President Obama is going to give yet another Big Speech next week. Who among us can contain his excitement?
The White House insists this address will have nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with getting Americans back to work. Well, suspend your own disbelief as best you can. But one thing is certain: The president will enter the chamber “shovel ready,” as it were.
One can expect Obama to repeat certain verbal tics. He will quote himself a lot (“As I’ve said before . . . ”). He will insist that it’s time to put aside partisan differences, by which he means everyone should agree with his ideas.
And, he will insist he’s a pragmatist who only cares about “what works.”
This has been the rhetorical theme of his presidency from the beginning. In his inaugural address he proclaimed, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”
Well, to that end, here is the speech — or a portion of it — I would like to hear from the president:
“My fellow Americans, when I came into office, I promised to discard the tired dogmas of the past. I vowed to put partisanship aside. I made a solemn pledge to focus single-mindedly on what works. As I’ve said before, what I admired most in Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was his commitment to ‘bold, persistent experimentation.’
“In May of 1932, President Roosevelt proclaimed, ‘It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.’
“Well, we have tried many things. A few, I believe, have worked, but honesty and the national crisis both compel me to admit, too many have failed.
“I can blame the mistakes of my predecessor all day long, but the simple truth is that the stimulus effort did not do what I or my own economic advisers said it would.
“Worse, many of the programs and policies inherent to the stimulus were built on fictions. Indeed, much of the money we wasted — at the behest of the Democratic congressional leadership at the time — was never even intended to stimulate so much as bail out programs and local governments.
“Moreover, as I have already admitted, ‘shovel-ready jobs’ were a myth.
“Even more dismaying, much of our green-jobs program agenda has been an indefensible failure. In Seattle, we spent $20 million in the hope of creating 2,000 jobs and weatherizing 2,000 homes. We created 14 jobs and weatherized three houses. In Toledo, Kansas City, and Phoenix combined, we allocated $65 million and created 72 jobs. California got $186 million and created just over 500 jobs.
“I passionately believe we must transition to renewable energy, but it is clear the economy is simply not ready and government is ill-equipped to pick successful companies better than the market can.
“Taxpayers gave $58 million to Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts. It cut 800 jobs and is now bankrupt.
“Just last week, a company my administration touted as the crown jewel of the new green economy, Solyndra Inc., announced plans to file for bankruptcy, despite half a billion dollars in loan guarantees from the federal government.
“I’ve said many times that green jobs cannot be sent overseas. But that, it seems, is not true. We subsidize solar panels here in the U.S., and the Chinese build them at pennies on the dollar and sell them to us.
“However, you cannot drill for American oil in China, and you will never find American natural gas in the Middle East.
“No other country in the world refuses to exploit its natural wealth the way we do. This must end.
“We will take the tax-revenue windfall from new oil and gas exploration and invest it in basic energy and sound climate research in the hope of solving our problems through innovation instead of immiseration.
“Let me be clear: The reason there were no shovel-ready jobs is because government rules and regulations make it difficult to hire people. In California, we wasted seven months sorting out prevailing-wage rates before we could hire green workers. And even then, the relevant regulations were so onerous that the costs of weatherization weren’t worth the effort.
“My fellow Americans, I’ve said many times I believe that government can do amazing things. I still believe that. But after more than two years of bold, persistent experimentation, it has become clear that in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter@JonahNRO. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.