Yesterday, we growled about the speech President Obama gave on Thursday evening, September 8, 2011 to a joint session of Congress about his proposed American Jobs Act; we included numerous links including to the speech’s video and text. In addition, we included responses from the Small Business & Entrepreneurial Council and the National Federation of Independent Business since small business seemed to be a primary focus of the speech.
In Part II today, we’ll first focus on responses to the speech by liberal news media and the financial press before moving on to think tanks and primarily conservative sources. Here’s the lede in Friday’s Washington Post’s page A1 piece by Zachary Goldfarb:
“President Obama made an impassioned appeal on Thursday night for $447 billion in tax cuts and government spending to boost the nation’s lagging economic recovery, calling on lawmakers to put politics aside and work together to solve the jobs crisis.
“Before a joint session of Congress, the president announced a package of tax cuts for employers and employees, spending on schools and roads, aid to states to keep teachers in jobs, and assistance for the unemployed.
“In a plainspoken speech, Obama repeatedly insisted that lawmakers approve the plan, which is composed of slightly more tax cuts than new spending . . . .
“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,” Obama said. “It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.”
“The $447 billion cost of the program is more than half that of the stimulus package Congress passed in 2009 and reflects the severity of the nation’s economic challenge. Last week, the government reported that job creation came to a halt in August and that the nation’s unemployment rate was stuck at more than 9 percent, a sign that the economy was at risk of dipping back into recession.”
Then today in the economy and business section (page A12), the Post story, also reported by Zachary Goldfarb, said the president’s strategy “wins praise but is criticized for failing to address Americans’ debilitating mortgage mess.” In support of that, the reporter gives us this (talk of ‘fair and balanced’):
“Economists who strongly support Obama’s jobs plan agree that household debt still poses a serious problem. But they say the jobs plan will do quite a bit of good on its own.
“The forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers said in a report that Obama’s plan — the American Jobs Act — would boost economic growth by 1.3 percentage points in 2012 and lead to 1.3 million new jobs.” (HT to the highly partisan blog, Blue Virginia, for the link to the MA blog)
Leaving the partisan press, let’s first turn to a Wall Street Journal editorial in Friday’s paper. Midway through it, they wrote:
“We'd like to support a plan to spur the economy, which is certainly struggling. Had Mr. Obama proposed a permanent cut in tax rates, or a major tax reform, or a moratorium on all new regulations for three years, he'd have our support. But you have to really, really believe in hope and change to think that another $300-$400 billion in new deficit spending and temporary tax cuts will do any better than the $4 trillion in debt that the Obama years have already piled up.
“We've had the biggest Keynesian stimulus in decades. The new argument that the 2009 stimulus wasn't big enough isn't what we heard then. Americans were told it would create 3.5 million new jobs and unemployment would stay below 8% and be falling by 2011. It is now 9.1%. But this stimulus we are told will make all the difference.”
Investor’s Business Daily was more harsh in their editorial on Friday; they begin::
“President Obama's jobs program is disappointing, to put it mildly. Given our economic troubles, this heavily politicized rehash of failed policies is a slap in the face to 27 million Americans without full-time jobs.
“In an angry speech clearly intended to rally his demoralized troops, the president on Thursday unveiled a $457 billion jobs plan that was touted as "new," but really just recycles past failed policies.
“Looking at markets' responses around the world, including a 304-point nose dive on the Dow, his cynical message doesn't seem to be selling well. And indeed, it's shocking to behold a leader who, three years into a presidency, seems oblivious to the harsh reality of his policy failures. But that's what we got Thursday.
“The new spending, the targeted tax cuts for some and the much higher taxes on the successful have all been tried before. It was called "stimulus." It entailed massive borrowing and spending. It didn't work.
“And it won't work now . . . .”
Radio station WMAL 630 AM reports the reactions of several local politicians.
Let's turn to several others who see far less positives in the president's speech. We begin with a statement by our friends at the National Taxpayers Union where vice president Pete Sepp says:
"Taxpayers hoping to see a new and more productive course for job creation in the President's speech tonight may see several confusing directions instead. Despite some plans of near-term tax reductions for workers and businesses, there are far fewer clues of specific long-term relief from what remains a burdensome tax system. Despite recognizing the need for tax reform to help businesses compete at home and abroad, the President resorted to rhetoric that directly contradicts this principle: hinting at selective tax increases that would take away widely available deductions just for certain industries, by labeling them 'loopholes that nobody else gets.' Despite appearing to acknowledge that programs such as Medicare are self-destructing from overspending, the President conjured up a non-existent threat of an ideology supposedly seeking to dismantle government.
"Once again Americans must wait until another day to see the full details of how exactly the President will propose to create jobs in America, and whether he will turn away from the failed formula of big-government programs that has left our nation's balance sheet in shambles and left our economy in a lurch. They're also left to wonder whether some of the encouraging policies the President discussed -- such as ratification of vital free-trade agreements -- will receive the follow-through they deserve. The time for words about fundamental tax, regulatory, and budget reform in Washington is over. The time for deeds is now."
