Obama proposed, seemingly in passing, that competitiveness could be improved by lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate that is the second highest in the world. But he said so little about cutting the tax by eliminating loopholes and broadening the tax base (the news media gave it short shrift) that we must wonder whether he is going make this a high priority, or if it's merely part of a transparent shift toward the center to gain traction for the 2012 campaign. Despite signing the Bush tax-cut extension against his will, Obama is not a tax-rate cutter.
The corporate tax-rate-cut idea did not come from the West Wing but from Obama's presidential commission on the budget. The panel called for simplifying the tax code and broadening the tax base by erasing a number of special-interest tax preferences that will help lower the top tax rates for businesses and individual taxpayers to 28 percent.
But Obama's heavy focus was not on cutting taxes -- he pointedly ignored small business altogether -- it was all about more spending that he said would create jobs. Call his policy Stimulus II. And you all know how well Stimulus I worked.
He still sees government as the catalyst for jobs, rather than the spirit of free enterprise in which low taxes and the least amount of regulation possible produce and drive venture-capital investment, economic growth and payroll expansion. Words like "venture capital," "capitalism" and "free enterprise" are not in Obama's leftist lexicon, and you didn't hear them in his address to the nation Tuesday night.
Obama called on us to find that "Sputnik moment," when the Russians succeeded in putting a satellite in space and provided a wake-up call to America that we had fallen behind in science and space exploration. He called on us to dream big things, and pointed to John F. Kennedy's initiative to go to the moon and back, pointing out that, a decade later, it led to a multitude of new technologies, industries and jobs.
That was not what got the country's lackluster economy moving again. It was Kennedy's across-the-board income-tax-rate cuts that accelerated economic growth and led to budget surpluses to boot. The president avoided this fact like the plague.
Obama desperately pleaded with the country to once again think big things. But there were few real growth incentives in Obama's economic bag of remedies that would open up opportunities for Americans to once again reach for the stars, and get there.
That challenge awaits a new leader in 2012.