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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

September 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The president’s speech || Talton

Are you ready for some football? If not, you’ll be among the likely minority of television viewers that listen to President Obama’s speech on jobs tonight. Heaven forbid that the chief executive’s talk conflict with the Republican debate on Tuesday night, so here we are.

There’s little in the early leaks about Mr. Obama’s plans that show either promise or even inspiration: small tax cuts and a small infrastructure package. The Great Community Organizer is trying to win congressional GOP support by including items Republicans have supported in the past. He still doesn’t get it. Their goal is his defeat. The 25 million Americans seeking full-time work don’t care about clever triangulation, either. As to substance, the items trotted out will do nothing to help the jobs crisis, particularly as the economy faces another dunking in the recession tank. And he, not W., will own this one.

One of the things playing into the national anger, alienation and crisis of legitimacy, something unprecedented since the eve of the Civil War, is the unwillingness of our leaders to tell the truth. Mr. Obama could at least do that.

The president could begin by calling this what it is: A national emergency. He could also recover candidate Obama’s ability to speak intelligently to the American people by discussing the complex roots of the crisis, and being honest as to why no quick fix is possible. This is a new normal unlike anything most living Americans have seen and it will require extraordinary measures that are beyond the imaginings of a conventional wisdom that is at sea or outright corrupt.

What needs to happen immediately? A major infrastructure initiative that will run years into the future, not the “shovel ready” stuff that has no staying power. It should be forward-leaning to include rail and transit projects, not just keeping up with a road system that is too extensive already. The projects themselves should enhance productivity and create ongoing operating jobs, not just construction jobs. He should also put China and the multinational corporations on notice that American incentives will be aimed at a globalism that enhances American jobs. Any austerity should be down the road, when the economy is growing again, not now, when it will guarantee more damage, especially to the middle class and small business.

But considering that his “jobs czar” is General Electric’s tax-dodging and offshoring Jeff Immelt and his chief of staff is a big banker, none of this will happen. That’s why tonight we will be watching one more American who will soon lose his job.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Stagnant pay for you

The hedge-fund boyz get richer

A no-class class war

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