Wednesday, April 13, 2011

OBAMA'S DEFICIT SPEECH. The actual deal will probably be a bit of a mess, if not a hell of a mess, and we peons will probably get it at least glancingly in the neck once again.

But even so, I think the idea of an America that "prizes individual freedom and our commitment to one another" and seeks to accommodate both makes more sense and better politics than the Randroid dystopia offered by the Republicans. So there's that.

I'm glad that Obama focused on this, and patiently, even painstakingly, laid it out in moral and historical terms, talking about the millions "we'd be telling to fend for themselves" under the GOP proposal. The "social compact" he described is no longer top of mind among our citizens, alas, due to the death of civics education and decades of policy promoting a I-win-you-lose philosophy. But the only way he can succeed is if people at least dimly remember what America is supposed to be. I find it touching at least that he assumed many will.

And who knows, he may even be right. And for those who don't get it, maybe the idea that roads and bridges must be fixed, and children educated and workers provided with skills, and that our energy resources are not unlimited, may get through to those who have been paying some attention to the way things work and the world around them, which may comprise a majority of our fellow citizens.

It's too bad that I'm so pleased and even surprised to hear the President of the United States talking common sense, but that's where we're at.

I also appreciate that Obama told it like it is about the "deeply pessimistic" assumptions of the Republican plan, though I would have preferred "cynical" as a modifier and the insertion of a few obscenities. And congrats to whoever came up with the bit about creating a $200,000 tax cut for a rich President by asking 33 seniors on Medicare to come up with $6,000 each. I appreciate also the little smile he gave as he acknowledged he'd receive "fierce" criticism from Republicans for whom tax cuts for the rich are "an article of faith" -- which was confirmed for me in real time by the conservatives on my Twitter feed. (John Podhoretz says, "This speech is like a paid ad for 'Atlas Shrugged: The Movie,'" and I agree -- it will rouse the few million who think goldurn gummint is sociamalist to assemble in their klaverns and select theaters and feel the outrage while the world goes on outside.)

We'll see about the details. I'm always interested to hear what these guys think a simplified tax code is -- it certainly won't be Steve Forbes' but it probably won't be Jerry Brown's either. And the "debt fail-safe" sounds like term limits to me -- a promise that'll be easy to get around. But the best we can ever expect from modern Democrats is a slightly larger small piece of the pie, and it looks as if Obama might actually try to get it for us. On those very limited terms, I'm very cautiously semi-optimistic.

UPDATE. For a more dour review, see Joshua Holland. He finds the speech "replete with impossible-to-fulfill promises" and thinks we're getting screwed. Well, yeah, what else is new?

Ah, I see Jonah Goldberg has reacted:
I listened to Obama’s speech on my drive down to North Carolina for my talk tonight. I thought it was a breathtaking tour de force of dishonesty and tendentiousness for all the reasons covered around here. It was also just weird and annoying.
Sounds like someone missed his rest stop.
A small gripe: he keeps saying “win the future” like it’s a phrase A) everybody understands and B) everyone has a positive reaction to. Neither is the case.
Goldberg knows nothing about marketing, which is unsurprising coming from an officer of a commercial enterprise that is always begging for change.
More substantially, Obama’s speech was just plain reactionary. It was an amazing about face for a guy who ran in 2008 on a “yes we can” message of fundamentally “transforming” America. Now the philosophical thrust of his approach is that we must not change the America we “grew up with.” Uh ok. I guess his 2012 slogan will be “Let’s All Go Down With the Ship — Together!”
Goldberg understands the word "reactionary" about as well as he understands the word "fascism."

His claim that Obama's defense of Social Security is inconsistent with his transformative message makes no sense -- was Obama promising to transform Social Security into a voucher program? -- except as an example, albeit poorly expressed, of the traditional rightwing reaction to Democrats who talk back. It's very like the reaction of a bully whose victim suddenly pops him in the nose -- hey, he wasn't supposed to do that!

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