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President Obama speaks during a campaign event at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, June 14, 2012.

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Of course, the Romney plan includes deep spending cuts, and some of those will be difficult or unpopular, perhaps even impossible to pass through Congress. But the president’s lament was nonetheless overblown. He fretted that “10 million college students would lose an average of $1,000 each on financial aid.” Can we please make it $2,000? The stream of unaccountable federal money pouring into the higher-education establishment is a source of tuition inflation, not the cure for it. Likewise, the president bemoaned that Republicans might want to trim Head Start, a program of questionable merit. That is not the worst possible outcome. We’d also propose spending a little bit less money getting monkeys high on cocaine and chronicling the benefits of menopausal yoga, as the president’s stimulus program did. Call us Luddites.

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The tragedy of Barack Obama’s logocentric presidency is that the best economic-policy speech in the history of economic speeches would not change the facts on the ground — sickly recovery, massive unemployment, onerous deficits — and he did not give the best speech. It is probable that the electorate’s judgment of President Obama vis-à-vis matters economic is by this point fixed, and that he has been found wanting. Old Clinton hands have been begging him to change his tune on the economy, but President Obama is not an easy man to move. James Carville won’t be able to do it, but perhaps Ohio, Florida, and Virginia can.



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