Other NTU staffers add comments about the benefits of energy exploration and a so-called infrastructure bank.
The editors of National Review Online (NRO) began their editorial, "Unstimulating," with this:
"If $900 billion in fiscal stimulus did not deliver us from high unemployment, perhaps another $450 billion will do the trick: That was the theory underlying President Obama’s speech. The same as before, but less impressive — which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad summary of this stage of his presidency.
"Obama’s familiar hectoring tone, condescension, and pose of post-partisanship should not be allowed to obscure the fact that every so often he mentioned a good idea. A simultaneous reduction in corporate tax rates and corporate tax breaks was one. Extending the payroll-tax cut enacted last year was another. Enacting trade agreements would count as a third if the main obstacle to their enactment were not Obama himself and his congressional allies."
Here is a sampling of several think tankers from a Symposium on the jobs speech at NRO:
- John Berlau of the Competative Enterprise Institute:
"In discussing regulation, the president gave his standard line of the past few months: We should get rid of regulations that put an unnecessary burden on businesses while still not exposing kids to mercury. This has been followed with little action other than a government-wide review. But one deregulation initiative in this speech, while still vague, did at least have a degree of specificity that has been lacking from his past rhetoric. Toward the middle of the speech, President Obama said, “We’re also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public.
”Obama didn’t identify the source of this “red tape,” but those following the issue know that the primary impediment to going public for smaller firms is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This is a law containing a series of accounting mandates, which was rushed through Congress in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. Mostly through a vague mandate for “internal controls,” Sarbox has made companies responsible for documenting the tiniest minutiae of little importance to shareholders.
"Politically, if Obama wanted to scale back or repeal a big regulation, this would be an excellent candidate . . . .
- James Capretta of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy added:
"That kind of speech may make the president and his partisan supporters feel better for a week or two, but it won’t produce bipartisan legislation that might actually help the country. What the president should be aiming for is real results for voters . . . Instead he chose more partisan posturing. The result is that he will almost certainly go into 2012 with the worst economic record for a first-term president in modern history. Good luck with that."
- Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute was much more succinct. He began by saying, "I don't like a single part of President Obama's "American Jobs Act," and ended saying, "My advice is to scrap all this big-government micromanagement and pursue a large and clean corporate-tax-rate cut. Obama did talk vaguely about corporate-tax reform tonight, but I’ll believe that when I see the details." In between he included such "bullets" as "Since the 1960s, federal jobs-training programs simply haven’t worked" and "'Government and business working side-by-side' sounds like crony capitalism to me." (emphasis in the original)
I'll wrap-up this growls with several short items:
- James Pethokoukis, a columnist for Reuters writes: "What Americans heard last night was a $447 billion political plan, not an economic one. It’s purpose was to a) fire up the demoralized Democratic base and b) show independents that Obama is trying to do something – anything – to reduce unemployment, not just slash needed “investment” like those heartless, pro-austerity Republicans." Stay with him since he will mention research done at George Mason University as well as Milton Friedman's thoughts on Keynesian economics. Further down, he includes his Reuters BreakingViews column on the "jobs" speech.
- At Walter Russell Mead's blog, Via Media, he writes, "President Obama’s much ballyhooed jobs speech had no discernible effects on world markets or investor sentiment. Any potential impact was crushed by the bad news out of Greece and more generally in Europe, and rather than rejoicing at the President’s plans to turn the US economy around, European, US and Latin markets mostly fell two to four percent."
- Thomas Lifson said at American Thinker that Styrofoam columns would have been an appropriate prop for the president's speech, opining, "It would have been a fitting response to the abuse of Congress by using an address to a Joint Session to give a campaign speech kicking off a president's re-election campaign."
- With a HT to Betsy's Page, New York Post columnist John Podhoretz describes the difference in ideological ways of lowering unemployment this way: "So there’s the big difference between Obama and his ideological rivals -- he believes in government’s guiding hand, and his rivals believe in reducing the burden of government as a means of clearing the decks for economic growth." (emphases added)
- At Canada Free Press, Aaron Reichel thinks the easiest part of analyzing the president's proposed jobs act "is ascertaining key deficiencies." He explains, "Once again, as was the case with the “stimulus” bills and the “health care” bills, virtually everybody has only heard an outline of the bill as selectively edited by Obama’s speechwriters; virtually nobody has seen the bill in its entirety nor had a chance to analyze it, yet Obama clearly wants it passed “now,” even “right now,” which already means yesterday."
- Finally, Jeff Miron, economics professor at Harvard and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, whose area of expertise is the economics of liebertarianism, gives us "The Speech Obama Should Have Given" at Townhall.com.
I didn't expect this to get as long as it got, but at least now I know not to expect much from the president's proposed American Jobs Act if, unfortunately, it becomes law.