Thursday, June 14, 2012

Obama promises jobs programs and a Grand Bargain to cut benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Here's my general take on President Obama's campaign speeches.

Trashing the Cheney-Bush Administration: wins votes

Talking about new ways to create more jobs: wins votes

Reminding people about saving GM: wins votes

Defending teachers, firefighters and cops: wins votes

Mentioning the word "deficit": subtracts votes

Mentioning "national debt": subtracts votes

Saying the word "entitlements": Boo! Boo! Asking to lose

Using the word "bipartisan": begging to lose

PBS Newshour provides a video of President Obama's Ohio Speech on the Economy 06/14/2012:

The White House website has the transcript, Remarks by the President on the Economy -- Cleveland, OH.

Examples from the speech:

And when my opponent and others were arguing that we should let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers and the ingenuity of American companies -- and today our auto industry is back on top of the world.
Wins votes.

... deficits ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficits ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ... deficit ...
Subtracts votes.

Sadly, Obama seems compelled to pepper-spray his own message. And he did so in Cleveland, too. He blasted the deregulation that damaged the economy so badly during the last decade. And he even managed to talk about the constructive things government does:

That’s how we built this country -- together. We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together. We sent my grandfather’s generation to college on the GI Bill -- together. (Applause.) We instituted a minimum wage and rules that protected people’s bank deposits -- together. (Applause.)

Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination.
Then immediately following comes the pepper-sraying:

We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans. We’ve done them as Americans. (Applause.)

As much as we might associate the GI Bill with Franklin Roosevelt, or Medicare with Lyndon Johnson, it was a Republican -- Lincoln -- who launched the Transcontinental Railroad, the National Academy of Sciences, land-grant colleges. It was a Republican -- Eisenhower -- who launched the Interstate Highway System and a new era of scientific research. It was Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency; Reagan who worked with Democrats to save Social Security, -- and who, by the way, raised taxes to help pay down an exploding deficit. (Applause.)

Yes, there have been fierce arguments throughout our history between both parties about the exact size and role of government -- some honest disagreements.
And he even squirted some pepper-spray before that passage:

Understand, despite what you hear from my opponent, this has never been a vision about how government creates jobs or has the answers to all our problems. Over the last three years, I’ve cut taxes for the typical working family by $3,600. (Applause.) I’ve cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. (Applause.) I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. And I’m implementing over 500 reforms to fix regulations that were costing folks too much for no reason.

I’ve asked Congress for the authority to reorganize the federal government that was built for the last century -- I want to make it work for the 21st century. (Applause.) A federal government that is leaner and more efficient, and more responsive to the American people.

I’ve signed a law that cuts spending and reduces our deficit by $2 trillion. My own deficit plan would strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for the long haul by slowing the growth of health care costs -- not shifting them to seniors and vulnerable families. (Applause.) And my plan would reduce our yearly domestic spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy in nearly 60 years.

So, no, I don’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems. I don’t believe every regulation is smart, or that every tax dollar is spent wisely. I don’t believe that we should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves. (Applause.)
He went on to make one of the bests cases I've heard him making for positive government.

But it seriously blunts his message when he apologizes for that view by listing all the regulations he didn't approve, or saying he's oppose to the gubment being "in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves."

And, unfortunately, he frames his proposals for job creation largely in the acceptable neoliberal framework of promoting research and education and promote "infrastructure". And even when he is promoting public works, he talks about setting up the financing as public-private partnership rather than a clear message that the federal government is going to do stuff that will create jobs now.

And then, just after 38:00 in the video, he gives us a dark hint about the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, yes, he says "grand bargain":

And if we want to get the deficit under control -- really, not just pretending to during election time -- (laughter) -- not just saying you really care about it when somebody else is in charge, and then you don’t care where you’re in charge. (Applause.) If you want to really do something about it, if you really want to get the deficit under control without sacrificing all the investments that I’ve talked about, our tax code has to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more -- (applause) -- just like they did when Bill Clinton was President; just like they did when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot. (Applause.) ...

So, Governor Romney disagrees with my vision. His allies in Congress disagree with my vision. Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes. It’s the reason we haven’t reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit -- not with my plan, not with the Bowles-Simpson plan, not with the so-called Gang of Six plan. [my emphasis]
In line with his anti-Social Security position, he reinforced the Republican claim that we can't afford it:

From 2001 to 2008, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical family saw their incomes fall. The failure to pay for the tax cuts and the wars took us from record surpluses under President Bill Clinton to record deficits. And it left us unprepared to deal with the retirement of an aging population that’s placing a greater strain on programs like Medicare and Social Security [my emphasis].

And, in a year where identifying with the 99% is critical for a Democratic Presidential candidate, Obama makes sure to distance himself: "I don’t believe that giving someone like me a $250,000 tax cut is more valuable to our future than hiring transformative teachers, or providing financial aid to the children of a middle-class family."

I just can't get excited about a speech from a Democratic President that includes a pitch for the Grand Bargain to cut benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

We're more likely to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in December and the coming months with a Democratic President and Democratic Congressional majorities because their Party base supports those programs though their big donors oppose them.

But it will be a fight against President Obama to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if Obama gets re-elected.

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