Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

A Strong Economics Speech

Every first for Barack Obama as president is also a historical first for our country – a moment of genuine achievement and emotion. It is thrilling to see an African-American leader before a joint session of Congress, particularly when it was only about four decades ago that Lyndon Johnson stood in the same place to give his voting rights address, declaring, “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma.”

But it was also Lyndon Johnson who said, “Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.”

Tonight, history and fate determined that Obama should give – not a civil rights plea or an address with the drama of war and peace – but an economics speech. It was hard to call it “hot” – but Obama is at his best while being cool. In general, he gave a strong economics speech. Obama was, as always, fluid and confident. He promised to speak “plainly” – a promise he kept. His language was simple without being simplistic. The organization of his remarks was tight and clear. There was no straining for phrases carved in marble on topics that could not justify them. Rhetorically, it is difficult to expect more from a speech forced to deal with laying broadband and promoting health information technology.

On the largest economic policies, there was little left to announce, so little news was made. Commitments on debt reduction, energy technology, entitlement reform and health reform sounded ambitious – but were actually vague enough to leave vast room for political maneuver.

Obama’s tone was upbeat, as promised: “We will rebuild, we will recover…” The effectiveness of this speech, however, will not be measured by its tone, but by the persuasiveness of its central economic argument. Obama argued that jumpstarting “job creation” was a function of government spending, done with proper oversight. There was little or nothing in the speech about encouraging investment, helping small businesses create jobs, or lowering tax rates to reward work and increase productivity.

President Obama has outlined an aggressive plan of relief for individuals and banks in economic need. But without an emphasis on economic growth and opportunity, it is difficult to see how relief becomes recovery.

By Michael Gerson  | February 24, 2009; 10:57 PM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Words for Main Street
Next: Finally, an Inaugural Address

Comments

I'm Sorry. I am just totally over the "wonderment" of Obama's blackness. I am thankful he is prez. My wonderment is that I now have a prez who is way smarter than me, than you, and every single gop blowhard.

Every time he speaks, the gop looks smaller by comparison. And this is the message of hope I've been praying for.

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | February 24, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that, Gerson finding the dark lining. President Obama could save the world and Gerson would find something negative about it.

Posted by: arancia12 | February 24, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

I guess you were taking a toilet break when he went on for a few minutes about reducing taxes for 95% of working Americans.

Posted by: turningfool | February 24, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Twice in one night, Gerson?

You and the GOP:

(1) Bring Turbulent Storms to a Beautiful Sunny Day.

(2) Are like a Lesion that Refuses to Heal.

(3) Will Suck the Life out of a New Born Babe.

(4) Are Oppressors, bringing Suffering and Depression to a once Happy Nation.

(5) Crushes the Hopes and Spirits of a Being looking for Peace and Prosperity.

(6) Are Destroyers of a Nation, or Two.

(7) Are like a Cancer that slowly eats away at a persons body, mind, and spirit with no chances of survival.

Because we know who and what you really are, you have no chance of surviving

Posted by: lcarter0311 | February 24, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

If Santa Claus were a Democrat, Gerson would find something negative to say about him. (Actually, I suspect that St Nick may be a commie--giving away toys for nothing?--how unRepublican, but never mind). Meanwhile, the folks who pull Gerson's puppet strings are sitting on their hands and refusing to engage with Obama and congressional Dems to find a solution to our economic woes. Thanks a lot, you hack...

Posted by: ketz87 | February 25, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Gerson you should be happy the Federal Government is extending unemployment benefits, because if there is any justice left in our world, you will be standing there soon waiting for a check soon.

Posted by: castillomark | February 25, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

The President did talk about economic growth and opportunity when he talked about insuring that the banks can give the loans to those who want to grow their companies and invest. So, Gerson is wrong on this.

Posted by: paris1969 | February 25, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

To turningfool: the top 5% of earners (people making about $153,000 and up) pay 60% of the federal income taxes. I'm young and I'd like to earn over $150,000 someday. But Obama wants to discourage me by telling me that my success would be punished by even higher taxes. So, as Mr. Gerson wrote, Obama's proposed tax plan would not "reward work and increase productivity." Rather, they would dull dreams of financial success.

