It’s An Emergency!

Reasonable people can agree that the banking crisis may in fact have been an emergency.  TARP remains unpopular but may well have been necessary, perhaps not in the form it assumed but necessary; we will cede the point for the moment.

What of the rest?  The President’s post election comments make it immediately clear that new spin is firmly in place.  It was an emergency!  Unfortunately, the President’s comments and his actions thus far do not satisfy the smell test and hence the true emergency.

Some say the biggest word in the English language is ‘if”.  This word represents the fulcrum about which to begin to judge the President’s attitude and his view of election results.

On three major issues: jobs, health care and the economy the President said specifically “if” the Republicans have ideas that the administration has not already considered he will “listen”, “if”?  “If” is a subtle vehicle to appear open to compromise while actually disregarding Conservative ideas.  After a two-year debate on these ideas, zero Republican support for major legislation and a grass roots insurgency that severely limits the President’s options, is it possible that the President remains unaware of the ideas Conservatives and Republicans will bring to the table? Smell test anyone?

The President on health care; “I think we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we’ve made. That’s true for any significant piece of legislation.”  Clearly, the President, by necessity remains committed to existing health care legislation.  To read the election results as license to “tweak” is the most fundamental misreading of what happened on Tuesday.  Rolling out yet another story of a single individual in hard times to justify the legislation also remains a fundamental strategy.  The President was clear; “I think the outcome was a good one”.

The President is not backing down from some manner of Cap & Trade nor is he backing down from the EPA applying a regulatory regime to apply the essential ideas in the failed legislation.  Taxing carbon remains a goal of the administration.  Again, the President is clear; “Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem”.

The President remains committed to spending on “investments”: green economy, infrastructure, research and development.  Unaddressed was the opportunity to do so in the stimulus bill as opposed to the Turtle Tunnel in Florida and a collection of spurious research projects and intrusions in industries that cannon survive in a free market.

The President signaled that he would not cut education funding!

The President references the Chinese moving ahead of us in some areas but ignores the context of how differently the Chinese handled economic stimulus.  He also stuck to his position that extending Bush tax cuts should be limited to the under $250 crowd.

The President continues to make the case that a recovery is ongoing, really? Where?  It is true that the private sector has created jobs, it does so against an average of 460,000 weekly jobless claims.  Anemic private sector job growth, while it may be consistent, is nowhere near what is necessary to influence the unemployment numbers. 2% GDP growth will require a decade to replace the jobs that were in place two years ago.

The President is open to budget cuts but they must be “Intelligent and smart”, the definition of intelligent and smart remains amorphous and provides a basis upon which ideas can be dismissed and demonized.

In a clear push back against overall extension of Bush tax cuts the President says; “if there are good ideas about putting people to work that traditionally have garnered Republican support and that don’t add to the deficit, then my hope is and expectation is, is that’s something they’re willing to have a serious conversation about.  Again, a caveat that sets the stage for dismissal.

On compromise: “ I think I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I’m going to be willing to compromise going forward on a whole range of issues.   Cynics would argue that the only compromise has been within Democratic ranks.  While true that Congress carried the “don’t talk to Republicans” tactic, the President failed to engage Republicans; 18 months to get around to talking to the Senate minority leader?

The President on energy; “We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those?”  The facts exist in direct opposition to the tone of the President’s answer: vast areas put out of play for energy development, a moratorium, against expert advice, in the Gulf, suspension of oil exploration licenses and ever more regulatory dictation.  Mr. President, frequently natural gas production is ancillary to oil production.

On business the President, clearly, attempted to take a different tone; “you just had a successive set of issues in which I think business took the message that, well, gosh, it seems like we may be always painted at the bad guy”.  It was the constant, revolving search for enemies emanating from the White House that created the perception: doctors, oil companies, insurance, Wall Street, banks, drug companies, small business not hiring.  The harangue was associated with uncertainty related to taxes, health care and regulation.  The fear that bureaucratic fiat would replace representative engagement of issues.

Yes indeed, we do indeed have an emergency.  An emergency based on the apparent disconnect between the rhetoric of compromise, unchanging Presidential positions, caveats that allow for ongoing disregard of alternate ideas and the realities of Tuesday’s election.

  • JD

    I think it is a little early to say “unchanging presidential positions” and “caveats” in line with the elections.

    I think it is time for congratulations to all who were elected now lets hope and see if they can get something done.

    I think there is going to be more compromise then before and if not then America really is lost to Party Loyalty and we may be a sinking ship that has struck an iceberg of indecision because we were more concerned with turning left or right then moving forward out of the way.

  • Landreaux

    JD,

    As you know, I argue for rational compromse and present evidence in support of it. But it is a two way street and it does, as the President has said in the past, occur in the context of election results. If the President had said ” As I’ve said (mandatory opening) elections have consequences, our job is to both internalize and respect the results of that election. Americans have said clearly, find a rational middle ground and I will engage that message with my Republican colleagues.” There is no criticism to levy.

    But that’s not what it was, it was “if” there are any good ideas. He had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership without specific commitment and it flew right by him.

    JD, It’s not just what he does it’s what he says and how he says it. I’ve not kept count of the number of Presidential transcripts I’ve read. If you’re “code word” sensitive, as I am, I fear the message and attitude will remain exactly where it is now. How can you come off this election and not signal a single SIGNIFICANT policy change.

    As the ESPN guys say;”Come on Man!!!”

    I don’t believe you and I are that far away in some ways, both question the role of parties, or at least the conduct of parties. Both believe compromise is not original sin. There may even be a point of mitigation in the middle where we could both take a comfortable deep breath. But…….there has to be a pull rightward to get there, going farther left or staying where we are is just not going to work, the big numbers are all stacked against it. Pick a macro indicator, any macro indicator and it says we’re not in good shape.

    Germany refused the U.S. pressure for massive stimulus spending, German GDP looks to grow 8%-9% this year and German debt is under control.

    For instance, we could probably agree on more infrastructure. Can we agree that paying for it comes out of existing stimulus funding, as in defunding the political crap. No studies of the sexual behaviors of stink bugs!

  • JD

    “How can you come off this election and not signal a single SIGNIFICANT policy change.”

    That point could be argued with the election in 2010 and yet the republicans did not side on a single issue that was raised. No doubt they didn’t like their choices but if we are to use overwhelming elections as a point of driving policy then it should have signaled Republicans to do Dems bidding but it didn’t.

    I just don’t think elections drive change in that manner. i think bi-partisan work stems from the members of congress and the president. In all honesty, I think the president has shown the ability to meet in the middle. However, there is no middle if the issue isn’t recognized. For example healthcare… If republicans flat out deny healthcare as an issue then there can be no middle ground.

    Still, I think there are going to be some eager beavers in washington looking to get something done. I just hope we don’t see people fall on party lines when it comes to the issues. We may disagree but the problems remain.