Obama Hands Republicans an Opportunity -- And They're Already Blowing It

It's quite a feat to be staler than the president, but it seems the GOP is up for the challenge.

Barack Obama isn't pivoting to jobs; he's prepping for battle.

What does a president in a perpetual campaign do when national disapproval rates start rising higher than 50 percent? He returns to Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate and, even more impressively -- as a nearly breathless White House informed us -- the place he delivered his first major economic address as a U.S. senator.

Despite media reports, however, Obama didn't unveil any new plan to "move America forward," and he certainly didn't say anything historic. All he did was flee to safer political ground, hitting themes we've heard for five years running. And why not? Evidence suggests that vacuous economic populism is a political winner these days. No doubt, Republicans have struggled to empathize with the anxieties of struggling middle- and working-class voters; on homeownership, on secure retirement and on enhancing social mobility, we hear far too little.

That's not to say that Obama offered a single new constructive idea. Raise the minimum wage? Force banks to lend money more easily? Subsidize clean energy? Universal preschool? "I'm going to challenge CEOs from some of America's best companies to hire more Americans," says our humble leader -- because, evidently, CEOs want to stick it to workers for the heck of it. Bold.

Whatever you make of these ideas in general, they are unserious policy prescriptions for a stagnant economy. If the president were earnest about moving forward, he would have offered something, anything -- regulatory slowdown or a reprieve for small businesses or a pipeline even. Instead, the GOP was presented with a grab bag of progressive hobbyhorses that he knows have no chance of going anywhere. And isn't that the point? Keep your heel on the throat of the obstructionists and win the politics of the day. The House and White House are ready to battle over the debt ceiling and budget, and that's what this is about.

So what do Republicans do? Obama quipped that repealing Obamacare and cutting spending isn't an economic plan. Well, it's as good an economic plan as Obama has produced. This year, more than 830,000 Americans are new part-time workers, and 97,000 fewer of them have full-time positions. Poll after poll finds that small businesses are cutting back or hiring fewer full-time workers because of Obamacare. Other polls show Obamacare's popularity decreasing as implementation ratchets up.

Yet broadly speaking, he's correct; there has to be more. Republicans offer no inspiring alternative. It is incomprehensible that the GOP hasn't devised some palpable and bold 10-step economic plan (with some nifty title, such as "A Better Bargain") that deals with crony capitalism, government overreach and economic growth. Even before the speech was given, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office was touting Republican alternatives to Obama's non-plan. 1) Urge the Democratic-controlled Senate to join the House and pass a job training bill. 2) Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. 3) Support the bipartisan effort to expand offshore domestic energy production.

Seriously? That's it? All fine ideas that won't inspire many voters. Obama says things such as "the basic bargain of this country says that if you work hard, you can get ahead ... build a secure life for your family and know that your kids will do even better someday," and all Republicans can think of is to demand that the Senate pass a job training program? It's quite a feat to be staler than the president, but it seems the GOP is up for the challenge. A free market economy made that bargain possible, not a government-funded solar panel plant. Most people probably still get it. Obama has presided -- and, in many ways, extended -- the worst recovery in American history. He's out of ideas. Republicans aren't going to get a better chance to make their economic case. If they ever bother coming up with one.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    The Republicans should dramatically cut spending, deregulate and get government out of the economy as much as possible, and fight to restore civil liberties, even for behaviors they don't particularly like.

  • wareagle||

    but if they did that, they wouldn't be Republicans anymore.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    The Democrats stopped being Democrats decades ago and became Socialists. I see no reason the GOP can't become more Libertarian.

  • bmp1701||

    The Republicans should dramatically cut spending, deregulate and get government out of the economy as much as possible, and fight to restore civil liberties, even for behaviors they don't particularly like.

    Then they'd be extremely liberal Bourbon Democrats.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    The Bourbon Democratic Party sounds like my kind of political movement...Unless, of course, the party's mission is to subsidize bourbon, which I would (reluctantly) have to oppose.

  • Faceless Commenter||

    Slackass, I'm making $542/hr and I signed up just two weeks ago.

  • InlineSkate||

    "because, evidently, CEOs want to stick it to workers for the heck of it. Bold."

    Of course they do. Remember CEO's and whomever they're affiliated with are inherently evil, unless they're making disingenuous comments about tax rates and minimum wage.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I would love nothing more than for one of these CEOs to issue a statement that says, literally and in its entirety "Fuck off."

  • ||

    "I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours."

  • phandaal||

    "The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours."

  • wareagle||

    so let's say Repubs craft the boldest economic plan ever. Its chance in the Senate? And of getting POTUS' signature? Maybe voters did this on purpose so neither party could foist itself on the rest of us.

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    ...Or maybe both parties do this so they can foist themselves on the rest of us?

    ...Or both at the same time?

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    so let's say Repubs craft the boldest economic plan ever. Its chance in the Senate?

