Obama address this evening
Still ahead, at 7:00 Eastern—
Every thinking person knows the president is carrying a heavy load, with virtually the entire GOP in office refusing to do anything that would help the nation. There are very few exceptions, partial at that, mainly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Ron Paul, and the latter is leaving Congress. They’re both critically outnumbered. The rest of the congressional GOP are a wholesale lot of corporate lobbyists in office, temporarily holding down the fort until they depart for their inevitably better-paying positions overtly representing the companies they now represent ex officio. It’s not supposed to be that way—try to find the word lobbyists in the Constitution—but that’s the way it is.
Incidentally, some lobbyists do not scruple to infiltrate organizations to which their employers and/or clients are antithetical, either, and without declaring their affiliation to fellow unwitting members. But that’s a later story. (Needless to say, Republicans in Congress have resisted, opposed, delayed and watered down every effort to strengthen transparency in the multi-billion-dollar lobbying industry.)
For tonight, President Obama has to propose steps to strengthen the U.S. economy and to ameliorate the situation of working people. Enough on the plate, given as mentioned GOP opposition to anything that would actually help, under Orwellian subterfuges including the ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’ that GOP-instigated wars and tax exemptions for the wealthy and for corporations helped to create—along with the recession following the largely GOP-created mortgage-derivatives debacle.
A few points can be raised before the White House address—
- for example, that one easy fix for Social Security is simply to raise or eliminate the ludicrously small limit on contributions by the wealthy. Why should most of the income of someone bringing in more than six figures be exempt from Social Security withholding? It makes no sense. Yet our would-be Republican candidates for president virtually never mention this obvious common-sense improvement.
- Another example: Facing a string of natural disasters and a consequent strain on FEMA and rising requests for disaster aid, why don’t we keep the multi-trillion-dollar insurance industry from wriggling out from under risk coverage? Why is it a given that insurance companies can avoid covering flood risk just when it is most needed? And above all, why do our purported deficit hawks in the GOP go along with this kind of corporate policy—since they know that it will dump all the costs of a natural disaster on the taxpayers?
- Related point: The phrase ‘the taxpayers’ refers, of course, to those of us who actually pay our taxes—payroll taxes, property taxes, state and federal income tax. Why is it a given that some of our biggest-earning corporations should be allowed to get away with paying no federal income tax at all?
- Finally, as to infrastructure. Surely, our infrastructure needs help. That includes the physical infrastructure of our schools, too, and a proposal to put the construction industry back to work, by working on schools across the nation, is already on the table. Nothing heard so far, on this good idea, from Republicans in Congress.
One more note, before the speech itself: The White House is being put in an impossible position, being demanded to ‘create jobs’ by the very people who, vindictively, are fighting tooth and nail to break the middle class, and who will refuse to implement anything presented by President Obama. Something to keep in mind.
Update 7:40 p.m.
A step in the right direction—
Obama did his usual good job of communicating. Speech concluded, clearly the White House knows what is needed, which is “actually do something to help the economy.” So, some of the provisions, in summary:
- Cut payroll taxes in half for working individuals and for small business.
- Tax credits for small businesses for hiring and for raises.
- Federal investment in transportation infrastructure. Btw Obama mentioned a particular bridge, connecting Ohio and Kentucky, a main truck route. (The camera here on Current TV, 192 on Verizon Fios, cut to a quick shot of newish Kentucky senator Rand Paul, probably trying for poker-faced but looking like a man who took a handful of Pamprin by mistake.)
- Nationwide investment in school repair, restoration and construction.
- Putting thousands of teachers back to work.
- Jobs for veterans.
- Tax credits for hiring the long-term unemployed.
- Extend unemployment benefits for another year.
- Extend the middle-class tax cut. (It will be interesting to see how GOP self-declared deficit hawks avoid this one.)
On funding, the president nicely needled some of those present with a reminder that the bill recently signed into law requires cutting the federal budget by over a trillion. President Obama said that the same representatives of the people who are obligated by said law—that would be the bill raising the ‘debt ceiling’—to come up with cuts, to come up with further cuts. Further proposals will be presented by the White House next week.
Funding includes eliminating or reducing “tax breaks and loopholes that no one else gets,” as Obama put it, for the wealthiest individuals and for corporations, including tax loopholes for oil companies and tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
In this context it is noteworthy that the wealthy and well-funded GOP candidates for the White House, calling for yet more leniency for the top 2 percent, have not been laughed out of every podium. (Their Orwellianism, of course, is that taxing the wealthiest is “job-killing.” Ridiculous, but their audiences will have to call them on it; too few reporters are allowed to do so. )
As the president pointed out, economically speaking at least there is “nothing controversial” in the proposals.
It was fun watching some of the faces caught by the camera. Speaker of the House John Boehner often looked uneasy, often shifty-eyed. He kept licking his lips when the president said something good about the American people or nation. When he’s cheerful he looks it, but when he is trying to convey reproof of sorts he tends to veer between cigar-store Indian and a drunk guy puzzled by the multiplication tables.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, when caught on tape, also had an odd demeanor or look, somewhat cartoonish but the character doesn’t come to mind at this moment.