Posted by: bokamba | February 25, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

bokamba, I'm an inventor and entrepreneur who makes more than $150K, even in these down times.

There is NOTHING Obama could do to discourage me to invent, innovate, and hopefully, profit.

You obviously have drunk the kool aid that income taxes are all that counts. 35% of all federal income is employment taxes (FICA on your W-2).

I do not feel "punished" by paying higher income taxes by making more than $150K a year. Our tax system is set up so that I don't pay FICA when I make over $96K a year. I get a bigger home write off, and state tax write offs. I can expense my "business related" car, cable, computers, iPod, iPhone, meals, travel, plane, etc. I can buy a second home, rental property, etc. I can sell property with a 1031 exchange and pay no taxes.

By contrast, I certainly felt punished decades ago when I made $1.15 an hour and could write off nothing. Laying on my back with MEK and a rag cleaning greasy machinery, that was pretty good motivation to get smart.

If you are afraid of making more money and paying taxes, I suggest you visit a few countries where just a few people own everything. By contrast, I suggest you visit Silicon Valley, where I am, where we pay a lot of taxes, make a lot of money, and based upon empirical evidence, think voting for smart Dems like Obama makes sense.

Posted by: boscobobb | February 25, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

You should hear the ATTACK job he put on the Piyushian Jindal ... NOT !

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/24/AR2009022403019.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Compared to the President, that response was lacking SENSE ... ( and style ) ...

Posted by: HillaryClinton4BarackObama | February 25, 2009 2:45 AM | Report abuse

Michael Gerson once more shows us that the Goebbel-like brainpower that helped put God's pure fool (AKA: George W. Bush)in the White House and gave the dummy words to speak that were at least gramatically correct, if substantively barren, can still spin Dixiecrat (AKA:Republican)propaganda with the best of them. How ingenuous of Mr. Gerson to deal with the fact of President Obama's stratospheric approval rating and Dixiecrat disarray with soothing words of approval up front followed by a knife-in-the-back finish. Three cheers for you, Mr. Gerson. You remain one of the leading snake-in-the-grass Dixiecrat propagandists of all time. You have revealed once more that you do, too, have the brainpower that could put God's pure fool in the presidency for eight years. Your intellectual kinship with George W. Bush remains intact.

How too-cute-by-far to show your cowardice by attempting to hide your loathing for Barack Obama with several paragraphs of ostensible praise, followed by a few sentences of the standard and thoroughly discredited Dixiecrat propaganda that getting government off the back of corporate crooks and giving them a tax cut will lead to an economic miracle. You can bask in the glow of being bipartisan, while being able to say "I told you so" if the Democrats prove unable to clean up the mess that you and God's pure fool created and left behind. Your moral cowardice and intellectual corruption shine forth.

Go ask the victims or the families of victims of the salmonella-laced peanut butter produced by one of your Dixiecrat "entrepreneurs" about the consequences of your laissez-fair approach.

Hmmm. Michael Gerson, Michael Gerson. The same guy who played a prominent role in getting George W. Bush elected President of the United States--twice. And didn't he serve as one of Bush's chief lackeys, even as George brought massive corruption and incompetence to Washington? Isn’t Gerson one of those strange people who call themselves conservatives and told us that if we put them in charge, they would impose fiscal responsibility and cut the federal government down to size? So we put them in charge, and many years later, the economy has collapsed, the federal budget, debt, and earmarks are out of control, and the federal government intrudes into our private lives more than ever.

And isn't Michael Gerson one of those leading Republicans who, not content to inflict George Bush on us for eight years, now want to inflict Sarah Palin on us and state with a straight face that she is fully qualified to be President of the United States?

Since the record clearly shows that Michael Gerson is a liar and a fraud, why should we believe anything he says about anything? And why is such a proven liar and fraud a columnist on a major American newspaper?

