For an administration that has sometimes had trouble achieving transparency, last night was a triumph–the president delivered the most transparently political speech ever delivered before a joint session of Congress. Convening a joint session of Congress for a campaign speech shows the kind of disregard for the niceties of our system you’d expect from a president who at one point last night addressed the assembled as “guys.”
What the president actually said can be summed up easily: if at first your policies fail, try them again. Best gambit: the president said what he is calling for is “paid for.” How? He is going to tell the super committee of the House and Senate to find a way to cut more to pay for it. Wow! That’s sure passing the buck in a country running out of bucks to pass. We aren’t even sure they can cut what they must to avoid triggering across the board cuts (including drastic cuts to the military), and now President Obama cavalierly tells them just to cut more. Now that’s a plan.
As for the content of the speech, I think Yuval Levin nailed it:
Spend $450 billion dollars now, it will create jobs, and I’ll tell you how I’m going to pay for it a week from Monday. If you disagree, you want to expose kids to mercury.
That about sums up the Obama years.
Here’s my response to the president’s “pass this bill” mantra: Hey, Congress passed it when you first came to office. Remember the stimulus? Anna has also done a succinct summary of The Speech.
It may be taking last night’s mishmash more seriously than it warrants to actually address the content of the president’s speech. But he is the president and the speech is the basis for what he will be sending to Congress. Don’t miss our IWF scholars’ quick and excellent takes. Cato’s Chris Edwards also dissects it on National Review. Here are the top two points:
A temporary payroll tax cut is not a tax cut at all if the president “pays for it” with tax hikes later on. And if it’s temporary, it won’t encourage businesses to hire additional workers anyway.
We don’t need more federal spending on infrastructure. Instead, we need higher-quality infrastructure spending financed and built by the private sector. We need private airports, private air-traffic control, private toll highways. When the federal government spends on infrastructure, it often misallocates the funds. The list of federal infrastructure boondoggles and cost overruns is endless – in public housing, dam-building, Corps of Engineers projects, bridges to nowhere, high-speed rail, etc.
Jennifer Rubin captured both the president’s style and content:
President Obama tonight seemed simultaneously angry and nervous as he rushed through a speech that was transparently not worthy of a joint session of Congress. His great idea: Cobble together a mish-mash of old ideas (infrastructure spending, a payroll tax cut) and pay for it later, by asking the debt commission to come up with additional deficit reductions later, preferably by hiking taxes on the rich. The second half of the speech was a heated campaign rally aimed at a cartoon version of his future opponent.
On the presidential anger, James Capretta:
Let’s get this straight: The president, now in his third year in office, is worked up with righteous indignation because Congress hasn’t done enough on jobs. Really?
During his first two years in office, he had commanding majorities in the House and Senate. He could have passed just about any kind of economic agenda he wanted. What did he do? He passed an $800 stimulus bill that didn’t work and then spent a year and a half passing the most controversial and burdensome entitlement expansion in half a century. That’s pretty much the entire Democratic economic agenda.
The best moment was when the president said that some present believed the solution was for government to lower taxes and then step aside and the GOP applauded and applauded and applauded.
I doubt if last night’s speech will create a single job-and I don’t think it saved one job that the president cares about very much.