He kept America waiting for 26-minutes to hear a 21-minute campaign speech. That was pretty much my takeaway from President Obama's Rose Garden jobs/deficit reduction speech. I take no joy in saying my stance is a "plague on both your houses." Regardless of political affiliation, I am critical of the president because he's an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.
America literally can't afford both Republicans and Democrats starting their campaign efforts 14 months ahead of the elections. But a campaign speech is what we got earlier today, once the president got around to delivering it. So let's break it down as best we can given the dearth of details provided:
Tax Loopholes: Citing a tax code more than 10,000 pages long and 5-feet high, the president vowed to make tax reform a high priority. Obama also said his plan called for lowering the corporate tax rate while creating tax breaks for companies that manufacture and hire in the United States. Despite being depicted as Scrooge McDucks, CEO's are generally in favor of both of these moves. In fact, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Jeff Immelt (GE) have come out in support of paying higher taxes if the rate is the same for all companies. Then all we'd have to do is find work for the untold thousands of accountants and tax lawyers working in corporate America. There were no actual "details" given but the putting tax code reform on the table was and remains the highlight of the American Jobs Act to date.
Medicare/ Medicaid/ Social Security: The president is not, in fact, in favor of gutting benefits for aged and ill. This is obviously a shot across the box of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry and his comment that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. The president says he will not cut Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid won't be "gutted" without tax hikes on the rich. Nothing was said about rich people being willing to pay higher taxes to actually shore up medicare.
Warren Buffett Presents The Millionaire Tax: Warren Buffett made billions off the financial crisis by getting Goldman Sachs (GS) and General Electric (GE) to pay him usurious rates in exchange for what amounted to endorsement deals. Buffett is giving his entire estate to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because he is of the opinion that the government is a poor allocator of capital. Buffett would like me to pay higher taxes to the very government he's opting to stiff.
Mr. Buffett has never met a preferential deal he didn't like and has 56,000 times as much money as someone with $1 million. The only reason the White House is using Buffett to promote this tax hike is because the administration thinks voters are ignorant regarding who Buffett really is. Buffett has no more place in a Jobs Act conversation than does the ghost of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Improving Scientific Investment, Airports, Schools: Another triple crown of ideas that'll never happen. Everyone is in favor of better science programs, airports and schools. The problem is this Administration is a demonstrably bad technology investor. Nothing will ever get done on airports unless we build new runways, which we won't do because no one wants planes running over their house. Also, our school systems are dominated by unions, and much more about local governments than Federal in terms of deploying capital. These are soundbites, not policy proposals. There is no one who is anti any of these three items; it just sounds good for the President to say he's in favor of more science, better airports and nicer schools. It's the rhetorical equivalent of shaking hands and kissing a baby.
The Right's rebuttal, in effect whining about Obama's insinuations and vowing to never raise taxes, isn't much better than the president's campaign stumping. These are dark days for the economy, yet our leaders lack the will to improve the plight of our unemployed and impoverished.
It would seem the presidency is there for the taking for anyone who can run the electoral gauntlet. Whomever that candidate is, he or she has yet to make their presence known.