The occasion for this week's presidential speechifying (besides another un-shocking mass shooting rampage) was the fifth anniversary of the result of yet another deregulation-caused rampage: the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the ensuing loss of trillions of dollars in household wealth. And since the traditional fifth anniversary gift is a product made of wood, Obama decided to bonk us all over the head with another oratorical baseball bat.
As is usual for him, Obama surrounded himself during Monday's speech with living statues of stone-faced fanboys and girls, to serve as hoi polloi props. Although forced to acknowledge that glaring income inequality has risen to historic proportions in the five years of his tenure, he persisted in portraying himself as part innocent bystander, part hero of the continuing debacle. As is usual for him, he blamed a generic "Congress" instead of the rising plutocracy of which he and they are simultaneously facilitators and members.
Since the entire speech was nothing but a great Big Lie from beginning to end, I will only parse about half of its repetitive mendacity in order to make my points about his weasely subtext. Italics are Obama's actual bloviations.
I want to be clear, though, that even as we’ve dealt with the situation in Syria, we’ve continued to focus on my number-one priority since the day I took office — making sure we recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes and rebuilding our economy so it works for everybody who is willing to work hard; so that everybody who is willing to take responsibility for their lives has a chance to get ahead.
(Dog Whistle # 1: Right off the bat, Obama reveals his cruel inner core of judgmental Calvinism. It is standard Republican dogma that only mythical Horatio Algers willing and able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps are deserving of a chance. This opening paragraph echoes the infamous "47 Percent" statement of his faux-nemesis, Mitt Romney, who sank his own presidential chances at that ill-fated secretly taped Boca Raton fundraiser: "My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”)
In fact, most Americans who’ve known economic hardship these past several years, they don’t think about the collapse of Lehman Brothers when they think about the recession. Instead, they recall the day they got the gut punch of a pink slip. Or the day a bank took away their home. The day they got sick but didn’t have health insurance. Or the day they had to sit their daughter or son down and tell him or her that they couldn’t afford to send their child back to college the next semester.
And so those are the stories that guided everything we've done. It’s what in those earliest days of the crisis caused us to act so quickly through the Recovery Act to arrest the downward spiral and put a floor under the fall. We put people to work repairing roads and bridges, to keep teachers in our classrooms, our first responders on the streets. We helped responsible homeowners modify their mortgages so that more of them could keep their homes. We helped jumpstart the flow of credit to help more small businesses keep their doors open. We saved the American auto industry.
And as we worked to stabilize the economy and get it growing and creating jobs again, we also started pushing back against the trends that have been battering the middle class for decades. So we took on a broken health care system. We invested in new American technologies to end our addiction to foreign oil. We put in place tough new rules on big banks — rules that we need to finalize before the end of the year, by the way, to make sure that the job is done — and we put in new protections that cracked down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. We also changed a tax code that was too skewed in favor of the wealthiest Americans. We locked in tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans. We asked those at the top to pay a little bit more.
(Dog Whistle #2-a,b,c,d etc: And this little piggy went We We We all the way home, right past the five-year statute of limitations! Sssh..... don't worry, Financial Overlords of the Universe. Larry and Barry got you covered. We nibbled around the edges so that the American people paying no attention think that we're doing stuff for them. And that bit about modifying mortgages was full of chutzpah, even for me. All that TARP money that was supposed to help people keep their homes? It went to you guys instead. No questions asked! You're still making more than 300 times the salary of the average schmuck! You gotta love me for being willing to stand up here and lie like this.)
So if you add it all up, over the last three and a half years, our businesses have added 7.5 million new jobs. The unemployment rate has come down. Our housing market is healing. Our financial system is safer. We sell more goods made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. We generate more renewable energy than ever before. We produce more natural gas than anybody.
(Dog Whistle #3: The unemployment rate is down because people have given up in despair. The chronically jobless are no longer counted. Notice how suddenly it's "our" businesses? Obama easily pivots in this paragraph from the suffering masses right over to the corporations. He lamely tries to include the rest of us in his "healing economy" meme.... our housing market.... our financial system.... we sell.... we generate.... we produce more natural gas. It has nothing to do with "us", of course. He is talking to multinational corporations in this paragraph, and couching his love and admiration for their greed as patriotism, a sentiment we are being invited to feel. The last sentence, by the way, should have been delivered in the first person singular. He is beginning to sound like President Buzz Windrip, the "con man/Rotarian" slimeball in It Can't Happen Here. It can, and it has.)
Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years — and just two weeks from now, millions of Americans who’ve been locked out of buying health insurance just because they had a preexisting condition, just because they had been sick or they couldn't afford it, they're finally going to have a chance to buy quality, affordable health care on the private marketplace.
(Dog Whistle #4: The profits of the private insurance industry will remain safe, bloated, and protected under Obama's watch. Health care costs are slowing because people can't afford to seek medical attention. But in anticipation of ObamaCare, premiums and co-pays continue to skyrocket in many markets. And if they aren't, then the insurance grifters can always take their business elsewhere. Obama signals that there is no danger -- I repeat, no danger -- of a single payer program ever coming to pass. People will have the "right" to buy insurance from a predator. They will not have the right to actual care. There is a difference.)
And what all this means is we've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and we've begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth and prosperity.
And in our personal lives, I think a lot of us understand that people have tightened their belts, shed debt, refocused on the things that really matter. All of this happened because ultimately of the resilience and the grit of the American people. And we should be proud of that. And on this five-year anniversary we should take note of how far we've come from where we were five years ago.
(Dog-Whistle #5: Who writes this crap? Notice the clumsy grammar - "because ultimately of" in the bolded sentence above. In any event, this is where Obama begins the pivot into Deficit Cult Derangment Syndrome territory. The Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission is alive and well in Obamaville. He uses the gratuitous austerity already inflicted on the suffering masses to praise them for their totally involuntary Grit and Resilience, which along with No Boots on the Ground, ranks as one of the most annoying and overused phrases in the presidential lexicon. And in a nod to Wall Street, he gushes about how far we have come in the last five years. Do 90 percent of all the gains since the Crash to the top One Percent ring a bell?)
But that's not the end of the story. As any middle-class family will tell you, or anybody who’s striving to get into the middle class, we are not yet where we need to be. And that’s what we’ve got to focus on — all the remaining work that needs to be done to strengthen this economy.
We need to grow faster. We need more good-paying jobs. We need more broad-based prosperity. We need more ladders of opportunity for people who are currently poor but want to get into the middle class. Because even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 20 percent of the nation’s income last year, while the average worker isn’t seeing a raise at all. In fact, that understates the problem. Most of the gains have gone to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.
(Dog Whistle #6: Knowing just what we were thinking when we were thinking it, he pivots right back to the suffering masses again. Always keep them confused as to whose side you're on. Maybe you're on their side! Remember the simmering sentiments of Occupy. So acknowledge their pain, even if you not quite as adept at pretending to feel it like Bill Clinton was.)
So, in many ways, the trends that have taken hold over the past few decades — of a winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better and better while everybody else just treads water or loses ground — those trends have been made worse by the recession.
That’s what we should be focused on. That’s what I’m focused on. That’s what I know the Americans standing beside me as well as all of you out there are focused on. And as Congress begins another budget debate, that’s what Congress should be focused on. How do we grow the economy faster; how do we create better jobs; how do we increase wages and incomes; how do we increase opportunity for those who have been locked out of opportunity; how do we create better retirement security — that’s what we should be focused on, because the stakes for our middle class and everybody who’s fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher.
In today’s hypercompetitive world, we have to make the investments necessary to attract good jobs that pay good wages and offer high standards of living. And although ultimately our success will depend on all the innovation and hard work of our private sector, all that grit and resilience of the American people, government is going to have a critical role in making sure we have an education system that prepares our children and our workers for a global economy....
The problem is at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class. I say “at the moment” because I’m still hoping that a light bulb goes off here. (Laughter.)
So far, their budget ideas revolve primarily around even deeper cuts to education, even deeper cuts that would gut America's scientific research and development, even deeper cuts to America’s infrastructure investment — our roads, our bridges, our schools, our energy grid. These aren’t the policies that would grow the economy faster. They're not the policies that would help grow the middle class. In fact, they’d do the opposite.
(Dog Whistle # 7: Yeah, blame it all on those pesky "trends" rather than deliberate policies. Those "trends" are simply the spawn of the living breathing Free Market Bitch Goddess who rules all of us, dontcha know. In this paragraph, Obama whimsically asks a whole shitload of open-ended questions with all the righteous moral urgency a tepid machine politician can muster. And then don't offer any solutions. Blame it all on Congressional gridlock, as if your own policies or lack thereof have not contributed to this epidemic political and financial criminal malpractice. Go for the cheap laugh, and fire up the dwindling base by blaming Republican recalcitrance and attention deficit disorder instead of the complicity of the two corrupt sides of one Money Party.)
