Stimulus: Reloaded

In a forum generally left for major events; that is, State of the Union addresses, declarations of war, etc., the President took the podium Thursday evening to pitch his jobs plan to the nation.  Rather, he took the podium this evening in front of a Joint Session of Congress to pitch his first major campaign speech of the race. The room was packed with spectators and lawmakers alike, with various administration officials scattered and “special guests” throughout. The sergeant-at-arms announced the President’s arrival, after which he proceeded to parade through a colonnade of die-hard supporters like a rock star. Not a bad setting for any speaker, especially a president trying desperately to convince the American people that his policies need to continue on.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the President’s pitch, let’s rewind just a tad. It’s a few days ago, and the White House sends word to Speaker John Boehner that the President had requested a Joint Session of Congress. It’s a little out of the ordinary, given the aforementioned reasons for requesting such an audience. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was the date and time of the request. Right smack dab in the middle of the previously scheduled GOP Presidential debate at the Reagan Library. Whoops.  This swell move garnered the White House a stern “no” from Speaker Boehner. The White House squealed. The press echoed. “UNPRECEDENTED!!” was screamed again and again. It’s interesting how quickly we forget our history. President Ronald Reagan, just a few short decades ago, was denied a Joint Session by Speaker Tip O’Neill. Reagan had a far more legitimate reason- he wanted to address Congress on counter-communism efforts in Nicaragua. This was denied him for various reasons;  regardless, Reagan shrugged it off and addressed the nation via television, which is far more than can be said about this administration.

For those who didn’t have the chance to watch the speech, I’ve taken the key pieces from the transcript and included them here. My commentary included, of course. Buckle up! Here we go:

Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin.  And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t.  So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators,” this plan is for you. 

Aside from the obvious jab at those oh-so-evil-corporate-profits and the rather snide comment about “making like easier for ‘job creators,’” the President has a point when he says that small businesses are the source of many new jobs in this country. It’s interesting that he brings up small business and the need to support it. Wasn’t it exactly a year ago that the President spoke of raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 a year? Or was it $200,000? It was both throughout the debate on whether or not to extend the Bush Tax Cuts, which, incidentally, are going to come up for debate again soon. How quickly one forgets. My point? $200,000, or even $250,000, is a fairly small business. The picture comes into even further focus when you realize that those who are self-employed report business income on their personal taxes (Schedule C). So, you, Joe BusinessOwner, after paying your employees and business expenses (including further investments into your business) might clear barely enough to pay yourself in a given year, yet you qualify for a tax increase. My point is simply this: Either the President has made a gigantic 180 on his tax stance, or he has a very short memory.

It will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business.

While Rick Perry is demonized for calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme, (which incidentally, unless Webster’s has published a new dictionary with altered definitions, it IS a Ponzi scheme), the President calls for another payroll tax hiatus. The majority of the payroll tax (as of 2009 before the first hiatus, it was 6.2% of 7.6% of the FICA tax) goes to fund Social Security. I’m all for tax cuts, but either the President isn’t being honest and plans to raise taxes elsewhere to continue funding Social Security, which will be in the red by 2015 (meaning, it will be paying out more than it takes in), or he’s set to announce that we’ll be phasing out Social Security. I’m betting on the first.

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America.  Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country.  Our highways are clogged with traffic.  Our skies are the most congested in the world.  It’s an outrage.  

As my title suggests, how is this any different from the stimulus programs promoted by the President before? Aren’t these just more of the “shovel-ready jobs” that the President himself admitted did not “exactly” exist? In fact, he actually laughed a while back as he stated “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”Call me crazy, but how is this going to be different? Oh, and in a phenomenally ironic twist of events, most of the jobs the President touted in his bill are….you guessed it…..UNION. I suppose he owes Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., head of the Teamsters, a big one for the “army” he has amassed for the President. What were his words exactly? Oh that’s right, “President Obama, this is your army, we are ready to march. But everybody here’s got to vote. If we go back, and keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out.” Then there’s Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, who sat smiling in observance at the President’s speech. Mr. Trumka, you may remember, was responsible for bringing in the backups to protest in Madison over Governor Walker’s budget plans. A note left by a protestor for Republican Senator Dan Kapanke: “We will hunt you down. We will slit your throats. We will drink your blood. We will have your decapitated head on a pike in the Madison town square. This is your last warning.” In the face of all the rather violent protesting, Trumka howled “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t include this to insinuate that all union workers are violent. Hardly. Many are good, hardworking, upstanding citizens. I happen to know some. It is your union leadership I’m worried about; it is your leadership to whom the President has close ties.

Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year. 

Ah yes, because temporary summer jobs at fast-food joints and the local movie theaters are going bring this economy ROARING back to life. Don’t get me wrong. A job is a job, and it is my hope that everyone who needs one would have one. What bothers me is the emphasis on so many temporary jobs (without a real plan to even achieve those jobs in the first place), rather than creating an environment where permanent, steady, solid jobs are readily available. Then again, it is a little difficult to pick apart a bill that hasn’t even been released yet, even though the President barked at the Congress to “pass this bill right away” 17 separate times on Thursday night. By-the-by, all those construction/infrastructure jobs I mentioned earlier? Temporary. There are only so many bridges and schools that can be repaired. . .with money we don’t have, naturally.

The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year.

Because 99 weeks on federally-backed unemployment isn’t enough. Please excuse the gruff nature of the following remark, but let’s get real. If you can’t find a job, (even a low-skill, minimum wage job) somewhere in this vast nation in 99 weeks. . .well then I’m at a loss for words. I believe there are people out there in genuine need of assistance. There are some very hard hit-areas. At the same time, I could go into quite a litany of examples of fraud and abuse of the entire welfare system that’s quite frankly counter-intuitive to the whole point. I’ve know someone who used to live in an apartment next door to people who were on Section 8 housing vouchers, yet got up in the morning, grabbed their keys to their Cadillac Escalade, and off they went.

Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year.  If we allow that tax cut to expire — if we refuse to act — middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. 

Fine and dandy, except what happens when my pay goes down because my company’s tax rates go up in accordance with President Obama’s “pay their fair share” plan? Additionally, $1,500 is chump change once we start seeing the effects of the Obamacare costs. You know, that 3.9 billion dollar expense the middle class is going to have to foot. . .

The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.  It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas.  Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act.  And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan — a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.

Ok, so I’m confused. The bill will be covered by spending cuts the super committee in Congress is charged with finding (mark my words- December 2011 will be July 2011, version 2.0) , but yet he’s going to release a deficit plan that “covers the cost of the bill”? Which is it? Just wait, the answer is coming up next:

This approach is basically the one I’ve been advocating for months.  In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I’ve already signed into law, it’s a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. 

AND there it is. So, to make it sound nice and non-partisan, the President claims the bill will be paid for via spending cuts yet to be found by the Congressional Super-Committee of 12. But here, he makes it clear that he plans to pay for this bill and the rest of his blank-check agenda by further burdening the American people with higher taxes. As those of you who have been following this blog from the start have read over and over again, this will ONLY result in trickle-down taxation. While the job-creators in this country (yes, INCLUDING the big, evil corporations) take a hit, we in the middle class get a supposed “break,” yet will feel the hit when less jobs are created and salaries go down due to the higher tax burden the “rich” in this country will bear.

Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary — an outrage he has asked us to fix.

As Bill O’Reilly aptly put it:

“Warren Buffet pays taxes on capital gains, not income tax! So the president basically told the nation he wants to raise capital gains tax in the middle of a terrible economy!”

The rich in this country bear the brunt of the tax burden. To be precise, In 2008, the top 1% paid 38%, the top 5% paid 58%, and the top 10% paid almost 70% of all federal income tax. Remember that over 40% of Americans PAY NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX WHATSOEVER because they qualify for so many deductions, and often end up getting a payout at the end of the year from the federal government.

