Mis-state of the union

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 10:30


In the run-up to the State of the Union, the good news is that Obama won't directly undermine the Democratic brand by coming out for Social Security benefit cuts.  The bad news is that he won't reinforce and revive the brand by vigorously defending Social Security, either.  What's more, his recent staff changes pretty much assure that this is about as liberal as Obama is ever going to get.  It's been deja vu all over again, as we've been told repeatedly--just as we were between the 2008 election and Obama's inauguration--that a flood of center-right appointments didn't mean a thing, since Obama would still be calling the shots.  But the reality was made starkly clear in this short headline report from Democracy Now! yesterday:

Obama Unveils GE CEO as Top Economic Adviser

President Obama has publicly introduced General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as his new top economic adviser. Immelt will head the newly formed President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which takes the place of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board led by Paul Volcker. On Friday, Obama said Immelt would drive the administration's stated goal of creating jobs.

    President Obama: "Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs and America is leading the global competition that will determine our success in the 21st century. And so now, to help fulfill this new mission, I'm assembling a new group of business leaders and outside advisers. And I am so proud and pleased that Jeff has agreed to chair this panel, my Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, because we think GE has something to teach businesses all across America."
Immelt's appointment has come under scrutiny on multiple fronts. He'll retain his position at the helm of GE, creating a potential conflict of interest. As one of the nation's largest corporations, GE has a variety of business and issues before the federal government, including media mergers, military sales, environmental cleanup, and a $16.1 billion bailout in 2008. And while Obama has touted Immelt's mission to create jobs, the United Electrical Workers Union says GE has closed 29 plants in the United States in the past two years, laying off around 3,000 workers.

So, a top corporate job-cutter to help create jobs "because we think GE has something to teach businesses all across America."  What could be clearer?

Maybe this, from Kos's frontpage post on results from the latest Kos/PPP poll:

Currently, workers pay social security payroll taxes on up to $106,800 of their salary. To ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, would you rather have people pay social security taxes on salaries above $106,800, or would you rather see benefits cut and the retirement age increased to age 69?
           Raise 
        payroll cap   Cut benefits

All         77            10

Dem         84             4 
GOP         69            17 
Ind         77            11

Tea Party   67            20

18-29       80             0 
30-45       69            17 
46-65       82             8 
65+         75            13

$0-30K      79             5 
$30-50K     75            11 
$50-75K     79             7 
$75-100K    78            13 
$100K+      72            18

....Yet outside of the punditry, the DC political class, and a tiny fringe, no one wants benefits cuts.

Democrats could be scoring mad political points by going on the offensive, vowing to defend Social Security against all enemies, and fighting to equalize the program's tax burden. (I wouldn't just raise the cap on payroll taxes entirely, but I'd also use the increased revenues to lower payroll taxes on the low and middle classes and/or lower the retirement age.)

But no, raising the cap is off limits, and the entire political establishment is focused on delivering more pain to seniors.

There's no better illustration of how DC is broken than this.

No better illustration except Obama touting Jeffrey Immelt as having "something to teach businesses all across America" about creating jobs.  What he has to teach about creating jobs is pretty damn simple: Don't.

I'd call it a tie.

It's going to be a long night.  But an even longer two years.


p.s. If you don't believe me, check out the rest of the poll where you'll find that only 23% of liberals think Obama is "too conservative". Overall, the American people think he's "too liberal" (44%) rather than "too conservative" (10%) or "about right" (42%).  

A very long two years.

Paul Rosenberg :: Mis-state of the union

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Yes, but don't mess with my (insert crucial interest here)! (4.00 / 2)
While it's truly saddening just how ignorant most Americans seem to be in political and economic matters (it's not hard to forgive the latter, however), they do seem to understand their vital interests. So that's a plus.

69% of Republicans say "hands of my Social Security!" Okay then. That looks pretty "bipartisan" to me, so the WH should be very happy, eh?

It's not hard to see why Americans don't have a clue as to even rudimentary comparative ideology, since they're bathed in a media environment which misinforms them every single day. To me, those numbers at the bottom merely reflect the media narrative and nothing else. Obviously, most people don't know what the words "conservative", "liberal" or anything else actually mean.

But they do know what Social Security means in direct, visceral terms, which is precisely why it's such a tough nut for the crooks in DC to crack. Even after 30 years of lying their butts off, they still can't crack it.

Methinks this is probably the Achilles Tendon for the establishment.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


Super Trains (4.00 / 1)
On the other hand, if recent speeches were test bubbles for tonight, Obama will also talk about investments and may even bring up high speed rail.

And that means competition is going to be much more fierce and the winners of this competition will be the countries that have the most educated workers, a serious commitment to research and technology, and access to quality infrastructure like roads and airports and high-speed rail and high-speed Internet.  Those are the seeds of economic growth in the 21st century.  Where they are planted, the most jobs and businesses will take root...

You go to Shanghai, China, and they've built more high-speed rail in the last year than we've built in the last 30 years.  The largest private solar research and development facility in the world was recently opened in China -- by an American company.  Today China also has the fastest trains and the fastest supercomputer in the world.

Like always, we need to fight the bad stuff but support the good stuff.  As Ezra pointed out this morning, Obama already has Republicans talking about investments.  They are against them, of course, but he's got them talking about it.

I expect a both good stuff and crap tonight.  We shouldn't let one get in the way of the other.  We need to call Obama on all the crap.  But we also need to strongly support him on all the good stuff.


The problem is (4.00 / 1)
He'll try to square the circle by combining this with calls for a non-defense discretionary spending freeze. Good luck combining the two.

He doesn't give a rat's about (or probably even understand) good policy. It's all about what sounds good to ignorant voters. He's just trying to appeal to a different slice of the ignorami than the teapublicans do, is all. And sadly, his approval ratings show that it's working.  


[ Parent ]
Doesn't Matter (4.00 / 2)
(Well, okay, of course it matters, but...)

If we stop making this personal and start treating the administration as a neutral party one can influence, these kinds of complaints are less relevant.  Even with the worst interpretations of Obama, it is easy to imagine he'd love a legacy of high-speed rail.  Presidents love legacies.

I think many of us have let our displeasure of Obama get in the way of promoting what we actually like.  If we see an opening, we should take it.


[ Parent ]
Also True (4.00 / 2)
As I've said before, he's not your boyfriend.

And as you suggest here, he's never going to be coherent, much less progressive in his policies.

So we need to encourage the good, discourage the bad, and put most of our eggs into other, more reliable baskets.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
True (0.00 / 0)
His commitment to infrastructure investments is mix-and-match incoherent.  

What else is new?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
5 Year Freeze? (0.00 / 0)
There is either a republican in the White House staff area or whatever Dems are there flunked history and macro economics. The leak of a five year spending freeze is about as idiotic as anything else that has been floated out of the White House during the last two years.  Next we will be hearing how Nixon's wage and price freeze will bring jobs and prosperity to the U.S.

Boy Howdy! (0.00 / 0)
Read my new diary, "GOP: Obama won't be crazy enough on cutting spending in SOTU" for my views on just how crazy it is.

But the comparison to Nixon is unfair--to Nixon.

Obama is much closer to McKinley--and, hence, Ron Paul.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
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