In 2008, President Obama road a wave of “hope and change” that he, himself, inspired. His infectious optimism catapulted him from an obscure, to many, Senate candidate, in 2004, to the President of the United States in just four short years. President Obama beat Sen. McCain in almost every single demographic in the 2008 election. We were upset about the failing economy, but excited for the future.
For many, that excitement is gone. The biggest reason for this is the reality of the status of our economy that affects everyday Americans. See my last post about that. Others, still, are disenchanted with politics or politicians, because they believed the President would bring people together for more than just the election. Democratic leaders have suggested that the fault lies with the Republicans for not offering ideas and just being “the party of ‘No’.” Yet, the reality is that Republicans offered ideas, but those ideas were then “demagogued” against by those same Democratic leaders. By way of example, House Republicans offered, and passed, a budget proposal, which Democratic leaders characterized as a “GOP giveaway to the wealthy” or as something that would end Medicare “as we know it.” The House and Senate Democratic Party’s alternative is nonexistent. They haven’t offered or passed a budget in any House in over three years. The President’s budget proposal couldn’t even get support from his own party. The Senate voted down the President’s budget 99-0.
In his first month in office, the President said,
“I’ve got four years. And, you know, a year from now I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress. But there’s still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
It is with that backdrop that the President made his speech last night.
Last night, President Obama did as good a job as one would expect, when he addressed the DNCC and the American people after officially accepting the Democratic Party nomination. His speech, however, was a far cry from 2008’s “hope and change.” This time around, there were several declarations of hope, but they were mostly about the President, himself:
“And Joe Biden, thank you for being the best Vice President
I could have ever hope for, and being a strong and loyal friend.”
“But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more
hopeful about America.”
“I’m hopeful because of you.”
“… she gives me hope.”
“… he gives me hope.”
“… they give me hope.”
It is understandable that the President hopes to win a second term, but that wasn’t what inspired us in 2008.
“Change” was virtually nonexistent and the President didn’t seem to understand, himself, exactly where he stood or where others stand. The President praised us as being the ones that “were the change,” yet, just a few short sentences later, he declared that “if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen.” Which is it? The latest dose of “change” we’ve seen is the labor department’s release of “job growth” numbers, showing we added 96,000 jobs in August. That is less than we need just to keep up with population growth, yet unemployment fell from 8.3% to 8.1%, which means that more people either left or never joined the labor force again.
Moving onto national security, the President said that he promised he would end the war in Iraq and that he has done so. This is not accurate. What he didn’t say is that the Status of Forces Agreement to end the war in Iraq by the end of 2011, was setup and ratified by the Iraqi government during the last few months of President Bush’s final term. This would be an example of something he inherited and in which he, rightly, made no decision to change course, yet he took credit or responsibility for it. Ironic, isn’t it?
The President went on to say that his opponents “would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want” and that he “will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways.” What he didn’t say is that, while the spending in Iraq has decreased, the spending in Afghanistan has increased, eating up most of the savings he says he would use here at home. The requested FY 2012 budget for Iraq and Afghanistan is $17.7 Billion and $113.7 Billion, respectively, which totals more than we spent on both wars in each year between 2002-2007. We will be saving roughly $30 Billion compared to the costs during each of the years between 2008-2012, and while that is nothing to sneeze at, the American people have been fed a Trillion dollar figure regarding the wars. We won’t see anything near that kind of savings. In addition to that, our FY 2011 deficit was $1.3 Trillion. Saving $30 Billion, saves us 2.3% and requires us to still borrow 97.7% of the money the government spends from other sources.
One of the big achievements the President spoke about was the killing of Bin Laden. This is a great achievement for our country and the President gets to take credit for being the Commander-in-Chief when it occurred, but it is something President Bush, Sen. McCain, Gov. Romney or nearly any other American, politician or not, would have done. It is not a singular achievement by a singular President.
On domestic policy, the President had little to say. Arguably, the President’s greatest achievement for Democrats was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It was not mentioned at all in his speech. Instead, there was a goal mentioned of reducing health care costs, which everyone wants to do, and an attack on Republicans regarding women’s healthcare decisions. The President is right on the latter. The government should not be looking to ban all abortions and the Republican platform is ridiculous on that matter. Fortunately, something like that will not pass through Congress and Roe v. Wade, while I disagree with the decision for a different reason, has been safe in the courts for decades.
Also absent from praise was the President’s stimulus package, aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There are any number of talking heads that will say that the stimulus created, or saved (love that one), upwards of 700,000 jobs. The reality is that there are nearly as many people working now as there were prior to the stimulus ever taking effect. If the stimulus did anything, it would have to be that it “saved” jobs, but any accurate description of how many is impossible to determine.
The President did mention autoworkers, but neglected to specifically talk about General Motors and the auto “bail out.” This is probably due to the fact that the bail out cost us tax payers upwards of $25 Billion and counting.
The President was in a precarious position last night, because his policies have not borne the fruit he said they would. As much as Democrats would like to blame Republican obstructionism or President Bush’s policies from almost 4 years ago, the reality is that the President did have some major policy achievements, but those achievements have not been a positive step for the economy. Besides the philosophical argument that the government should not involve itself in picking winners and losers in the economy, nor should it do away with centuries of contract law as it did with the auto bailout, the fact is that that decision saddled us with more debt. The Affordable Care Act also saddles us with more debt, which the CBO is projecting to be $1.1 Trillion over the next 10 years. That estimate is even on the low side, since the CBO, by law, can only score and estimate costs based on what it is given. Because of this, the CBO has consistently underestimated the costs that eventually come to fruition.
Many of us do hope for the future and we still want change, but the President didn’t provide it in the first 3 1/2 years and his lack of understanding the need to change course, as indicated by his speech last night, doesn’t give me as much hope as he has in a second Obama term. We need a change in the White House to give us real hope.