President Obama spoke to a packed Joint Session of Congress tonight, offering many of the same ideas he’s offered in the past, slamming corporations, the rich, taxing oil companies, implying republicans don’t care about safety or poor people, that we need more education “investment,” but don’t worry, he didn’t leave without throwing in a few lines of direct pandering to big labor. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was a guest of honor after all.
Obama started his speech by pointing out Americans are out of work, struggling to pay for gas and a mortgage, he then went on to complain about the “political circus” in Washington, saying “ultimately our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help.”
Flashback: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" –Ronald Reagan
Throughout the night, Obama pulled out his “we’re in a crisis, we must pass this now” card, and repeatedly asked for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act “right away,” promising twice that everything will be paid for.
Then, there were flashbacks to 2009, when Obama called for the immediate passage of the $1 trillion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus package.
“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, ad more jobs for the long-term unemployed,” Obama said. “Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.” (Richard Trumka smiling and wildly applauding)
Obama also threw small business a bone by saying if the American Jobs Act is passed, small businesses will get a tax cut for hiring new workers or for giving current workers a raise. He also suggested lowering the corporate tax rate after closing tax loopholes.
On the topic of education investment, Obama suggested building fancy new schools for our kids, because “every child deserves a great school,” appeasing the teachers union before 2012. What Obama failed to mention is that every parent deserves to send their child to the school of their choice and the reality is, fancy schools don’t help kids succeed, good teachers do.
“The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high-sped internet in classrooms all across this country,” he said. “Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work.”
Obama touched on entitlement reform, saying we are spending too fast to sustain Medicare and that if we don’t reform the system while protecting current recipients, the program won’t be there for the future. To this point, Rep. Paul Ryan threw up his hands in an “exactly what I’ve been saying for months, and what is already laid out in the Path for Prosperity plan that you and the Senate Democrats rejected” kind of way. Meanwhile, House Leader Eric Cantor looked unamused throughout the night.
The American Jobs Act also entails the government further involve itself in the housing market by helping more “responsible homeowners,” by working “with Federal housing agencies to help more people refinancing their mortgages.”
Obama threw the unions a bone again when he slammed republican efforts to strip collective bargaining rights, which have boosted job growth in places like Wisconsin, saying he rejects the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining right to compete in a global economy. To this point, Obama received a standing ovation from a grinning and wildly applauding Trumka.
And the best part of the American Jobs Act? The plan extends unemployment insurance for another year. Why go looking for a job when you’re getting paid to stay home?
There were a few positive moments in Obama’s speech. He said he wants to see more products made in America and wants veterans to have the convenience of finding jobs when they come home from serving oversees.
“Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America’s veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home,” he said. “I want to see more product sold around the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.”
Both noble goals, but will Obama’s policies for the next 14 months reflect his statements?
Obama ended his speech by declaring he will take his message to every corner in America. Let the campaigning begin…. as if it never ended.