What is there to say about Barack Obama’s speech to Congress Thursday night, and the so-called American Jobs Act he said Congress must pass? Several thoughts occur, all starting with P.
Projection. That’s psychologist-speak term for projecting your own faults on others. “This isn’t political grandstanding,” Obama told members of Congress, as Republicans snickered (but thankfully resisted the temptation to shout “You lie!”). “This isn’t class warfare.”
These sentences came four paragraphs after Obama insisted that “the most affluent citizens and corporations” should pay more taxes (which spurs job creation how?), and not long before he promised to “take that message to every corner of the country.”
Lest there be any doubt about Obama’s real intentions, consider that his speech was obviously modeled on Harry Truman’s call for a special session of the Republican-controlled Congress in the summer of 1948, so he could campaign against them Republicans. And consider that Obama pointedly refused to rebuke Jim Hoffa’s “let’s take these sons of bitches out” — meaning Republicans — when he introduced him last Monday in Detroit.
Pragmatism. Perceptive writers like David Brooks of the New York Times told us in 2008 that Obama was basically a pragmatist, a slave to no ideology but simply a student of what works. Brooks was apparently impressed by Obama’s mention of Edmund Burke and the sharp crease in his pants.
But a pragmatist would probably not choose to call for more of the policies that plainly haven’t worked. Infrastructure spending (shovel-ready, anyone?), subsidies of teachers’ salaries, fixing roofs and windows on schools — these were all in the 2009 stimulus package, which has led to the stagnant economy we have today.
A pragmatist doesn’t keep pressing the same garage-door button when the garage door doesn’t open. He gets out of the car and tries to identify what’s wrong.
Paid for. “Everything in this bill,” Obama said in his eighth paragraph, “will be paid for. Everything.”
By whom? Well, in the 24th paragraph he tells us that he is asking the 12-member super-committee Congress set up under the debt-ceiling bill to add another $450,000,000,000 or so to the $1,500,000,000,000 in savings it is charged to come up with. The roving camera showed the ordinarily hardy super-committee member Sen. Jon Kyl looking queasy.
Obama is like the guy in the bar who says, “I’ll stand drinks for everyone in the house,” and then adds, “Those guys over there are going to pay for them.”
What’s fascinating here is that once again the supposedly pragmatic and sometimes professorial president is not making use of the first-class professionals in the Office of Management and Budget to come up with specifics, but is leaving that to members of Congress, maybe in a midnight marathon session with deadlines pending. Same as on the stimulus package and Obamacare.