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.