Posted by: tbarksdl | February 25, 2009 4:21 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson, nice column.

*****************************************

I guess you were taking a toilet break when he went on for a few minutes about reducing taxes for 95% of working Americans.

Posted by: turningfool | February 24, 2009 11:36 PM

****************************************

Kinda difficult to reduce taxes on 95% of working Americans when 40% pay no income taxes now.

Obama and his chief economic adviser, Alan Goolsbee, were repeatedly called out on their lie during the campaign but ........ they persist.

Ah well.

Posted by: furtdw | February 25, 2009 5:26 AM | Report abuse

Twice in one night, Gerson?

You and the GOP:

(1) Bring Turbulent Storms to a Beautiful Sunny Day.

(2) Are like a Lesion that Refuses to Heal.

(3) Will Suck the Life out of a New Born Babe.

(4) Are Oppressors, bringing Suffering and Depression to a once Happy Nation.

(5) Crushes the Hopes and Spirits of a Being looking for Peace and Prosperity.

(6) Are Destroyers of a Nation, or Two.

(7) Are like a Cancer that slowly eats away at a persons body, mind, and spirit with no chances of survival.

Because we know who and what you really are, you have no chance of surviving


Posted by: lcarter0311 | February 24, 2009 11:49 PM

******************************************

Your above post waxed and waned poetic but ........ communicated nothing of substance. Try again.

Posted by: furtdw | February 25, 2009 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
25 February 2009

I find it hard to believe that conservative Republican pundit Michael Gerson could find something to praise in President Obama's address to Congress last night.

Wow!

And praise the speech he did--and rather fluidly, without any signs of strain or stress on his part.

Probably just so his conservative Republican colleagues wont label him a Judas, near the end of his essay Mr. Gerson peremptorily found something wrong with the Obama speech.

But of course!

Mariano Patalinjug
MarPatalinjug@aol.com

Posted by: MPatalinjug | February 25, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Obama said a lot about lowering taxes -- on working Americans -- even giving them refunds. Only on people earning over $250,000 a year would taxes increase. Most of the spending programs he mentioned were designed to create or save jobs, and to help small businesses. So, whose speech were you listening to, Mr. Gerson?

Please visit my Blog: "Conservatives Are America's Real Terrorists"
http://conservativesarecommunistss.blogspot.com/

Posted by: cjprentiss | February 25, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Dear Bokamba--I hope you hear the words of boscobobb. If you are single and making over $150K, you will able to hire a good tax accountant who will know where to shift your assets in order to pay the least amount of taxes you have to. That's what the rich do. That's why Warren Buffet can say his receptionist pays a higher percentage of her salary in taxes than he does.

Many years ago, when Tony Kornheiser had a local sports talk radio show in DC, he would say every April 15 that he loved paying taxes because it meant he was making a lot of money. And I believe he could still afford to send his children to one of the priciest private schools in DC.

Posted by: baltimoremom | February 25, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

To Paris (Hilton?) 1969 - Gerson was wrong, in your view, but you were wrong in using what should be this nation's only language when you said "insured," instead of "ensured." Banks don't sell insurance. Yet. Geez, what are our schools turning out these days?

Posted by: patriciomick9999 | February 25, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Maaan! You are soooooo pathetic. Only you & few morons like you (William Kristol & other GOP idiots) not appreciate the great speech.
On the contrary you have gone gaga about Bobby Jindal's speech. Jindal looked frozen & like a 7 year old appearing on the stage for the first time trying not to forget what he memorized.

Posted by: sarvenk63 | February 25, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Gerson's other column about what a genius Bobby Jindal is was right on the mark. If you want someone to come read your children a bedtime story, there is probably no one better.

Posted by: TheDukeStir1 | February 25, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Cake with a dose of cloriform!

Barack could feed, all of you dems, a bunch of crap nestled inside a piece of apple pie and you would eat it happily! Because you are all to much in love to see what is really happening. Those of you who are divorced know what I'm talking about. Just for the record - Bush was a major disapointment on many levels. Don't fall into the trap of toting the party line! Both sides are working together!

Yes, I liked his attitude about our future in this speech. But holy crap. $780,000,000,000.00 borrowed on credit??? What in the world is he thinking? That more than quadruples the National Deficit!!! Then he promised to bring the national deficit down to half of what it is right now. Gee...kudos...Mr. President...you just raised the deficit by more than 150% of the highest level it ever was in the last 20 years! And that's if you cut the current deficit that YOU created in half! 780 billion divided equally among all 300 milion americans would be $2600.00 each. So basically he just put you at least $2600.00 in debt. How long would it take you to pay that back? If you are a working person...you are paying part of the $2600.00 of someone elses share that doesn't work.

Now...what happens if there is another major event in the U.S. where are we going to get the money? Our credit card is maxed! I feel sorry for the next president that has to clean up this mess...wow...it's even bigger than Bush's. And I thought that was huge.

Dem's need to keep their filthy hands out of the private sector. And so does every other stinking political party in this Nation!

Ngggyyyahhh!!!

Dave AZ


Posted by: daveAZ | February 25, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"There was little or nothing in the speech about encouraging investment, helping small businesses create jobs, or lowering tax rates to reward work and increase productivity."

Nothing about building railroads, expanding education, government investment serving as a catalyst? Nothing about the kind of regulation that protects investments from speculators? Nothing about lowering taxes on 95% of the population?

Gerson, your team had 8 years to prove that the supply-side, de-regulation, lower-taxes and higher-deficits approach worked. You failed. Can't you even learn from your own failure?

Posted by: j2hess | February 25, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

========== j2hess ==================
Nothing about building railroads, expanding education, government investment serving as a catalyst? Nothing about the kind of regulation that protects investments from speculators? Nothing about lowering taxes on 95% of the population?

Gerson, your team had 8 years to prove that the supply-side, de-regulation, lower-taxes and higher-deficits approach worked. You failed. Can't you even learn from your own failure?

================

"your team"??

Bush was not on a team that included anyone in his party, but those that he had to "pay off" or benefitted him personally. He changed into Mr. Hyde from the first day of his second term. He did multiple things that were insane as president - including preaching gloom and doom...at the end of his second term. The only good thing I can say about Baracks speech is that he got a clue about gloom and doom. The rest of it was designed to sound good - while we swallow a bitter pill. A spoon full of suger helps the medicine go down!

Bush did not manage to lower taxes in any significant manner, and de-regulation never fully happened, suply-side is also on the Dem's agenda.

We should all be extremely afraid of having ANY party that is in a power position that the Dems are in now. They can pass just about anything that they want to, untill the next election. And if they keep their pretty faces on until the next Senate and House elections...the Republicans will lose ALL power.

Dems on the loose with no body to stop them is just as dangerous as if the Republicans were in the same position.

Yikes!

Dave AZ

Posted by: daveAZ | February 25, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or does no one else see the stark difference between what President Obama says and what he does? For example, denying that there are any earmarks in his massive, pork-filled stimulus bill, which no one read before voting for or signing. Or pretending to be fiscally responsible and cut the deficit in half in the middle of the most irresponsible bout of spending in US history. Or pretending to be bi-partisan while being the most partisan President in recent history. Or promising transparency while hiding anything inconvenient, like details of his spending plans, his past relationships, his birth records and college grades. Pretty amazing.

Posted by: mgoveia | February 25, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

To poor "easily discouraged" Bokamba: I'm not sure you deserve any attention for being so privileged and so delicate of spirit that you would find your fragile little self discouraged from making the $150,000 a year you seem to think you deserve. And by the way, it's individuals making $250,000 a year who will pay more in taxes, so you might start by studying the facts. But If I were making $250,000 a year, or even what you think YOU deserve (why, exactly?), I'd count my blessings that I lived in a country where such things were even possible, and I'd not quit on that country by withholding tax help that I was lucky enough to give.

Or is it just about you, darlin'? Think about growing up.

Posted by: cturtle1 | February 25, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company