Yes, of course, I watched Obama last night. But I decided to sleep on it before commenting. Here's why.
First, there was this little matter of a Saints football game. Seemed like a natural pairing with the Presidential address, since football can be fairly described as faux-politics. There are no stakes (unless you bet on it; a really dumb idea, trust me I know) and lots of overblown strategy, adrenalin rushes, and general RA!RA! Problem this morning is that the game left me very agitated and little able to sleep last night, in no small part due to our "brilliant" coach's decision not to score a "gimme" much needed field goal at a crucial juncture. That was a decision right even on the intelligence scale with Obama's choice to negotiate with the hostage holding Republican/Teacaners during the debt ceiling debacle. Which brings us back to the subject at hand.
Actually, the Presidential address didn't kick-off like a football contest. It started more like a real fight, emulating the great Floyd Patterson's "Peek-a-Boo" style. I took that as a good sign. We learned that the 300 billion dollar jolt had been jacked up to 450 billion. Sounded like it was on.
But was it? There really were few encouraging specifics for our corner. Much of the money, about 170 billion dollars can be scored to simply renewing the soon set to expire payroll tax break and extended unemployment benefits. This is needed, but represents simply running in place as opposed to stepping up. What we did learn of new spending was even less heartening. The payroll tax break will be increased by 50% for individual wage earners and also applied to businesses as an incentive to hire. This could indeed help move the employment needle in a positive direction, but it comes at the expense of cutting even deeper into the critical funding stream for Social Security.
Is this really the only or best way to raise money for stimulus, especially when the Treasury can borrow at historically low interests rates, and use what is actually almost free money to get the economy moving again? No. It is, instead, deeply troubling.
Then, we heard once again from the Democratic Party leader that Medicare and Medicaid need to be reformed. Having this mentioned in a jobs bill presentation is deeply troubling as well. It is a clear sign of Obama's continuing desire to appease those who wish to kill Medicare. And we know from earlier negotiations with his golfing buddy, John Boehner, the President's proposal is to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. This will keep older workers strapped to the wheel longer and deny new comers job opportunities which would otherwise open for them as a result of retirements occurring at a reasonable age. Just as bad, analysts say it will not save Medicare any money in the long run, as delayed treatments for chronic illnesses will cost more. This is bad, all bad, no matter how you look at it.
Then there were promises of investment which will be paid for by additional generic and unspecified cuts elsewhere. Where is the boost in that? I am not, as you can tell, fired up and ready to go. I am going to wait to hear more, and hope it's not more of the same.