Obama Finally Follows My Advice. Here’s One More Suggestion.
Okay, okay. I know that Obama doesn’t read AB. So I know that his decision, reflected in his speech today at a lunch with Associated Press editors and reporters, to finally—finally—start refuting the Republicans’ economics proposals with actual examples and statistics, was not prompted by my repeated laments here that Obama just doesn’t do specifics, i.e., statistics and other facts, when speaking to the general public, which until now he’s rarely done anyway. And my primal pleas that he do so. (When, earlier this year, he defended his decision to openly approve a Super Pac that supports him, explaining that he decided to not unilaterally disarm, I said to myself: “Hmm. Guess he’s had a change heart, after unilaterally disarming for the last three years.”)
So the first sentence in the title of this post is facetious. The second sentence in the title is not.
The New York Times is reporting on its website:
President Obama opened a full-frontal assault Tuesday on the budget adopted by House Republicans, condemning it as a “Trojan horse” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism” that would greatly deepen inequality in the country.…
In the latest of a series of combative speeches, the president said Americans could not afford to elect a Republican president at a time of fragile economic recovery, with a weak job market and a crushing national debt from “two wars, two massive tax cuts and an unprecedented financial crisis.”
The widening gulf between the rich and everyone else, Mr. Obama said, was hobbling the country’s economic growth. He cited studies that found that societies with less income inequality had stronger and steadier growth.
“In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few,” the president said, according to excerpts of his address. “It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class. That’s how a generation who went to college on the G.I. Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.” …
But the president reserved his harshest words for the 2013 budget proposal recently passed by the Republican-controlled House. The budget, drafted by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, calls for $5.3 trillion in spending cuts, as well as tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000.
“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism,” Mr. Obama said. “By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training, research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.”
I’m absolutely thrilled. Obama’s finally picking up the gauntlet that the Repubs have thrown down, and, calling that spade the spade that it is, is throwing it back. Hard. Clear. And with real precision.
By far the most important parts of what he said are, I think, his references to the WWII generation’s use of the GI Bill and how it effectuated class mobility and helped spur the tremendous economic growth of the three postwar decades, and his actual citation to studies showing that societies with less income inequality had stronger and steadier growth.
But I hope he goes even further and compares the tax rates during the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s—including capital gains taxes and estate taxes—with today’s tax rates established during the G. W. Bush presidency and, even more important, with the tax rates proposed by the current Republicans.
Yup. George Romney and Edward Davies, Ann Romney’s father, amassed their wealth during Socialism. They must have been economic Houdinis. Or corrupt Commie officials.
I hope Obama also discusses what those higher tax rates bought. The interstate highway system, for example, and the student loan programs and significant aide to state universities that helped finance so many baby boomers’ college educations. And that he points out, again and again, that in January 2001 we had no budget-deficit problem because we were raising most of the federal tax revenue needed to pay for most of our federal needs.
Specifics. Statistics. To refute the damn lies and the soundbites and clichés. And to illustrate the consequences. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Even if the picture is drawn in words.
Here’s one such picture, already framed: In his State of the Union address earlier this year, Obama acknowledged the problem of spiraling college tuitions and its effect on the ability of college-age members of the so-called working- and even middle-class to attend college, and on the longer-term economic effects upon those who do, using college loans that leave them owing massive debts upon graduation. Not even to mention the long-term effects on the economy from this huge aggregate debt. He suggested penalties, in the form of reductions in federal funds, for colleges and universities that don’t find ways to curtail the tuition hikes.
A day or two later, Linda posted a fact-based refutation, pointing out that the main reason for the incessant tuition hikes at public universities is the incessant cutting of state funding for those universities, necessitated all the more by the economic downturn since 2007 and the resulting decrease in tax revenues and increase in recession-related expenditures. Not long afterward, I read—I don’t remember where—that one major state university, which was not identified in the article, has seen its state funding reduced from 80% of its total revenue sources to 20% within (I think) the past two decades. The result, as some longtime professors at state universities lament, is that the student bodies at these schools are now, unlike in earlier relatively-recent times, largely from upscale families, and very few are from working-class families. The level of federal financial assistance to states for colleges and universities obviously impacts this significantly.
I’d love to hear Obama use this as an example to illustrate that the starve-the-beast juggernaut has broad and profound societal consequences.
I’d also love to see Obama ask rhetorically what people think will be the consequence of the Republicans’ budget if, during the next economic downturn there is no funding for unemployment compensation, a need that obviously is in an inverse relation to the unemployment rate and therefore to tax revenues. And what will we cut from the budget in order to provide emergency disaster funding for, say, hurricane damage?
But today was a terrific start. It’s statistics and other specifics that matter. And today, for once, he provided some. Hopefully, it was just the start.
