President Obama on the economy: Pretty words, not matching what he actually does. As annoying or outright bad our 44th president has been on important issues like civil liberties, drones, etc., it's hard not to quibble with his stated economic policy. A focus on alternative energy, rebuilding other infrastructure, expanding health care to most citizens and raising the minimum wage for millions of low-wage workers might not be enough to save the vanishing American middle class. But at least they are moves in the right direction, as opposed to the suicidal idea promoted by Tea Party-inspired Republicans.
Here's a summary of part of the president's loooooong speech on the economy today:
“This growing inequality, it’s not just morally wrong, it’s bad economics,” he said. “Because when middle-class families have less to spend, guess what? Businesses have fewer consumers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America, that idea that if you work hard, you can make it here.”
He called on Republicans to pick up his economic proposals and to pass legislation overhauling the immigration system. He also scolded Republicans for obsessively trying to undercut his health care program and argued that it would expand coverage and trim costs. “If you think you have a better plan for making sure that every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, then stop taking meaningless repeal votes, and share your concrete ideas with the country,” he said to loud applause.
But he also challenged members of his own party to stop defending outdated government programs and resisting change. “I will be saying to Democrats, we’ve got to question some of our old assumptions,” he said. “We’ve got to be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that don’t work as well as they should.”
President Barack Obama is right! And you know which Democrat is really resisting change? President Barack Obama. Five years into his presidency, he continues to push legislation that may be right on the merits, but which will never get past the legion of mouth-breathers in the House of Representatives. Why bother -- when there are things Obama could do today to improve the economy? Such as:
1. While a higher federal minimum wage remains a worthy (and perhaps doable...not all Republicans have a political death wish) goal, as chief executive Obama could take out his pen and sign a living wage for all workers under federal contracts. Did you know right now there are hundreds of thousands of workers on federally funded jobs who fall below the poverty line:
Here's some background:
At a press conference following the walkout, experts from the National Employment Law Project will lay out some grim statistics about how these workers live. Roughly 75 percent earn less than $10 an hour, and almost four in 10 rely on public assistance programs to survive despite working full-time, according to NELP’s new report. There are more than 2 million workers like New, Justin, and Shackleford, making under $12 an hour and hovering near the poverty line in jobs created by federal contracts. That makes the government a larger low-wage employer than McDonald’s and Walmart combined, and helps explain why D.C. has become a focal point in low-wage worker activism that’s reached New York City, Seattle, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Chicago.
2. This one's even easier -- NOT select the execrable Larry Summers to be the new chairman of the Federal Reserve Board who would play an outsized role in shaping the future of the U.S. economy. Summers is rumored to be the frontrunner to replace Ben Bernanke -- which is the strongest indicator yet that Obama has completely checked out with 42 months to go. Slate called Summers -- famously portrayed as a pompous jerk in "The Social Network" -- "an ignoramus with the worst track record in America on regulating banks," but I think that's being too kind. I know Obama would never pick my dream candidate (you guessed it), but there's no reason he could not tap someone who would fight off destructive austerity moves, focus on actual job creation and empower people, not the Big Banks.