Stop us if you’ve heard this one before:
The economy is in shambles. It’s not President Obama’s fault though; he inherited the mess from his predecessor and has been hindered by a Republican-controlled House and GOP obstructionists in the Senate, as well as shadowy members of the Washington establishment.
Obama delivered a well-publicized speech Wednesday at the University of Central Missouri in nearby Warrensburg, Mo., offering what was billed as the president’s re-focused efforts on tackling the still-sagging U.S. economy. To be fair, Obama has been distracted lately, what with golf outings, a family vacation to Africa and inserting himself into the high racial tensions of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. (And who could forget the attention-stealing birth of the royal baby?)
Perhaps that’s why the president and/or his speech writers didn’t realize his comments this week virtually echoed remarks he made a year and a half ago while on the campaign trail in another nearby town. Obama’s December 2011 Osawatomie speech offered the same platitudes and finger-pointing as his Warrensburg address.
Both events gave the president an opportunity to highlight what he and his fellow Democrats have termed “economic inequality” — musing nostalgically about shared prosperity of the past, then pronouncing the American Dream (and the middle class along with it) dead ... or at least on life support.
Who’s the culprit then and now?
Vague greedy corporate types (though certainly none of the president’s campaign contributors) and “Washington” itself.
Some highlights from Obama’s two speeches:
• “ ... There is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune” (2011).
• “It leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans” (2011).
• “If Washington will just shake off its complacency, set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship that we’ve seen over the past few years — I promise you, our economy will be stronger a year from now, just like it’s stronger now than it was last year” (2013).
• “Washington hasn’t just ignored this problem — they’ve actually made it worse” (2013).
Who is this “they?”
In the 2011 Osawatomie speech, Obama warned Americans against “collective amnesia” — but the president is hoping to use exactly that same notion to convince voters that after five years as president (and three years in Congress) he’s not part of “Washington.” Simply put, yet again, it’s not his fault.
While failing to acknowledge his role in the sluggish economy, the president on Wednesday was quick to pat himself on the back for efforts he spun as positives, though their ties to any improvements in the economy are debatable at best.
“Now, the good news is, five years later, five years after the crisis first hit, America has fought its way back,” Obama said in Warrensburg. “So together, we saved an auto industry. We took on a broken health care system. We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil.”
(That collective amnesia also is supposed to prevent us from connecting the dots between Obama’s claims and, say, the bankruptcies of auto industry showpiece Detroit and alternative energy failure Solyndra.)
Like the Osawatomie speech, the president’s remarks this week were long on divisive class warfare rhetoric and notably short on actual plans to improve the economy.
Perhaps Obama is betting on another government (read taxpayer) cash infusion into the economy to boost the U.S. outlook. After all, Forbes magazine reported earlier this summer that the White House plans to spend billions — yes, billions — on advertising to promote Obama’s hallmark legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
It’s a tough sell. Not only is the health care reform so convoluted and confusing that a key portion of the law — the employer mandate — has been delayed a year, businesses, organizations and individuals now are learning the true costs. Premiums are going up by 20 percent or more for some small businesses. Groups like the Ottawa Recreation Commission and the Ottawa Library are projecting steep health care cost increases for employees. Individuals are being dumped from their current insurance plans. (All despite Obama’s earlier promises none of these outcomes would result from the new law.)
The eventual result? Businesses will offset the higher costs by raising the price of goods, laying off workers and/or reconsidering new hiring and delaying or curbing wage increases. Organizations and agencies will scale back services. Groups supported by taxpayer money will ask for — and likely receive — an increased mill levy, meaning higher taxes for all of us.
And this is supposed to help the economy grow?
It won’t. But when the bill comes due, Washington, Republicans and an inherently unfair economic system likely will be to blame. In the meantime, the president and his white horse are set to ride from city to city, capitalizing on desperation, short attention spans and the fantasy that he’s an outsider still working for change.
“I’m going to take these plans all across the country, and I’m going to ask folks for help because, frankly, sometimes I just can’t wait for Congress,” Obama pledged Wednesday. “It just takes them a long time to decide on stuff.”
We’re waiting too ... on results.
But you’ve heard that before.
— Tommy Felts,