My big takeaway from President Obama’s speech yesterday is that he is walled off from reality in the White House and he has absolutely no clue what average Americans are feeling these days. Clearly, after stunning losses in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts over the past few months, this Administration was sent a message from the American people that they are mad at President Obama’s big government policies. He did not hear that message and he told them last night that he is pushing forward with ObamaCare and other big government ideas. They don’t want it.
The President, when not blaming the Bush Administration for his problems, merely thinks that the American people are not listening to him. This is good news for conservatives, because the President’s speech last night shows that he will take no action to right the ship before Congressional elections this November and he seems incapable of a nuanced approach to politics that includes a mix of conservative and liberal approaches to problem solving. The President is like the Captain of the Titanic in April of 1912 steaming past huge icebergs in the hope that his ship of state somehow makes it until the end of the year without a catastrophic collision.
The President is very good at recognizing problems and stated the obvious to the American people last night. From the President’s first State of the Union:
But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.
This is an I feel your pain moment for President Obama, yet he did not propose any solutions to the economic devastation, other than a jobs bill that is a scaled down retread of his failed Stimulus plan. President Obama then went on to claim that he is a tax cutter and sounded Reaganesque:
Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.
The problem with this statement is that this President will sign a version of ObamaCare (House version) that includes an income tax increase to pay for government run health care. Furthermore, the President has redefined “tax cut” to mean “tax credit.” On October 13, 2008, the Wall Street Journal critiqued the Senator Obama’s claim that he was going to cut taxes for 95 percent of working families: From the WSJ:
For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase “tax credit.”
This critique is accurate today. The President’s plan to put Americans back to work is his proposal for a “Jobs Bill” contains some new tax credits.
So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit — one that will go to over 1 million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.
The idea of eliminating all capital gains taxes on small business investment is a good idea. The idea of lowering or eliminating taxation on small business will spur economic growth, yet this proposal is buried in a Jobs Bill that is loaded with new federal spending. Congress is working on an $82.5 billion plan with tax credits for companies that hire, money for alternative energy and a bailout for fiscally irresponsible states. That does not sound like economic stimulus to me — sounds more like President Obama’s Stimulus Part II.
The President, when talking about ObamaCare, showed that he did not listen to the people of Massachusetts when they elected Senator-elect Scott Brown in a referendum on ObamaCare:
Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse trading, this process left most Americans wondering what’s in it for them.
The President thinks this issue is too “complex” for the average American to understand. He also says that he didn’t explain ObamaCare more clearly to the American people. This is conclusive evidence that this President has contempt for those who disagree with him and an “I am smarter than you” attitude to governing. He implies that the American people are too dumb to understand his ObamaCare bill. They do understand. They don’t like it. At some point this Administration needs to back away from this wildly unpopular plan. The President urged Congress to double down on ObamaCare.
Here’s what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.
If Congress does finish the job of passing ObamaCare, Blue Dogs and moderate Democrats in the Senate can kiss their jobs good bye. The President and Congress’ secretly negotiated ObamaCare bill is not popular and even liberal Massachusetts has said no to a government takeover of health care. Moderate Democrats should update their resumes because Obama’s plans on health care seem like a stimulus plan for Republicans running for the House and Senate.
The President proposed a freeze in government spending after he blamed President Bush for many of his problems:
Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work. We’ve already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.
A freeze is not a cut and this plan is only effective if the President vetoes Congress’ appropriations bills that come in over budget. The proof is in the actions of our President and we will not see if he is serious about this freeze until the appropriations process is complete later this year. On foreign policy, the President seems to be more focused on getting troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq than winning these wars:
In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, reduce corruption and support the rights of all Afghans — men and women alike. We are joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitment, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am confident we will succeed. As we take the fight to al-Qaida, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
Victory is a better goal than promising that “all of our troops are coming home.” The bottom line with this speech, as with all others by this president, is that he is great at promising, but not so great at delivering. He gave a Clintonesque speech last night with a long list of issues and promises. We will know by the next State of the Union if this President is serious about promises or if he is the Promise-Breaker-In-Chief.