Oh by the way, did you know that there is actually a fund operated by the IRS to which one can send monetary donations to aid the federal government, aside from taxes? Why wouldn’t the president simply encourage donating to that fund if the wealthiest Americans like Warren Buffet are chomping at the bit to give more? I’d love to see a statement of exactly how much Warren Buffet has donated to the government. Not the Obama campaign; to the federal government.

In case any of you feel terrible because you just don’t give enough to the government, click here and you can ease your guilty conscience.

Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists.

I wonder how General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, a member of the audience during the speech, was able to keep a straight face during that one. Immelt enjoys a fairly cozy relationship with this administration, and as a result, GE got a pretty good break.  GE paid no taxes last year. In fact, they got a government payout of 3.2 billion. Why? According to the New York Times, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

I guess Mr. Immelt and his associates are listed in the White House as “somewhat well-connected lobbyists,” as opposed to those “best-connect lobbyists” the President was berating. In the same breath, I guess Webster’s has redefined “cooking the books” to mean “innovative accounting.” Gee whiz- I’m learning something new every day.

This isn’t political grandstanding.  This isn’t class warfare.  This is simple math.  (Laughter.)  This is simple math.  These are real choices. 

(Yes, Congress actually snickered at that one.)

The President emphasized that this was not about class warfare, yet the President went on to specifically target one group of Americans- the “most fortunate.” If the President wanted to stay true to his delusional idea that his plan does not constitute class warfare by demanding that all Americans pay their “fair share,” might I ask why he said nothing about the 40%+ of Americans who pay NO federal income tax whatsoever? In fact, while those over 40% of Americans make use of all the same government amenities that the other half of the nation pays for, they also often receive a payment from the government when all is said and done. If one truly wants to talk about all Americans “paying their fair share,”  every American should be required to pay taxes. I’ve said this numerous times- a flat tax would rectify this situation; everyone pays a flat percentage (it’s the same across the board!); those who make less pay less; those who make more pay more! It’s quite simple….but I’ve digressed.

But what we can’t do — what I will not do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.  I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.  I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are.  That’s not the story of America.

Yes, because the GOP proposal is one of anarchy and complete chaos. I guess that’s only natural; after all, my household is one of complete and utter chaos when we balance our checkbook and spend within our means, too.

A Republican President [Lincoln] who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip?  

Newt Gingrich provided a phenomenal rebuttal to this argument:

“And his history is just terrible. What he said last night about Abraham Lincoln was just totally factually misleading. The federal government did subsidize railroads, but there was no federal department of  railroads. The federal government did encourage land grant colleges, but there was no federal department of college.. of education at that time. The federal government did encourage research that led to the internet, but by the way it was IBM, Intel, Xerox, Dell, Apple, Microsoft….all these are private companies that actually developed it. I think the degree to which this president has bad history backing up bad philosophy is really very sobering.”

What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

So, without getting into a discussion about the Constitutionality of the aforementioned programs, are we to understand that the President would have us believe that so long as a program seems “worthwhile,” it doesn’t matter that it’s unconstitutional? That’s the “rigid idea about what the government could or could not do;” he’s speaking of; he’s speaking of Constitution. With no solid foundation, where do we stand as a country? The president spoke of his opinion that the GOP proposals mirrored anarchy; that it represented chaos. Our Constitution is our foundation. The chaos that we see today is a direct result of a trampling on and dismantling of our founding principles; namely, the Constitution. Without a foundation, no household, no community, no state, and no nation can stand.

The speech ended, and oddly, there was no televised, prepared GOP rebuttal. This has always been the case; the President gives a speech such as this one; the opposing party gives a response. So what happened this time? You may remember that the NFL opener was Thursday night. The President promised to be done before kickoff, and he was; however, you may have noticed that there was plenty of time between the end of the speech and the kickoff for a brief response from the GOP.

Here’s the skinny: Prior to the speech, the White House gave word to GOP leadership that the speech would last 43 minutes not including applause; meaning the speech would last close to an hour with applause. The speech lasted 32 minutes WITH applause. Then, right after the speech ended, the media received the breaking news from the administration of the credible threat posed to the nation on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Is the President’s skin really that thin?

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