In the Arena

A Jobs Speech with Elbows

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The President gave a terrific economic speech today, proposing some new jobs-creating initiatives, one of which–a 0% capital gains tax rate for small businesses–seems a Republican dream, but was hilariously opposed on deficit cutting grounds by Senator Mitch McConnell…whose votes on a range of budget items during the Bush presidency created the bulk of the current deficit.

Indeed, my favorite part of the speech came when the President, in an uncharacteristic display of spit, lambasted the Republicans for their sudden interest in budget-balance:

Despite what some have claimed, the cost of the Recovery Act is only a very small part of our current budget imbalance.  In reality, the deficit had been building dramatically over the previous eight years.  We have a structural gap between the money going out and the money coming in.

Folks passed tax cuts and expansive entitlement programs without paying for any of it — even as health care costs kept rising, year after year.  As a result, the deficit had reached $1.3 trillion when we walked into the White House.  And I’d note:  These budget-busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility, while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting health care costs under control.  It’s a sight to see…

In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy.  It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system, because for decades, too many in Washington put off the hard decisions.  For decades, we’ve watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges.

We’ve seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility.  The American people have paid a heavy price.  And the question we’ll have to answer now is if we’re going to learn from our past, or if — even in the aftermath of disaster — we’re going to repeat those same mistakes.  As the alarm bells fade, the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish.

It’s nice to see this President throw an oratorical elbow every once in a while–apparently he does it on the basketball court. The craven duplicity of some of his opponents make it a necessary tactic in the arena as well.

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