Big Speech #23

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Big Speech #23: More effective than expected. Would have been even more effective if he’d stopped about halfway through.

a) His speaking style has deteriorated since taking office. He’s phonier than in 2008, reading with forced emphasis. At times he achieved the rare, magical combination of seeming desperate and condescending at the same time.

b) The  “people who sent us here – the people who hired us to work for them – they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months.” Why not just “we” don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months? Why assume the disconnect–e.g. that he and the others in the room aren’t “living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day”? It puts distance (condescending distance!) between Obama and the TV audience. It’s not even true. I would venture to say that most of the people in the room, and Obama himself, know someone who is living “week to to week, paycheck to paycheck.” Some of them know me, for instance.

c) “[C]ompanies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job.” The problem with such tax credits, of course, is that they act as a red flag telling employers that a job applicant isn’t exactly top of the barrel.  “Hey, I’m having such a hard time finding work that the federal government will give you $4,000 to hire me!” Would you rush to take on this person? It doesn’t take long for a bad hire to do more than $4,000 in damage. In the welfare-to-work business, such tax credits have a uniform tradition of failure.  Maybe they’re more successful in helping the long-term unemployed who aren’t on welfare or “disadvantaged.” But one thing is clear–they poll well. Which is why politicians keep pushing them. (The only Oval Office meeting I ever attended–with President Clinton–featured both E.J.Dionne and me, and almost certainly others, trying to point out that the tax credits he proposed were unlikely to work. Didn’t stop him.)

d) The Supercommittee will save us! I guess that’s better than ‘the Independent Payment Advisory Board will save us.’ With weak-linkish GOPs like Sen. Kyl on the panel, it seems to me the supercommittee has some chance of successfully producing a compromise plan. Passing it will be another story. …

Mickey Kaus