President Obama urged Congress to “stop the political circus and actually do something” by approving a $447 billion mix of tax cuts and spending that he sad would help put people back to work, National Journal reports.
“The package was larger than expected but the president pledged it would not add to an already historic deficit.”
A compilation of analysis and reactions:
So as far as things passing Congress, it’s not going to be a good speech or public pressure that would do it; it would be finding a way to make it in the interests of House Republicans to cut a deal that gets them things they want, too. Does this package, and an accompanying legislative strategy, do that? I don’t know, but that’s the question to ask, I think.
Tonight, Obama began his reelection campaign, aiming directly at the problem children, the Republican Party. That may sound like political par-for-the-course stuff, but for Obama it isn’t. To me, he sounded rather done with the preposterous business of bipartisanship, at least with these particular boys and girls. No more. He aimed at the GOP’s intransigence, its tedious hypocrisy, its do-nothingness and its deliberate defeatism. Obama cajoled and threatened. He essentially demanded all or nothing. He contrasted. He led.
[T]he president’s tone — his seeming anger and impatience — will be the headlines on Friday and, other than 9/11, the primary topic on the Sunday talk shows. And the banner headlines will be “Pass this now.” Advantage White House.
[S]ure, Congress should pass it right away. But I have to confess that I still don’t see the legislative road to passage here. The incentive for Republicans to obstruct everything that comes from the White House remains the same as it’s ever been, and it remains as strong as it’s ever been. Helping the economy helps Obama’s reelection, and that’s no good for Republicans. And making sure that everyone in America hates “Washington” is good for Republicans.
Barack Obama sowed the seeds of his own destruction by offering up just enough acceptable bipartisan compromises to make himself look leadenly, but those compromises are not what will create jobs. Obama will get blamed.
President Obama delivered an impassioned speech to a joint session of Congress, but make no mistake: this was a political speech designed to fire up his supporters and draw lines of contrast with Republicans. Obama gave it away when he said, “You should pass it. I intend to take that message to every corner of the country.”
It’s a page from Harry Truman’s campaign playbook.
President Obama’s speech to Congress hewed closely to the details that had already been leaked, save for the dollar amounts, which were considerably larger. Even so, the $450 billion price tag is somewhat misleading in that much of that is not new spending or new tax breaks but rather an extension of breaks and unemployment benefits that are already in place. Given that payroll tax cuts have not generated employment in the past two years, it’s is a stretch to see how they will suddenly do so now. As for unemployment benefits, they are a vital safety net, but that isn’t the same as job generating.
Of course, in much the same way that everyone can find something to like in this plan, everyone can find something to dislike. If you believe tax cuts are ineffective during a demand-driven crisis, the plan spends a lot of money on tax cuts. If you don’t believe in infrastructure spending, there’s plenty of it in here to offend you. If government spending goes against your moral code, well, the government is going to spend money. And next week, when the Obama administration releases its deficit-reduction ideas, liberals are going to be a lot less enthusiastic than they are tonight.
It would be much better to pay for the package when the economy is on better footing than paying for it “by Christmas.” Paying for it immediately will offset some of the stimulus and make it less effective, and I would prefer legislation that triggers new revenue and spending cuts when, say, the unemployment rate falls below some threshold such as 6.0 percent. But political realities rule this out.
We are told by political scientists that presidential speeches don’t move public opinion. But according to a host of polls, people support the individual measures Obama has been pushing — most broadly, they support action to produce jobs. So the question is whether a president can mobilize popular opinion for proposals that are already reasonably popular.
“The president’s plan, unveiled in a speech to a joint session of Congress, is an attempt to wrest the initiative in Washington’s protracted debate about fiscal policy. Both parties emerged from the debt-ceiling fight this summer with their approval ratings heading south as the economy stalled and the unemployment rate stayed above 9%.”
The President, wisely, opened his speech with an admonition to the media to focus less on politics and more on substance so I’m going to try to set my cynicism about the impossibility of any of this happening aside and simply note that the ideas in the speech today are good ones. Not every single one is my favorite stimulative idea (the employer-side payroll tax stuff, in particular, wouldn’t have been in my bill) and the President’s exposition of the concepts aren’t totally up to state of the art New Keynesian theories, but these ideas will help. The stuff on the infrastructure side and the stuff on the education side will both directly target problem areas in the labor market. The tax cut stuff will maintain consumer spending. What’s more, the traditional concern that tax-side stimulus isn’t fully spent doesn’t matter that much under the present circumstances. Even if people use that money to pay down debts, it speeds the debt-overhand problem and helps us out.