Although Obama broke little new ground in his speech, it signals the Democrats’ latest efforts to spin the poor state of the economy in their favor. A case in point is the ongoing impasse over extending payroll tax cuts. Obama and his Democratic surrogates have seized on Republicans’ reluctance to pass the extension as proof that they favor the rich over the middle class. The reality is that Republicans do want to pass the extension. The reason it has stalled is that, unlike Democrats, Republicans want to make it permanent. In addition, they are unwilling to support a tax increase on higher earners to pay for the extension. At best, the payroll tax debate is a distraction from far more significant economic concerns.
All this smacks of desperation on Obama’s part. While unemployment has fallen slightly in recent months, even Obama’s economic advisors acknowledge that jobs are nor growing nearly fast enough. Nor, despite massive expenditures, have the president’s economic policies done much to improve the country’s economic fortunes.
It is a damning commentary on his administration that the best argument Obama can make for his reelection is to play the class-warfare card against Republicans. Absent some dramatic economic improvement, Obama may yet look back on his Osawatomie speech as a reminder of something that he and Teddy Roosevelt could well have in common: their failure to win an election the year after their respective speeches were delivered.
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