October 31, 2014

Obama’s Latest Jobs Speech: “Stop the political circus,” says the Ring Master.

President Obama and I agree on at least one thing: “Washington hasn’t always put [Americans'] interests first.”

Ain’t that the truth.

With Republicans vying for his job, the economy persistently sluggish, and unemployment relatively unchanged since the Bush Administration, President Obama took to the podium to make “the big speech” before a special Joint Session of Congress to lay out his job plan.

This is not his first job plan. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a month where the news has not talked about an Obama job plan.

  • In November of 2008 (“After more than two weeks of virtual silence on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team burst on the scene with new ambition and urgency Sunday, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program.”)
  • In January of 2009 (“President-elect Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create as many as 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession.“)
  • In March of 2009, after its passage (“President Obama on Friday touted the benefits of his economic recovery plan [...] the recently passed $787 billion stimulus package.”)
  • In July of 2009, after the plan failed to stop unemployment from climbing to 9.5% (“Obama, a Democrat, is trying to restore economic growth to the US but his $787-billion economic stimulus plan [...] failed to stop the unemployment rate from rising to 9.5 percent.”)
  • In December of 2009 (“President Barack Obama says his administration needs to “get America back to work” as quickly as it can, and he‘s putting together a list of proposals aimed at doing just that.”)
  • In February of 2010 (“President Obama hit the road again Tuesday to promote the new job-creation program he described as his No. 1 priority, [...]“)
  • September of 2010, just one year ago (“U.S. President Barack Obama will announce on Monday a six-year infrastructure revamp plan with an initial investment of $50 billion to jump-start job creation, a White House official said.”)
  • In February of 2011 (“The Obama administration outlined an “innovation strategy” for US job growth Friday, [...]“)
  • In May of 2011 (“Obama, GOP unveil competing plans for job growth.”)

That’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of change. But don’t lose hope. The President has another plan for you. 

I’ll give him this: Obama’s got a lotta plans. But he isn’t making much headway. Unless, of course, you have managed to convince yourself that he actually staved off a worse disaster.  Maybe, but even President Obama sells his plans not as fingers in the dike, but as reversals.

Anyway, in America we don’t believe in treading water–we believe in winning. Why else would we keep score? 14 million people can’t be wrong–the plans just aren’t working.

So what is he proposing, this time?

Where we agree

First, there are a couple things he said that I liked…assuming he means them:

Economic Growth is  Driven by Business

Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.

Great! But why have all of your plans up to now been focused more on funding the public sector, increasing the debt that must be paid by taxes from individuals and the private sector, and not just decreasing the cost of doing business for “businesses and workers,” as per your speech? Why wait until the 11th hour to come to Jesus?

Infrastructure Helps Business and Employs Construction Workers

Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.

This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

I like upgrading our roads. But what’s new about this from promised infrastructure fixes over the last three years? What happened to the spending you’ve been talking about since 2009?

OK, so, maybe I agree, but I’m a little distrustful of his sincerity. And that the money is actually going to get the economy going again. Employing workers to build roads and bridges will get cash into the economy, but it alone won’t employ 14 million people, most of who are not construction workers.

Where  He’s Wrong

On the other hand, there are several places that I just flat out think the President is wrong.

Federal Money to Rebuild Schools

And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now.

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country.

I’m all about education (even if, as a high school drop-out, I’m not a huge fan of public ed), but I don’t agree that this has anything to do with getting the economy going or creating jobs. Yes, every kid should go to a good school, but no, that has nothing to do with the economy, or with the federal government. That’s the states’ job, and the only thing it does is redistribute money from state A to state B.

So, Mr. President, rather than increase our taxes (or the deficit, but it’s the same thing, in the long term), just let us keep our money in our states, and we’ll fix the schools ourselves.

Federal Money to Hire Teachers

Again, with the education thing.

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

My problem with this is the horribly faulty logic and the blatant pandering to the education unions.  As economist Arnold Kling explains “it assumes that state and local governments need more money in order to keep teachers. They do not. They could reduce compensation and maintain hiring or even increase it.”

In other words, states aren’t firing teachers. Teachers are leaving for better paying jobs, or the states are paying teachers too much (and that’s an entirely different conversation than this one, which is, if you forgot–THE ECONOMY).

A reduction in the number of teachers only indicates that you need more money if the reduction comes from teachers quitting their jobs. If you are laying off teachers, that shows that you are making a choice to keep their compensation too high rather than have more on staff.

Get it? States aren’t firing teachers to make cuts–they are paying them more than they should. They could pay less, and employ more, but (again, enter the unions), that’s not going to happen.

Remember, I’m not saying that what teachers are paid is fair or enough. I’m saying that there’s no correlation, in spite of what President Obama is trying to trick you into believing–that states have fired teachers because of budget crunches.

If you aren’t a teacher, you must be an oil executive

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare.

Actually, it sounds a lot like class warfare. The 14 million people out there that are unemployed are, for the most part, not former teachers. In fact, education, up until 2010, was the industry that actually increased in employment.

Enter the graphic:

And that was just as of the middle of 2010!

Who are the big losers, then? You wouldn’t know it to listen to the President’s speech, but among the unemployed you can find former professionals and business service providers , construction workers (housing industry, not bridge building, though arguably, they could cross over, I assume), durable goods (like the auto industry) and retail (where shop).

Conclusion: Fail. Just like all the other plans.

I’d like to see the economy rise in the next year, because everyone would win. But what President Obama does get is that he doesn’t get it. Like one candidate said in the Reagan Library Republican Debate Wednesday night, “the President is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have a clue.” And, as another said, “its time to get out from behind the teleprompter.”

Yes, he can speech-ify, but speeches don’t amount to results, as we’ve seen for the last three years. I hope the Congress can find the morsels within the plan that will help, pass them, and move us forward.

On the whole, though, I’m not sanguine. As one Twitter level pundit put it, the speech was not expected to offer anything new. And it didn’t fail to deliver on that point.

[Read the full text here.]

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