It wasn’t much of a speech, was it? Nobody expected it to be a policy home run. After all, the specifics — nearly all of which were leaked in advance — were warmed-over retreads from previous “jobs” speeches. Of the initiatives:
· Temporary payroll tax reduction, plus an extension to new businesses
· A new-hire tax break
· Extended unemployment insurance with a new training for the long-term unemployed
· Extending the expensing of small business expensing
· Supposed “quick acting” infrastructure spending, especially in schools
· Checks to states to hold on to favored employees
Only the notion that it would be “paid for” was held back for the speech itself — but of course that is just another promise. So we got another speech with fundamentally mediocre substance. Indeed, even by late August Macroeconomic Advisers was warning that a similar package would generate under 40,000 new jobs per month between now and the end of 2012. This package is “bigger” and would like get scored differently, but the bottom line would be the same.
In short, we knew in advance that the President wanted to spend nearly another ½ trillion dollars and not move the dial on unemployment. We didn’t know that it would be spend and promise to tax, but the shock value is small.
The surprise to me was that the politics were so flat. Sure, he succeeded in floating proposals that Republicans will largely oppose, thereby cementing his strategy of portraying them as recalcitrant even as he supposedly tries to reach across the aisle. And, again, he took to the podium and lectured all Members about evils of partisan divide, thereby running away from his Democratic colleagues on the Hill.
But these are small-ball tactics on policy and politics. They do not do anything to counter the emerging narrative: President Obama is unready to lead. And his only plan for growth and jobs is spend, spend, spend.