Friday, September 30, 2011

The President's job speech - Reaction Part 1

Ok, I'm a little slow in posting my comments to the jobs speech. The President spoke three weeks ago, and I've just gotten around to starting my comments. My apologies if you were waiting. But I promise to complete this fairly quickly. The speech was long, I printed it and it took 10 pages. My response will be long too,

I commented right after the jobs speech that I was glad the President spoke. I should have also said I was impressed with his speech. I was amazed the first time I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I knew then, that he was going places. He's a good speaker and has good speech writers.

When I read the President's speech (found here), my first impression was that he gets it. He understands. He used words like "an urgent time" and said that we "face an economic crisis." These are strong, but accurate words. He understands that "millions of Americans... don't care about politics," they just want the problem solved. And he understands that the problem is unemployment. If we fix this problem, we fix the economy (and most likely the deficit).

But I begin to have problems when he began to talk about a "compact." He accurately depicted "an America where hard work and responsibility paid off" and where "if you did the right thing, you could make it." But I'm not sure that's a compact. And then he followed by saying that "Washington has not always put [the people's] interests first." While I'm certain that part is true, I'm not sure what, if anything, Washington's role should be in the compact between people and their employers.

After this aside, the President returned to the track that I agree with. He says that "our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers." These kinds of statements give me hope that he may actually see the right way to run this country. But then he began to give details on his plan - The American Jobs Act. He repeatedly tells Congress that they "should pass [this bill] right away." Only there was no bill. For four days. After he had delayed his speech for several days. But right away, they should pass it.

Once President Obama began talking about parts of the to-be-delivered bill, I noticed a familiar refrain. First, he talks about cutting taxes for small businesses that hire new workers. This is similar to the HIRE Act of 2010 that I discussed here. This didn't stimulate hiring then, is there any reason to believe it will work now?

Next the President talks about putting "people to work rebuilding... decaying roads and bridges." Can someone say "shovel ready?" While I do believe transportation costs affect the economy more than any single factor, I don't think that just because "construction companies... [are] waiting to get to work" we should throw good money after bad. This didn't work in the previous stimulus, it won't work now. We may need to rebuild our infrastructure, but let's not call it a jobs program.

President Obama tells us that the American Jobs Act will "repair or modernize at least 35,000 schools." While I agree our schools need help (see here and here for two recent posts on schools), the best help would be for Washington to step away and let the states manage them.

The speech goes on with a promise to "rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hardest hit by foreclosures." Wasn't this tried before? Didn't we pass a Mortgage Reform Act to reduce foreclosures? And how's that working out?

(more notes on the speech to come. Please feel free to comment now or wait).

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