James Sasso, Associate Editor
On Thursday, September 8, President Obama delivered a forceful speech that outlined his broad program to bring America back to work. While the speech did not deliver the full combination of stimulus and tax increases for which the liberal base had hoped, President Obama finally came out punching against the oppositionist Republicans who had done everything in their power to frustrate the President’s legislative agenda. Obama’s supporters and America in general, badly needed to hear from their Commander in Chief. With citizens’ trust in Washington approaching zero and fears of a double dip recession increasing, Obama had to demonstrate a serious, robust and, most of all, politically feasible strategy for creating jobs. And it did precisely that.
His combination of tax cuts, something which Republicans should love, incentives for companies to hire, infrastructure spending and money to keep teachers in jobs, provides the proper combination of stimulus and tax breaks to boost the economy in the short term. Although it costs $447 billion, President Obama vowed to pay for it by cutting an equal amount from the deficit, thereby playing by Republican demands that every dollar spent have an equal dollar cut. Thus the plan satisfies many economists’ desires of immediate spending, regardless of how it affects the deficit, combined with longer term cuts to entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid (Obama has signaled a willingness to restructure both), that will eventually drive America to bankruptcy without drastic policy changes.
By taking the centrist position Obama dared, not only figuratively but literally throughout his speech, the G.O.P to defy his wishes. He repeatedly pointed out that these policies were ones Republicans had traditionally supported, such as payroll tax cuts, and that there should be no reason that they should now withhold support for these logical moves. Indeed, in a logical world President Obama would be correct, but today’s political world flouts logic in favor of partisan banter and today’s Republican Party bears little resemblance to its saner ancestor. Despite Obama’s tactful maneuver leaving Republicans painted into a corner, the Party’s steadfast desire to ruin the President could lead its members to ignore his reasonable jobs creation act. Most likely some members, if not all, will resort to scare tactics and other rhetoric to try to turn the populace against this intelligent plan, rather than be seen agreeing with President Obama by their constituents.
The art of political rhetoric orbits around the notion that one person can convince the voters that his ideas are correct, while discrediting the opposition’s beliefs. Unfortunately, this extremist use of rhetoric to win votes does not usually lead to much political cooperation. One of the major ways in which the parties stoop to this partisan rancor is by claiming that their party and not the other knows precisely what is best for America. While it is almost impossible, usually, to say what is objectively best for the country, President Obama used the strategy of picking ideas from both parties. By combining those ideas he forced each party, specifically Republicans, to acquiesce to his ideas, or fear being pinned as oppositionists to American progress. In other words, his plan takes each party’s view of what is “best” for America and puts them together, in a hopefully inseparable web. Therefore opponents cannot despise one part of the plan without simultaneously arguing against an idea for which they had previously supported.
And with the President’s proposal likely representing the best option for creating jobs with today’s political realities, Republicans will have a hard time arguing that their continued opposition to his ideas are at all for the country’s benefit. Republicans have played a savvy, well-coordinated and disciplined game of frustrating any progress by Obama and Democrats. Their oppositionist ways, in tandem with Democrats’ apparent cowardice, has seemed to give them an edge in the political arena.
But with Americans desperate for relief from an economy that steadfastly refuses to improve, Republicans can no longer afford to exist simply to oppose Obama. Now, they must act in the best interests of the American people, and not only of the Republican Party. It is time for them to make good on their political claims to be the Party for the “real” American, because Obama’s plan will most likely actually help the “real” American. The fact that the proposal comes from a Democratic President should not prevent them from realizing its potential to improve the economy.
Finally, Obama’s speech has called out the Republicans and will force their hand. With this bill they must show, once and for all, whether they are out to help Americans, or if they are out for political gains. Quite simply Obama has arranged his plan so that Republicans will have a difficult task of opposing it without appearing hypocritical. Sadly, the goal of these Republicans is to make Obama a “one term president,” regardless of how it affects America. They might be willing to appear hypocritical to stymy this plan, which, assuming the economy continued to worsen without action, would be blamed on Obama. The truth of the modern G.O.P will be revealed in the coming weeks: are they for the betterment of all citizens, or are they for the betterment of themselves at the expense of Obama?