Obama State of the Union: Strong On Jobs Rhetoric, Weak On Real Economic Ideas

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union was an ambitious, wide-ranging speech. The president covered many topics and had many ideas, the economy was naturally one of his main focal points. I’m not quite sure he really met the challenge.

He started his narrative of the 2008 economic collapse by saying his predecessors put the wheels in motion that caused “the house of cards to collapse." He blamed banks that “made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money” and said “regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.”

He then went on to state that more than three million jobs have been created in the last 22 months as a result of his policies, the most since 2005. He credited American manufacturers with hiring, saying they are “creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.” Now that we know things are slowly recovering, how do we add to this upward swing?

“An economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values,” Obama outlined. How do we get there? Obama used the example of the American auto industry: “We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure… General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker… the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”

How do we bring other industries back? Obama has a three pronged plan. “First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here.” This, as well as financing for plants and other facilities in several rust belt cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh.

He basically wants to eliminate tax breaks for any company that has overseas operations. He also wants to penalize companies that have moved their incorporation from the United States and into places like the Cayman Islands or Luxembourg. Finally, he wants to take the money saved from eliminating those tax breaks and use it to fund the opening of factories in rust belt cities that need the jobs.

How does he plan to achieve all these reforms? “Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away.” This was his mantra throughout the night. If you send it, I will sign it. He has nothing drafted, no solid plan. He’s just brainstorming in the middle of a State of the Union address. He is telling everyone else to do all the heavy lifting so he can take the credit since he told them to do it.

This just isn’t enough. He came into office riding a wave of hope built on a foundation of change. How does he hope to achieve anything when he doesn’t even want to contribute to the change required to fulfill that hope?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Ryan Gorman

Ryan's work has been featured in the NY Daily News, Gothamist and the Wall Street Letter. His work has been cited by both the Colbert Report and Time Magazine's website. Ryan worked on Wall Street for five years before returning to school to finish a degree in journalism at St. John's University.

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