While at Lorain County Community College on Friday, January 22, 2010, Mr. President, you began with shout-outs to your fellow Democrat politicians who’ve been in office for years making swell promises but who never really deliver the goods. Nevertheless, the crowd cheered as you announced each name: Governor Ted Strickland, Senator Sherrod Brown, Representative Marcy Kaptur, and Representative Betty Sutton; and with that, the lovefest ensued.
It’s interesting that you welcomed the opportunity to travel to Ohio because you sometimes feel like living in Washington DC is like living in a bubble. Really, Mr. President? Funny, how I just blogged about the Beltway cocoon just yesterday. If you find just the first year in the White House insulating after not even serving a full term as a Senator, then imagine how out of touch the multi-term Beltway creatures are. So, perhaps voting out Sherrod Brown, Marcy Kaptur, and Betty Sutton would be a good thing for voters to do . . . this year, in the case of Kaptur and Sutton. We’ll deal with Sherrod in 2012. And if you really want to burst out of your bubble, Mr. President, you might as well go talk to those people who held a Tea Party nearby. They want to help you burst that bubble in the worst way.
After your intros and warmups, your speech began:
“I walked into office a year ago in the middle of a raging economic storm that was wreaking devastation on your town and communities everywhere. We had to take some very difficult steps to deal with that mess to stave off an even greater economic catastrophe. We had to stabilize the financial system, which, given the role of the big banks in creating this mess, was a pretty tough pill to swallow. I knew it would be unpopular, and rightly so, but I also knew that we had to do it because if they went down, your local banks would have gone down, and if the financial system went down, it would have taken the entire economy and millions more families and businesses with it. We would have been looking at a second Great Depression.”
Personally, Mr. President, I think we’re looking at a second Great Depression, no matter what. We’re Americans, though, and we’re tough enough to weather this storm as long as there’s a rainbow on the other side. Artificially trying to stave it off with interventions like bailouts and Congressional spending binges, I believe, will only leave us in a holding pattern as the storm batters us and batters us. To eventually correct course, we needed the chief culprits to fail. Bailing out the financial institutions only enables those culprits to stay in their positions and continue to wreak the havoc that they’ve been wreaking. It’s hypocritical for you and your political allies, Mr. President, to pout and scold over the bloated compensation packages of Wall Street executives. Why do they even have jobs? Because you bailed them out. You are the enablers. If their companies failed, they would have been out of work at least temporarily, their compensation bubbles would have burst, and the marketplace would have readjusted their compensation packages when they finally landed new employment. You, and Mr. Geithner, and, before you, President Bush, and Mr. Paulson, and all the members of Congress have perpetuated the ills of the financial sector for the foreseeable future because you bailed them out. Surely, as you say, if they fell, other dominoes would have fallen. Understood. But America is like a phoenix. Something new always emerges from the ashes. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached that stage. Nothing newer, more efficient, and more advanced can emerge because the old guard still wields the power, propped up by the bailouts.
I’ve campaigned in Lorain County back in 2002 and 2004, and the topic of jobs was the number one issue on the minds of voters back then, and it’s been the number one issue going back even further than that, so, you can be sure, Mr. President, that, on a day like today, when Ohio’s unemployment is announced to be 10.9%, it’s still the number one issue.
So as you turned your focus to talking about creating jobs, the crowd was applauding frequently and loudly. Sherrod Brown has made those same kinds of speeches to these same people with much the same content year after year after year after year. It works like a charm. It’s what the voters always love to hear.
Yet in all the years that Sherrod Brown has represented Lorain County in elected office, do you think that the bright tomorrow he always speaks of has ever arrived? No. It never materializes.
Why do you think that is?
Do you think it might be due to the fact that the federal government can’t stop micro-managing the economy, demanding that the economy meet benchmarks of social justice set by the arbiters of what’s politically correct? Do you think that the federal government might be devouring too big a chunk of the nation’s GDP? Just as the laws of physics, such as the law of gravity, cannot be suspended by politically willing them to, neither can the laws governing economics be suspended according to whim. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Helping unqualified borrowers purchase homes through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may seem politically expedient, but the piper eventually must be paid.
As you can see, unemployment is not an economic condition that can be corrected in isolation from other economic conditions. What is needed is a holistic approach that allows for purging of what doesn’t work and emerging of what will work. Oh, except that the bailouts prevented purging just as surely as they prevent emerging.
Those who stood to pose questions were pretty narrowly focused on employment, weren’t they? See, I told you jobs has been the number one issue in Lorain County for years. Virtually every single question from the audience touched on employment in one way or another.
Pundits, and even other Capitol Hill politicians, have been saying that your initial push as President should have been all about jobs. There would have been more goodwill that could have given you leverage for tackling the health care reform and environmental issues. Do you see that they were instinctively right? Isn’t something job related on the mind of virtually every one you called upon, Mr. President?
The special election in Massachusetts gave you an opportunity to take a break from the health care reform issue. Mr. President, you, yourself, said that health care reform should not be rushed through before Scott Brown is seated in the U.S. Senate. This stop in Elyria was supposed to be the second stop, after Allentown, Pennsylvania, of a tour about reviving the economy and boosting employment.
But you couldn’t let go of the health care reform issue for even one day, could you, Mr. President? Even after the Q & A was all about jobs and jobs and jobs, you had to deliver a second town hall speech. You looked pained that no one had asked you a question to serve as a launching pad to discourse at length on health care reform. Did you notice any difference in the audience response to your second speech when compared to your first speech? I did. Applause was not as frequent and not as raucous. I think perhaps some of the audience members were wishing for a brief respite from the banter about health care reform and were refreshed to hear you talk about jobs. Unfortunately, you didn’t grant them much of a respite at all, did you?
But I think the audience, even among those that loved you the most, Mr. President, were giving you hints and clues about where the most productive political pursuits lie: healing the economy, not through artificial interventions, but letting the axe fall where it needs to (including the federal budget), letting the chips fall where they may, and jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.