President Barack Obama is sliding deep into a "Win the Future" (WTF) tour, during which he battles economic stagnation and his own ruinous spend-and-regulate-til-the-cows-come-home policies (and those of his immediate predecessor) by the profligate use of cliches. His latest stop was in Cleveland, Ohio, dubbed "the most miserable city" in the U.S. just last year by Forbes magazine.
In search of support for a budget that even his fans found pathetic and some votes in 2012, Obama spoke as if he had transported back to 1950, when "the Mistake on the Lake" was peaking in population growth. Presidential nippets from an address at Cleveland State University to entrepreneurs, small business leaders, and the like:
"As the economy changed, a lot of people wrote off Cleveland as a shell of its former self. But you . . . knew differently." [ellipsis in original news account; bonus points for filling it in with something printable]…
"We've got to invent new (industries), and that's what you're doing here."…
"When small businesses do well, we do well."…
"It's small businesses like yours that help drive America's economic growth."
"If we can get businesses to partner with local community colleges or local universities and have them help design the training process for the jobs that already exist, it's a win-win."
The forum lasted three hours and I'm betting the cliches-to-hour ratio was pulling somewhere north of 60: 1. Just to make sure Obama isn't the only person talking exclusively in useless aphorisms, The Plain Dealer ends its account with a participant gushing that the 'Bama admin "gets it. They actually get it. The question now is: How do we leverage this to benefit Cleveland?"
Wasn't that supposed to be the freaking point of the forum? If you're walking out of an hours-long meeting and the big insight is that people in Washington understand that Cleveland is a dying city, well, it was nice knowing you.
The bromance of small business is one of the phoniest apparitions to cloud America since its founding, a veritable Funky Phantom of misdirected policymaking. The government counts any enterprise with fewer than 500 employees as "small" and it's a definition that covers about 99.7 percent of all businesses. However, it's that puny 0.3 percent of other super-humongous-gigantic businesses that account for about half of all private-sector employment. As the National Federation of Independent Business and other groups would tell you when they're not trying to shake down the feds for subsidized loans via the generally wasteful and unnecessary Small Business Administration, entrepreneurs don't need special tax treatment and subsidies as much as they need a stable, predictable tax and regulatory environment (just like big business!). It's hard enough to make a go of it in the marketplace, they don't need wild overspending by government at all levels and an endless bevy of new rules that countermand past rules etc.
Cleveland and the larger region of Northeast Ohio is in a decades-long funk for a lot of reasons, some of which they can't control (such as the end of highly protected industries that start to hit the skids in the 1960s if not before) and many that they can absolutely control (high and complicated local and state taxes, shitty and expensive public schools, 19th-century zoning and planning schemes, idiot legislators who would rather spend money they don't have on high-tech garbage cans than loosen up the business environment).
Can this city be saved? You bet it can, but not through the sort of high-profile pow-wows that just took place. The city's and region's leaders need to drink deep not of yesteryear's cliches and failed ideas but of exactly the sort of proven policies that Reason spent a year documenting in "Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey: How to fix the 'Mistake on the Lake' and other once-great American cities." Go here for more info and research up the ying-yang. Or shut your office door and spend the first hour of the work day learning what can make cities thrive once again: