President Obama's jobs speech was one of the weaker addresses of his presidency. The delivery was rushed, the laundry list of policies were rehashed from prior speeches and his constant refrain imploring Congress to "pass this jobs bill" made him come across like a salesman on a TV infomercial. While that may have worked in February 2009 when he was at the height of his popularity, the subsequent failure of the stimulus legislation has damaged his credibility.
The plan would cost about $450 billion, and he promises that it will be fully paid for -- though he hasn't told us how just yet.
"The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years," he said. "It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act."
So will Congress have to figure out a way to pay for it?
Obama went on to say that, "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."
Great, yet another speech. I wonder if this next one will come with actual details that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Another thing to consider -- will the $450 billion in costs be fronloaded over the next two years, while the supposed "savings" will be spread out over 10?
The actual details of the bill were mostly recycled. The payroll tax could be acceptable to Republicans, but the tax credit for businesses that hire more people was rejected in previous iterations because it's too easy to tweak the accounting. There's no way of stopping businesses from getting a tax credit for workers they would have hired anyway.
The speech calling for more infastructure spending was especially laughable, on a day when the Wall Street Journal reported that, "Solyndra LLC, a California solar-panel maker once hailed by President Barack Obama as 'the future' of clean energy, is the target of a criminal investigation into whether its executives knowingly misled the government to secure more than $500 million in loan guarantees..." Obama also tried to sell high-speed rail once again, even though the most prominent example of such a project, in California, is well over budget and widely considered a boondoggle.
He also, with a straight face, said that Congress needed to pass free trade agreements, even though he has refused to send them to Congress if they aren't paired with a policy to provide subsidies to workers that is being pushed by his union allies.
Overall, it's hard to see this obvious use of a joint session of Congress to deliver a campaign speech moving the dial for Obama, beyond exciting liberals who have called for a more confrontational tone with the Republican House, less focus on deficits and more stimulus spending.