July 25 2013
Patrice J. Lee
The President turns attention back to making the country work for Americans again. Really?!?!
Well POTUS is pivoting to the economy… yet again. Like Charlotte, who has also offered thoughts on the President's speech yesterday, I can't help noticing that he has pivoted to the economy quite a few times in his presidency. Perhaps if he didn’t shift his focus away from it so often, he wouldn’t have to keep pivoting back.
In a speech yesterday at Knox College in Illinois, the President laid out his plans for the “one thing and one thing only” that he cares about: “how to use every minute of the remaining 1,276 days of my term to make this country work for working Americans again.”
It’s good to see that he is focusing once again on the issue that is top of mind for many Americans including the millions of unemployed, underemployed and discouraged workers. Let’s not get too excited though. The speech was thin on substance but heavy on partisan name-calling and blame-passing
The President’s “five cornerstones of a strong middle class” read like a hodgepodge of ideas yanked from his State of the Union addresses over the past five years. Nothing was new or controversial, as he rehashed ideas like job programs, wind and solar power jobs, spending more on infrastructure, and implementing ObamaCare.
After rattling off some positive economic indicators, the president lashed out at House Republicans as the reason more has not been achieved and why Americans continue to struggle:
“But right now, what we’ve got in Washington, we've seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest that they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up. And that fiasco harmed a fragile recovery in 2011 and we can't afford to repeat that.
Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel -- by cutting out programs we don’t need, fixing ones that we do need that maybe are in need of reform, making government more efficient -- instead of doing that, we've got folks who’ve insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that's cost jobs. It's harmed growth. It's hurt our military. It's gutted investments in education and science and medical research. …
Then, over the last six months, this gridlock has gotten worse. I didn't think that was possible.
…And if you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in the House, about their economic agenda how it is that they'll strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to “out-of-control government spending” –- despite the fact that we've cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office.
Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they’ve already cut early education for vulnerable kids. They've already cut insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Or they’ll bring up ObamaCare -- this is tried and true -- despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as businesses had at the same point in the last recovery when there was no ObamaCare.”
Leave it to the President to deflect attention from what he has not accomplished and toward his nemeses –House Republicans.
The line that leaped out at me is the one that followed: “But with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop. This needs to stop.”
Phony scandals? What did the President mean by that?
Perhaps he meant the investigation into the Administration’s actions in Benghazi, Libya following the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three Americans. Or maybe, he’s referring to the Justice Department seizing the records of reporters from unfriendly new agencies suppressing freedom of the press. No, he must mean the phony the investigation into allegations of discrimination by the IRS against conservative groups.
It’s hard to swallow that the anemic economic growth and stalled unemployment is because House Republicans have been distracted with investigations into (proven) wrong-doing and cover-ups. God forbid that some of our representatives should question actions that have eroded our constitutional rights of assembly, free press and free speech.
Perhaps the President has forgotten that congressional investigations and hearings are instruments in Congress’s tool belt that check the power of the executive branch.
But if anyone is distracted it isn’t just Capitol Hill. Throughout his presidency but especially in his second term, the President has been busy on advancing policy initiatives from immigration to ObamaCare to gun control to green jobs. I don’t fault him for trying to appease his supporters or enact policies he wants to see as every Commander in Chief does this. But the question is to what degree did these policy initiatives occupy his time, energy, and political capital compared with working on economic policy?
So like many Americans, I am not convinced when says he only cares about the economy. After all, according to the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), he has spent over twice as many hours on vacation and golf (976 hours) as he has in economic meetings of any kind (474.4 hours).
Now, let’s try to find a bright side in all of this. Perhaps it’s because President Obama has been distracted by other policy priorities that he has not been able to exact as much influence –some may even say damage- on the economy. As astute people observe, it’s not such a bad thing when Washington gets nothing done.