It has been observed in this space before that Barack Obama loves a good fight. Or at least he claims to. Whenever “his opponents” (meaning Republicans) disagree with one of his positions, which run the gamut from radical to vacuous, he will thump his chest and defy them to “bring it on.” About the only fight he isn’t willing to have is against genuine adversaries like Vladimir Putin, who openly mocks him to his face.
Today’s jobs speech, at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., however, was unusually bellicose even for our commander-in-chief. Dave Boyer of The Washington Times wrote that Obama deployed “the rhetoric of class warfare,” warning congressional Republicans that “social tensions will rise” if Washington doesn’t take steps to reverse the growing gap between wealthy Americans and the middle class.
“The position of the middle class will erode further,” Obama said, adding.
Inequality will continue to increase, money’s power will distort our politics even more. Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, start blaming somebody else for why their position isn’t improving.
Gee, if I didn’t know better, I’d think the president was saying, “Nice little country ya got here. Be a shame to see anything happen to it.”
Apart from that — or maybe in spite of it — Obama didn’t say much. There were no new ideas on how to create meaningful jobs. In fact, if you stripped out the parts of the speech where he proposed (once again!) spending more on job training and education (whoops! “investing” in those things) and raising the minimum wage, there would have been an hour of welcome silence.
Ironically the speech came on the same day that a report on the health of U.S. employment was released by Century Foundation. The report found that while unemployment is below its recession-era peak, the cause is due almost entirely to a decline in the labor force participation rate — the portion of the population, that is, that’s either gainfully employed or actively seeking work. Record numbers of Americans are retiring, or in Obama’s parlance switching rather than fighting.
What the nation needs most right now but will not get before 2016 is new leadership. The country yearns for someone with more than just talk. No wonder Speaker John Boehner said before the president had uttered a word that today’s address would be devoid of content — or in Boehner’s phraseology “an Easter egg with no candy in it.”
Obama speaks of Congressional gridlock, of stagnation, and of the Republicans’ zest for blocking many of his economic priorities. One might ask, “What priorities?” Investing in the future? Dealing with the ravages of climate change?
One might also ask where Obama’s burning desire to right the economy was during his first year and a half in office when every ounce of energy he had went into delivering to his fellow Democrats a 40-year-old dream of socialized health care. Other than squandering close to a trillion dollars on a “stimulus” that had zero stimulative effect, he gave no thought to putting Americans back to work. And it was at a time, moreover, when he had a majority in both houses of Congress.
Obama had better hope that his prediction about social tensions rising is as wrong as every other prediction he has made as president. If the fabric of this great nation ever begins to fray, he’s not going to want to be anywhere near the angry mobs.
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