The Obama Speech in Cleveland

Robert Borosage

President Obama traveled to Cleveland to deliver an address on the economy designed to highlight the “differences in governing philosophy” between his view and that of the Republican opposition. (A copy of the text is found here: http://www.oliverwillis.com/2010/09/08/text-of-obama-speech-in-cleveland-on-the-economy. )

This was a powerful presentation, one that we wish the President had done repeatedly from his first days in office. He summarizes the conservative ideas and policies that drove us over the cliff, and offers a contrasting belief in a government on the side of working people that rewards work and offers a “hand up.”

What’s missing in the speech is any explanation of why the economy hasn’t recovered. He argues, correctly, that he acted to stave off a depression. He admits that the recovery hasn’t come as quickly as he hoped.

He then doubles back to lay out the differences between his view and the Republicans on policy. He’s for ending tax breaks for corporations; that take jobs abroad; they are not. He’s for infrastucture spending; they are not. He’s for ending the top end Bush tax cuts but extending those for the rest of Americans; they want to extend them all. They oppose somethings that they are for simply for partisan political advantage.

But he gives no clue as to why the recovery has been so slow. There is no real mention of the financial wilding that caused the economic bubble and bust. He does not repeat his powerful argument that the recovery is slow because we can’t go back to the old economy, and shojuld not want to. It was built on debt and speculation. He doesn’t argue that we need to build a new foundation for the economy to put it back on track. He doesn’t lay out the case for reviving manufacturing in the US as a centerpiece of a new economy. He doesn’t contrast a belief in the need to regulate finance with their deregulation, the need to curb the casino in contast with their license of all gambling. His repeated contrasts are between his tax cuts for business and theirs — not exactly an appeal that will rouse the troops.

As I said, it’s a strong speech. But the president is asking Americans to vote for Democrats to sustain the course we are on and not go back to the old failed ideas. For that to work, Americans need to hear a compelling argument of what that course is, why it is necessary, what we’ve learned from the torturously slow and halting growth we’ve experienced coming out of the freefall.

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