    Not a chance. And the president's band of loyal sycophantic ass-lickers (whether Tony or the NYT) will continue with the narrative of "Republiwhatevers are mean".

    And of getting POTUS' signature?

    Again, no chance.

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    In other news, Steve Smith is hairy and American is a racist.

  • MappRapp||

    Jim Tomm said that is some crazy stuff man.

    www.Only-Anon.tk

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I don't get it. What exactly does Harsanyi want? Does he want some giant GOP-sponsored plan? Perhaps a huge pulse of defense spending? Cleaning up the swamp of environmental regulations means that the Republicans are anti-water and anti-air. Reforming entitlements --the single best thing this country could do for its future-- means that they're anti-(rich)grandma and anti-kids. Drill, baby, drill is a strategy that is actually working on private lands. Of course it would be beneficial on federal lands, but that's not enough.

    What is?

  • Faceless Commenter||

    Perhaps something more populist and Palinesque.

  • Tony||

    a president in a perpetual campaign

    Bzz. Lazy rightwing talking point. Presidents are political and not that legislatively powerful. Story at 11.

    hitting themes we've heard for five years running

    Yes, a dash of beltway conventional wisdom does make this dish milder. Clearly ideas do have expiration dates. Just not ones constantly disproved by lived reality, I guess.

    Also, Republicans have no ideas other than Obama is the devil and cut spending and cut taxes. Story at 11:10.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "Presidents are political and not that legislatively powerful."

    Unless he establishes himself, through the subservience of mindless asslicking sycophants like yourself, as a Cult of Personality who need only furrow his brow to have the rest of his partymates falling backwards over themselves in a bid to see his every wish made reality.

  • Tony||

    If only. Truly, Obama is one of the good guys. We would have to feel seriously entitled to expect better than a pragmatist such as Obama in the white house. Still, objectively, his powers, though broad on foreign policy, are weak domestically. He is not the problem. Making it all about Obama is to only engage in a negative version of a cult of personality, and it's far stronger than any pro-Obama one.

  • Faceless Commenter||

    his powers, though broad on foreign policy, are weak domestically

    Except when he doesn't like a law that he signed himself. Then he just cancels half of it without any authority.

  • ||

    Clearly ideas do have expiration dates. Just not ones constantly disproved by lived reality, I guess.

    You mean like "Spending more money will get us out of this Depression!" circa 1936? Wait, nevermind, I forgot. Democrats have all the fresh ideas.

  • phandaal||

    I like how cutting spending and taxes is a bad thing.

  • Tony||

    Depends on the circumstances of reality. But not to you--it's always a good thing to you.

  • Mr. Justice||

    How about that "nifty name" just be The Constitution? It's a pretty good guide for prosperity yet the GOP is just as bad as the Dems when it comes to following it. Those few members in congress that are actually voting for freedom and upholding the constitution need to be exonerated and held as the example.

  • John Galt||

    The GOP has a name for creepy weirdos who believe in The Constitution, they call them Whacko-Birds.

  • bmp1701||

    "I'm going to challenge CEOs from some of America's best companies to hire more Americans"

    Huh? Is he threatening them if they don't hire more? Promising them a reward if they meet the challenge? A complimentary Hummer if you hire 1000 Americans, a complimentary hummer if you hire 10,000 Americans?

  • ||

    Nice business you got here. Be a shame if something happened to it...

  • Chet||

    He may have meant another meaning of the word "challenge", as in "to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties".

    Given that interpretation it was a very honest statement from the President. It's completely consistent with his actions and appointments. He's been presenting difficulties; unfortunately businesses haven't proven to be up to the challenge. It's a free market failure really.

  • Johnimo||

    1. Eliminate the Corporate Income Tax
    2. Enact a flat tax of 15% for individual income, with a personal exemption of $15,000. This tax will be collected by the States and forwarded to the Feds, eliminating the IRS.
    3. Eliminate the Departments of Health & Human Services, Energy, Education, and the EPA.
    4. End the ban on interstate sales of Health Insurance.
    5. Make all drugs over the counter with no prescription required.
    6. End the ban on Drug Reimportation.
    7. Eliminate licensing requirement for health care professionals.
    8. End all subsidies of energy and agricultural products.
    9. End the war on drugs.
    10. Reform immigration my way, with a temporary border closure, ten day registration period, and deportation of all future illegal immigrants. (respond to this post for fuller explanation)

    There, if I can come up with a ten point plan, then why can't the GOP and the writer of this article?

  • John Galt||

    Republicans have nothing better to offer because they're big government lovers just like Obama.

  • Solidus||

    It is truly unfortunate that the Republicans and democrats look so much alike. The resulting loss of the two party system is accelerating America's plunge in socialism or, if the federal self-arming is any indication, into Marxism-socialism at the end of a gun. The US has become a pitiful site; a boke and broken aging superpower beset by crony capitalism. Americans need a hero and soon if we are to pull back from the cliff. http://coldwarwarrior.com/

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