Up until now, Republicans have argued that these cuts are necessary in the name of fiscal responsibility. But our deficits are now falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. I want to repeat that. Our deficits are going down faster than any time since before I was born. (Applause.) By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.
That doesn't mean that we don't still have some long-term fiscal challenges — primarily because the population is getting older and they're using more health care services. And so we've still got some changes that we've got to make and there's not a government agency or program out there that still can't be streamlined, become more customer-friendly, more efficient. So I do believe we should cut out programs that we don’t need. We need to fix ones that aren't working the way they're supposed to or have outlived their initial mission. We've got to make government faster and more efficient.
(OK, I probably shouldn't even call this paragraph Dog Whistle #8, because it's more like a direct bull-horn blast to Wall Street and the predators of Pete Peterson's Third Way Fix the Debt cabal. Despite the shrinking deficit and slow growth, he still wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. He still pretends to believe that less money in people's pockets will be good. As is usual for him, he euphemizes such cruelty as "fiscal challenges." Half of the population may be teetering on the brink of poverty, but hey, let's make them suffer even more. Especially those old geezers who are sucking up all the health care and selfishly want to retire with dignity. Screw 'em. Obama cares about his customers, understand. Wink, nod, chuckle.)
But that's not what is being proposed by the Republican budgets. Instead of making necessary changes with a scalpel, so far at least, Republicans have chosen to leave in place the so-called sequester cuts that have cost jobs, harmed growth, are hurting our military readiness. And top independent economists say this has been a big drag on our recovery this year. Our economy is not growing as fast as it should and we're not creating as many jobs as we should, because the sequester is in place. That's not my opinion. That's the opinion of independent economists.
(Dog Whistle # 9: Repeal the Military Sequester. War, war, war, bombs, drones, not pinpricks. war. Forget Head Start closings, or Meals on Wheels deliveries cut off to old geezers sucking up all that medical care.)
The sequester makes it harder to do what’s required to boost wages for American workers, because the economy is still slack. So if Republicans want the economy to grow faster, create more jobs faster, they should want to get rid of it. It’s irresponsible to keep it in place.
And if Congress is serious about wanting to grow the economy faster and creating jobs faster, the first order of business must be to pass a sensible budget that replaces the sequester with a balanced plan that is both fiscally sound and funds the investments like education and basic research and infrastructure that we need to grow. This is not asking too much.
(Dog Whistle #10: He still wants the Grand Bargain. His idea of a balanced plan is to inflict even more austerity on suffering people in exchange for asking the obscenely rich to chip in a few more pennies to call it even. Bring back Head Start in exchange for agreeing to permanent immiseration through Chained CPI. Heads, Wall Street wins, and Tails, we lose. Blame the other party, not the hoarding corporate welfare hordes, for stagnant wages.)
Congress’s most fundamental job is passing a budget. And Congress needs to get it done without triggering another crisis, without shutting down our government, or worse — threatening not to pay this country’s bills. After all the progress that we’ve made over these last four and a half years, the idea of reversing that progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility. It’s not what the American people need right now.
These folks standing behind me, these are people who are small business owners, people who almost lost their home, young people trying to get a college education, and all of them went through some real tough times during the recession. And in part because of the steps we took, and primarily because of their courage and determination and hard work, they’re in a better place now.
( Dog Whistle # 11: The president will never surround himself with members of the permanent underclass, angry people, obviously sick people, people dressed in rags. Here, he reassures Wall Street that he will keep the peasants, or "folks", in line. Grit and resilience, determination and hard work will be tolerated by the ruling class. Marching in the streets, walking off McJobs, sit-down strikes? Not so much.)
But the last thing they’re looking for is for us to go back to the same kind of crisis situations that we’ve had in the past. And the single most important thing we can do to prevent that is for Congress to pass a budget, without drama, that puts us on a sound path for growth, jobs, better wages, better incomes.
Now, look, it’s never been easy to get 535 people here in Washington to agree on anything. And budget battles and debates, those are as old as the Republic. It’s even harder when you have divided government. And right now you’ve got Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, Democrats controlling the Senate, Democrat in the White House. So this is always going to be tough.
Having said that, I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants. That’s never happened before. But that’s what’s happening right now.
