In Preparation for Tonight’s Speech

by Veronique de Rugy

The president will once again face the nation tonight and explain his grand plan for the country. While there are bets going on all over the blogosphere about what cliche the president will utter first, I am pretty sure that he will use most of them while explaining his new plan to create jobs.

The truth, of course, is that if the president had a good plan to create jobs (meaning one that actually gets the economy going and the unemployment rate down to its pre-crisis level), we would have heard about it by now. It’s been four years and billions of dollars in jobs programs.

The irony of the whole “I have a plan to create jobs” line (which most president deliver during their State of the Union addresses, sadly) is that it’s not the president’s role to create jobs. But there won’t be any mention of that tonight. There also won’t be also any mention of letting the government get out of the way (read: seriously reducing the size of government and reforming entitlement spending), creating an environment in which the private sector can actually create jobs or increase the productivity of the existing ones.

Instead, what the president will have is a list of already-tried policy ideas that don’t work or barely change people’s incentives to do things in a different way: temporary tax credits to employers and small businesses, extension of the payroll-tax cut, subsidies to specific industries (energy, manufacturing, and oil), and everyone’s favorite infrastructure spending for “An America Built to Last (that automobile-advertisement-sounding name is the title of the talking points sent to congressional Democrats earlier today). The price tag is likely to be important.

If Ryan Lizza (whose article I mentioned this morning) is correct that Obama’s main lesson from his presidency so far is that he doesn’t have enough power to do the things he wants to do, we can expect him to renew his demand for increased executive authority in the name of government reorganization.

Also, based on the “America Built to Last” talking points, we can expect lots of catering to the middle class and a speech based heavily on his remarks in Osawatomie, Kansas. That’s why before tonight’s speech everyone should read (or read again) this excellent piece (which Rich mentioned) by the Brooking Institution’s Scott Winship on the claims made by the president during the Osawatomie speech. A tidbit here:

This claim of falling upward mobility — of diminished opportunity — rang false to me. The figures were new and of unknown origin, and they contradicted most of the research that has been conducted to date. Upward mobility is too limited in the U.S. today, and it is lower than it is in other countries (a fact cited by Rick Santorum in a recent Republican presidential debate). But upward mobility does not have to be falling for it to be too limited, and there is only the thinnest evidence that it has fallen over time.

The whole thing is here. And now that you are well prepared — and warned — enjoy.

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