I keep hoping he’ll stop channeling St. Ronnie, and start channeling FDR.
Finally, a baby step in the right (that is to say, “left”) direction.
Yeah. With Obama, it’s always problematic whether it’s just a one-time thing or instead something he’ll actually sustain. Actually, thus far it’s always been just a one-time thing. He goes bcak into hiding for months, and when he emerges it’s to adopt some Tea Party mantra. But now, finally, we’re at the beginning of the actualy campaign, and, well, even he apparently realizes that parroting the Tea Party hasn’t gotten him mcuh and that in order to win this time, he’ll have to be an actual Democrat.
Yeah. With Obama, it’s always problematic whether it’s just a one-time thing or instead something he’ll actually sustain. Actually, thus far it’s always been just a one-time thing. He goes bcak into hiding for months, and when he emerges it’s to adopt some Tea Party mantra. But now, finally, we’re at the beginning of the actualy campaign, and, well, even he apparently realizes that parroting the Tea Party hasn’t gotten him much and that in order to win this time, he’ll have to be an actual Democrat.
Too bad Charles Darwin gets trashed every time somebody tries to explain the philosophy of Herbert Spencer. It was actually Spencerian dogmatics that have driven the Republican party’s ideological machinery since the late 19th and early parts of the twentieth century. From a wikipedia article on Spencer “The end point of the evolutionary process would be the creation of ‘the perfect man in the perfect society’ with human beings becoming completely adapted to social life, as predicted in Spencer’s first book.” Darwin’s own speculations on survival of the fittest that he himself applied to human populations do not carry any weight today with serious students situated inside the filed of population biology
Ah. Nice to have a philosophy guru among our readers. I think.
So … what were Darwin’s own speculations on survival of the fittest that he himself applied to human populations?
A trtanscript of the speech can be found here and on the white house website:
Van Jones has his own take on the ‘who to support’ and leadership questions:
How a voter is supposed to navigate the breadth of issues and the actual political responses to these issues is open to intense debate. One issue voters might have it easier…how do we weigh the evidence of performance and ‘progress’ against the rapid shifts of political framing and relationships of power.
Hell I’d settle for Dwight Eisenhower at this point. At least he was willing to make big bets on highways.
if i may, beverly;
“survival of the fittest” is really about the abiltiy of an organism to reproduce itself, ie, to have its genetic material continue to be represented among succeeding life forms on the planet…it really shouldnt have any near term or political implication….natural selection among humans has nothing to do with those that are fittest or in any way better…the bias is towards breeders, by sheer numbers alone…the disproportionate elements of humanity that survives today are not necessarily descendant of the most intelligent or strongest…thousands of years of natural selection have selected primarily for the success in producing offspring..
meant to say “ancient left vs. right dichotomy of my youth above” apologies.
And Darwinism applies only to large groups, species for example, and tells us nothing about individual strength and accomplishment. The changes come about by incremental changes, adjustments and, adaptations, not as a result of sudden mutations.
The speech was a major improvement over Obama’s past performances on stage. It was the Obama of the 2008 campaign when he was pitted against Ms. Clinton. The content was very good. He, or even other members of his campaign apparatus, need to be even more specific about the consequences of Ryan’s/the Republican Party’s reactionary budget proposal. Reference to the loss of employer organized and supported health insurance would be nice to hear. A reference back to the Tea Party fan who cried out “keep your government hands off my Medicare” and its juxtaposition with Ryan’s disposal of Medicare as we know it. And the disproportionate burden of taxation on the middle class resulting from Bush II tax revisions and Ryan’s plan to increase that worker, rather than owner, burden.
But tell me, as good as the content of the speech was, did Obama not seem too reticent in his delivery? Americans like a forceful leader. O is still addressing the nation as though he is reluctant to display a fighter’s stance. I still think that the only way to attract that middle ground of voters is to whack a lying opponent in the chops. The lies have to be addressed in a more vociferous manner. Holding back on the delivery is an implication of uncertainty with one’s commentary. The content is diluted by the reluctant manner of its presentation. Simple Oratory 101. Obama knew it in 2008 against Hilary. He needs to find it again this year. So too Reid and Pelosi, both of whom have presentations that would make me fall off to sleep.
Agree vwith all of you, but I am not buying Obama’s faux populism–hell faux commonsense–for a minute. He fooled me once and will not do it again. Just like yesterday I selected a Democratic primary ballot and then wrote in Bernie Sanders–I know he is not a Democrat, but he comes closest to expressing my views on how to order our economy.