You have some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are promising to shut down the government at the end of this month if they can’t shut down the Affordable Care Act. And if that scheme doesn’t work, some have suggested they won’t pay the very bills that Congress has already run up, which would cause America to default on its debt for the first time in our history and would create massive economic turmoil. Interest rates on ordinary people would shoot up. Those kinds of actions are the kinds of actions that we don’t need.
The last time the same crew threatened this course of action back in 2011 even the mere suggestion of default slowed our economic growth. Everybody here remembers that. It wasn’t that long ago.
Now, keep in mind, initially, the whole argument was we’re going to do this because we want to reduce our debt. That doesn’t seem to be the focus now. Now the focus is on Obamacare. So let’s put this in perspective. The Affordable Care Act has been the law for three and a half years now. It passed both houses of Congress. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. It was an issue in last year’s election and the candidate who called for repeal lost. (Applause.) Republicans in the House have tried to repeal or sabotage it about 40 times. They’ve failed every time.
Meanwhile, the law has already helped millions of Americans — young people who were able to stay on their parents’ plan up until the age of 26; seniors who are getting additional discounts on their prescription drugs; ordinary families and small businesses that are getting rebates from insurance companies because now insurance companies have to actually spend money on people's care instead of on administrative costs and CEO bonuses.
(Dog Whistle #12: He conveniently fails to mention that as president and defender of the Constitution, he retains the power and the duty to pay the nation's debts. He can mint a trillion-dollar coin with the stroke of his pen. But gridlock sells. Lobbyists must prosper. And most important, Wall Street does not like the trillion dollar coin idea. They cannot be impeded from extracting their rents, cheap labor, and blood.)
They said that they wanted entitlement reform — but their leaders haven’t put forward serious ideas that wouldn’t devastate Medicare or Social Security. And I've put forward ideas for sensible reforms to Medicare and Social Security and haven’t gotten a lot of feedback yet.
They said that they wanted tax reform. Remember? This was just a few months ago — they said, well, this is going to be one of our top priorities, tax reform. Six weeks ago, I put forward a plan that serious people in both parties should be able to support — a deal that lowers the corporate tax rate for businesses and manufacturers, simplifies it for small business owners, as long as we use some of the money that we save to invest in the infrastructure our businesses need, and to create more good jobs and with good wages for the middle-class folks who work at those businesses. My position is, if folks in this town want a “grand bargain,” how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs? So I put forward ideas for tax reform — haven’t heard back from them yet.
Congress has a couple of weeks to get this done. If they’re focused on what the American people care about — faster growth, more jobs, better future for our kids — then I’m confident it will happen. And once we’re done with the budget, let’s focus on the other things that we know can make a difference for middle-class families — lowering the cost of college; finishing the job of immigration reform; taking up the work of tax reform to make the system fairer and promoting more investment in the United States.
(Dog Whistle # 13: He will whine in public, but won't take the time to arm-twist for the "middle class" like he arm-twisted and whisper-campaigned for Larry Summers and bombing Syria. This speech is just part of the resume-padding strategy for what promises to be a very lucrative post-presidential career. Membership on the boards of Citigroup and Third Way beckon, as do speaking gigs and vacation homes. Besides the "challenges" euphemism to justify cut and slash, another favorite of the centrist cult to which Obama belongs is "sensible." If you don't agree that reducing benefits for orphans, widows, wounded vets and retirees is "sensible", then you must be bonkers, just as bad as those nasty Goopers.)
If we follow the strategy I’m laying out for our entire economy — and if Washington will just act with the same urgency and common purpose that we felt five years ago — our economy will be stronger a year from now, five years from now, a decade from now.
That's my priority. All these folks standing behind me, and everybody out there who’s listening — that's my priority. I've run my last election. My only interest at this point is making sure that the economy is moving the way it needs to so that we've got the kind of broad-based growth that has always been the hallmark of this country.
And as long as I’ve got the privilege of serving as your President, I will spend every moment of every day I have left fighting to restore security and opportunity for the middle class, and to give everyone who works hard a chance to get ahead.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
(Dog Whistle #14: "The economy" is defined as the continued unfettered grift and repugnance of the transglobal financial cartel. Mammon blesses it through High Priest Barack.)
I left out the redundant paragraphs in the speech, mainly about Obamacare, so if you feel cheated in any way, you can watch The One in his entirety in the link above.
An equal-time response from a representative of the grit and resilience of the American people can be viewed here.