of course.
In the interest of fun, make a big bowl of popcorn and use the checklist below to follow along.
1. “We faced a grave economic crisis when we assumed office.” Alternative language: it’s George Bush’s fault. Explanation: it’s George Bush’s fault. One will probably hear this several times in the speech. Note: Mr. President, you’ve been in office almost three years, and for two of them, you had a rubber-stamp Democrat Congress. It’s your responsibility now. Stop trying to fix the blame; fix the problem instead.
2. “In order to address the real suffering out there, I propose an additional $2 trillion in spending over the next 18 months.” No, the president won’t be this frank. Instead, there will be a lot of talk about “poor Mrs. Krepsky, who needs our help because she was thrown out of her job when the evil Glominoid Corporation moved their operations overseas.” The president will not use the “T-word” in his speech – he’s far too clever for that – but if you add up the costs for the proposed programs, that’s about what you’ll get. Initially. And the names may be different, but believe it – the points will be made.
3. “My proposed plan will also address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure by employing millions to work on roads, bridges and other shovel ready jobs.” Although he probably won’t use that exact phrase again. Too many of us remember the laughs the last time “shovel ready jobs” were discussed. Pat yourself down for the “stupid” sign on this one: you know the president’s seeing it. “Shovel-ready jobs” were the chief rationale for the last “Spendulus” bill, but they comprised only about 5 percent of the expenditures. Most of the money went instead to things like Medicare, Medicaid and backfilling state general fund expenses. Consider, too, that only about 58 percent of that 5 percent in the bill has been spent, almost three years later. If quick relief is promised, it flies in the face of evidence.
4. “The Congress must act on my proposals immediately, so we can put people back to work.” Remember the health care debate? “We have to vote for the bill to find out what’s in it?” Panic may be effective politics – at least the first few times it’s used – but it rarely results in good policy. Those who insist on going over the details and closely questioning the administration about its plans are not obstructionists. They are good stewards of the public’s resources. In particular, I hope they ask why the president thinks another round of profligate spending will have the desired effect. Last time around, we carpet-bombed the country with just less than a trillion dollars of borrowed money, and the unemployment rate declined to 9.1 percent This doesn’t seem like value for money.
Those are the main points of the speech we’re likely to hear. It’s the usual stuff, and it will be propped up by the familiar refrains of class envy, crude populism and attacks on those who don’t immediately embrace the dazzling coolness of the president’s proposal. Worse, it’s a plan we already know won’t work.
But what if the president delivered another speech? What if he opened with an admission that his policies, however well-intentioned, have prolonged the problem, or made it worse? What if he acknowledged the role of business in job creation – not just pet corporations like General Electric, but export powerhouses like Boeing? And what if he committed the remainder of his tenure in office to making certain that his administration would aid, not stymie, businesses as they attempt to expand, hire and – gasp – make money?
What effects would there be for a 10-person business that didn’t have to worry about Obamacare’s $1,500-per-worker average cost? How would major manufacturers react to news that the National Labor Relations Board would no longer involve itself in their strategic planning? How would exporters respond to news that the administration was going to aggressively help them find new markets, rather than aggressively saddle them with additional regulations? One can only speculate, but there would probably be a sharp uptick in business confidence. And confident businesses hire. Now, that would be good television.
Don’t hold your breath.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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