Jack, I was frustrated throughout the 2008 campaign—the primaries and then the general-election campaign—with Obama’s mostly-contentless speeches and statements. I was not a fan of his. I supported Edwards early on (heaven help me), and then Obama when it became clear that the race was between him and Hillary Clinton, because I didn’t want another “triangulation” administration. What we got, of course, is another triangulation administration, headed by someone stupifyingly slow to pick up on the Tea Party’s takeover of the Republican Party and what that means, and who has cared far more about projecting a particular personal image as a moderate and, incredibly, as someone who doesn’t react or respond to much of anything, like a months-and-months-and-months-long assault on the healthcare law. Why anyone would that image for himself, I wouldn’t know, but he pretty clearly did.
So Obama’s speech yesterday, happily, didn’t remind me of Obama in 2008. I just saw a short clip of the speech, and I thought his delivery was energetic enough in that clip. But I do worry that he’ll revert to his generic-nothingness stuff, because, well, after each of the very few times when he’s given a speech that uses specifics to refute the right, he has crawled back into his little generic-nothingness hole, or just into a hole from which he rarely peeks out.
Yeah. The phrase “Social Darwinism” has become shorthand for what Obama meant, though, rjs. It works to communicate the point, which is what matters.
This may seem small thinking, but I will know Obama actually is talking from his convictions when I see that he stops his “great leader” pose in which he turns his head left with a slight upward look gazing into the distance. It’s a practiced pose he has used since day one of his running for 2008. It is substanceless now and suggests a character is being played.
When he stops that, then I will know this:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: …And, you know, I can make some really good arguments defending the Democratic position, and there are gonna be some people who just don’t agree with me. And that’s okay. And then we’ve got to figure out a way to compromise.
is no longer his frame of mind.
Remember these from his 2009 speech:
“And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home.” “And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.”
“Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.”
Uh-ha, terry. An old saying of my mother’s, something about cutting off your nose to spite your face, sorta counters your “Fool me once” cliché. Unless, of course, you’d be happy with a Tea Party-controlled White House, Senate and House (the latter are real possibilities), and with a Tea Party-controlled Supreme Court and lower federal bench installed for the next many decades.
It doesn’t matter whether Obama fooled you once. This time, you wouldn’t be fooled. If you vote for Obama, you’ll just be voting for the (far) lesser evil.
Your position is so idiotic and just plain tiresome. But, to each his own.
I have to agree on voting for Obama: it’s the Courts stupid (to update a motto). It will not matter who is congress or president if the right gets one more on the big bench is fills the remaining smaller benches.
Good start, long way to go. I want to hear him take a strong stand , with facts and figures, on behalf of Social Security, which he has yet to do.
I did not say anything about voting for a tea bagger candidate for the House or Senate and the GOP nominee for president is not going to be a tea bagger either–it will be Mr. Etch-a-Sketch himself. The right wing has played the “long game” since FDR and it got them first Reagan and then Dumbya. Neither could undue the great social programs of FDR which transformed this country from a new world sweatshop into the richest country on earth. Now we have a president who whether through incompetence or intent or both has brought the GOP to the brink of realizing its decades old dream of turning back from the New Deal. If it is going to happen, then at least the GOP should be in charge when it happens, not a Democrat and frankly I have more confidence in Romney to recognize the dire political consequences of ending those programs than Obama who seems oblivious except when there is an election on the horizon.
This President has already said more about SS than is necessary or desirable. Any federal program which has reserves of $2.6 Trillion dollars is doing fine and doesn’t need fixing.
Now, if what you want to do is cut benefits and change the CPI formula so that it actually reduces benefits even more over time, we may need to talk about SS. In fact, this administration in its various attempts to reach “grand bargains” with Congress has repeatedly offerred to do just that. So, if the President just shut up and said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about “entitlement reform” I’d be delighted.
I’d be even happier if he explained that people who say SS must be “saved” have the same definition of “saved” that the generals used when we were bombing Viet Nam. We were only doing it to “save” them from the evils of Communism, as I recall, although it sure didn’t look like anyone was getting saved to me. Progressives get blamed for criticizing the President unfairly, but they don’t criticize him enough about his nonexistent support for SS/Medicare/Medicaid. Just as you say, JimZ. NancyO
Bet you thought in 2002 Bush would be a more liberal president than Gore, too, terry. What makes people like you think it’s just so very cute to say stuff like that. It’s friggin’ nonsense. But really cute.
So you’re a Romney man. Just say so.
2000, not 2002.
There really should be some kind of support group for recovering Edwards supporters. I was all in for Edwards in 2008. The first time I ever “maxed out” to any candidate.
Like a lot of things that turn out to be expensive, embarrassing and futile it was an educational experience.
what he says to win elections is one thing. what he says after he has won appears to be something else.
you ought to leave the cheap insults to me. i don’t have a reputation to sustain. Obama may be the lesser weevil, I don’t know. I do know that scaring me with the boogey man on the right is a time honored tactic to get me to vote for the creep who pretends to be “reasonable.”