President Obama's Latest Big Damn Speech About the Economy: So?:
The Rude Pundit knows, he knows, god, how he knows that he was supposed to sit in his living room and jack off while President Barack Obama gave what was his big ol' speech on "Shared Prosperity and Responsibility." He knows that he was supposed to giddily spank it as Obama went all in-yer-fookin'-gob to the GOP by evoking Teddy Roosevelt and even speaking in the same town where the Big Stick Dude gave his "New Nationalism" speech (probably not softly) back in 1910. He knows he was supposed to ejaculate all over his TV as Obama talked about the rich paying their fair share and Republicans being bags of dicks. He knows he was supposed to have a cigarette when Obama made the point about the 1% earning almost all of the economic gains of "the last few decades."
But you know what? Sorry. He can't. He'd need some high doses of Viagra to just get a fake erection.
For here's what the President actually proposed yesterday: extend the payroll tax reduction, end the Bush tax cuts and limit deductions for the wealthy, make some undefined cuts here and there in the budget, and tell the GOP to stop blocking approval of Richard Cordray for the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That's it. Oh, sure, sure, Obama said he'd protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Oh, sure, sure, he framed everything with progressive rhetoric about the society over the individual, about the need for greater opportunity in the nation, about wealth not being an end in itself. That was great, but it wasn't that different than his speech back in April that was all about cutting the deficit.
Back then, he even used the language that would be used by Occupy Wall Street: "In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each."
Some on the left were delighted. Robert Reich, who is normally a bit more skeptical about this stuff, was way over-the-top effusive about yesterday's speech: "It lays out the basis for what could be the platform Obama will run on in 2012 — increasing taxes on the rich, investing in the rest us, requiring corporations and Wall Street banks that reap benefits from being in America create good jobs for Americans, and protecting our democracy from being corrupted by money — a new New Nationalism. Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008."
Except that's not what Obama actually said. He didn't suggest requiring jack shit of bailed-out banks. He gave them some polite advice: "At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis. They should be working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house. The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest rates."
You got that? They "should" do things. But Obama is not actually proposing any kind of requirements. So if you're a banker, you can continue to do fuck-all for the economy and thank the President for his note in the suggestion box.
And conservatives are still complaining that it's class warfare. Shit, it's barely a class tickle fight. We could use some motherfuckin' warfare, like, you know, Teddy Roosevelt proposed.
Back in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came up with a radical plan: Tax the fuck out of the wealthy who earned their money not through labor or services rendered, but through "gambling in stocks." Roosevelt said, "I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective-a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate." Teddy also proposed giving workers rights like minimum wage and regulations for child labor and sanitary conditions.
Look, yeah, yeah, times were different. Yeah, yeah, the President can only do what Congress will allow. But if you're going to spend time laying out a vision of what you'd like the nation to achieve, you should probably be a bit more ambitious in the scope of what you want to accomplish than a slight re-jiggering of taxes and the placement of a good bureaucrat. Howzabout new regulations with real teeth on banking and on the influence of money in politics? Howzabout a massive jobs program based on infrastructure spending and the green economy?
Or perhaps (and this is probably true) we've gotten so used our American inertia that small motions towards progress have become mighty gestures.