Obama Then And Now: Eight Years Later, the Speech is the Same

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Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a visit to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois July 24, 2013.

President Barack Obama delivered what  aides billed as a major economic address at Knox College Wednesday. It was a speech written to recall his first economic policy speech on the national stage at the small Illinois liberal arts college in 2005. But the similarities were more than subject matter. In eight years, through two presidential campaigns and in the White House, Obama has repeatedly cribbed his own 2005 speech.

The original speech, by former chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, was a deeply important one to Obama, who would mention it to campaign aides frequently. Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director for Obama’s 2o08 campaign, tweeted Wednesday that he was glad to finally return to the scene of the speech the president never stopped talking about. “Excited to finally visit Knox College after hearing abt it from POTUS for 6 yrs in every mtg abt economic speeches,” he wrote.

(MORE: With More Deadlock Ahead, Obama Condemns Republicans In Economic Speech)

In February, New York magazine drew the connection between some of Obama’s most important speeches and the 2005 address, including his 2011 economic address in Osawatomie, Kan., the 2012 Democratic National Convention speech, and his remarks when he first announced for president in 2007.

Knox commencement: “Every man or woman for him- or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford: tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job: Life isn’t fair. It lets us say to the child who was born into poverty: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump to whom Donald Trump says: ‘You’re fired!’ ”

Democratic convention speech, September 6, 2012: “If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and ‘borrow money from your parents.’ ”

Officials say these similarities are planned, and demonstrate the breadth of Obama’s commitment to improving jobs for the middle class. Obama’s Wednesday remarks, clocking in at over an hour, didn’t include any new policy proposals, but invoked many of his various plans introduced over the past four and a half years. Republicans seized on the similarities Wednesday, with the Republican National Committee clipping the similar parts of the speech to show that Obama offered new ideas.

(VIDEO: Obama’s Economy Speech in 3 Minutes)

Courtesy of the RNC, here’s yesterday’s remarks and similar passages from eight years earlier:

2005: When World War II required the most massive homefront mobilization in history and we needed every single American to lend a hand, we had to decide: Do we listen to skeptics who told us it wasn’t possible to produce that many tanks and planes? Or, did we build Roosevelt’s Arsenal for Democracy and grow our economy even further by providing our returning heroes with a chance to go to college and own their own home?

Yesterday: In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity.  Whether you owned a company, swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain – a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement, and, above all, to hand down a better life for your kids.

2005: It’s as if someone changed the rules in the middle of the game and no one bothered to tell these folks. And, in reality, the rules have changed.
It started with technology and automation that rendered entire occupations obsolete—when was the last time anybody here stood in line for the bank teller instead of going to the ATM, or talked to a switchboard operator?

Yesterday: But over time, that engine began to stall.  That bargain began to fray.  Technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent others overseas.  It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor. The link between higher productivity and people’s wages and salaries was severed – the income of the top 1% nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, while the typical family’s barely budged.

2005: Then it continued when companies like Maytag were able to pick up and move their factories to some under developed country where workers were a lot cheaper than they are in the United States.

Yesterday: You see, I’d just spent a year traveling this state and listening to your stories – of proud Maytag workers losing their jobs when their plant moved down to Mexico; of teachers whose salaries weren’t keeping up with the rising cost of groceries; of young people who had the drive but not the money to afford a college education.

2005: What if we prepared every child in America with the education and skills they need to compete in the new economy?  If we made sure that college was affordable for everyone who wanted to go? If we walked up to those Maytag workers and we said “Your old job is not coming back, but a new job will be there because we’re going to seriously retrain you and there’s life-long education that’s waiting for you—the sorts of opportunities that Knox has created with the Strong Futures scholarship program.

Yesterday: If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21stcentury.  If we don’t make this investment, we’ll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades.  So we must begin in the earliest years.  That’s why I’ll keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available to every four year-old in America – not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.  I’ll also take action to spur innovation in our schools that don’t require Congress.  Today, for example, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet over the next five years. And we’ve begun meeting with business leaders, tech entrepreneurs, and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.

2005:  It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative.

Yesterday: We’ll need our businesses, the best in the world, to pressure Congress to invest in our future, and set an example by providing decent wages and salaries to their own employees.

2005: That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

Yesterday: Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor.

MORE: Why Obama Keeps Going Back to One Small Illinois College

18 comments
anti-government
anti-government

It's too bad this guy is such a liar!

His more "liberal" statements sound good until you actually look at what he has done, which is to continue the Constitution-destroying "Patriot Act" policies of the prior administration and continue the surrender of the American economy to a small plutocracy of very wealthy individuals and companies.

Obama doesn't know how to help small business, in part because he only cares about BIG BUSINESS.

He won't withdraw American troops from anywhere because he has the same dreams of world conquest as the rest of his modern predecessors. All US Presidents since Eisenhower have been power-mad and ready to do anything to increase US (and therefore their own) power.

Despite looking and sounding different, there's hardly any meaningful difference between Obama and  Bush junior.

raccman
raccman

Garbage doesn't improve with time; it only gets more rotten !

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

"Eight Years Later, the Speech is the Same"

Eight years later, the GOP obstruction is the same too.

ptcruiser5850
ptcruiser5850

The President, like all politicians, can provide a laundry list of ills that government, with just a little intervention, can make palatable.  They do not mention that the problems are caused by previous government solutions and that the current solutions will create a new set of problems.

unclefreddy
unclefreddy

Haven't you liberals figured out yet that this CLOWN is an empty suit..  All he cares about is putting us on the same playing field as 3rd world countries while he reins over us..  He is a race baiter, he lies about all of his "phony scandals" in terms of not knowing what is going on, he has done absolutely NOTHING to help improve the economy, in fact he has hurt it to the point of a coming double dip recession (yes, liberals it is coming), he is bankrupting this country just like he and his democrat party did to Detroit..

Deal with it liberals..  This man is a complete incompetent disgrace of a president and should be impeached and then tried for treason!!  

AlanMacDonald
AlanMacDonald

The corrupt system of the 1%'ers death-spiral and parasitic capitalism will not leave by asking nicely ---- these forces of political-economic Empire never do.

The only solution is truth, and the revelation that this 1% system is now a threat to everyone ---- even those who had wrongly assumed in the recent past that they were also beneficiaries of the elite Empire.

In the past a common arrogant phrase among the idle and deceitful rich on their yachts was, "I wonder what the poor are doing today?".

But now the phrase of the looting 1% has become,
"I wonder what the middle-class are doing today"?

And only the middle and even upper middle-class understanding such contempt will change the balance.

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Obama can come up with a new plan once Congress has tried the old one. Until then the suggestion that he need to come up with something new is journalistic malpractice.

GVA_Laker
GVA_Laker

My humble recommendations to Mr. Obama's speechwriter: 

1. Drop the "we are the greatest nation in the world" routine, no one with a bit of international awareness believes that anymore. Focus on how we can learn and grow from other nations instead.

2. Avoid repetitive attempts at coining the next great presidential quotation. Focus on straight talk with substance instead.

3. Emotion as a way to connect with the audience is overrated, we all know these tears and smiles are fake. Focus on the vision and the steps to get there instead.

4. Don't promise what cannot be done in an effort to please everyone. Someone who tries to please everyone ends up pleasing no one.

5. Tone down the narcissism, it might be perceived as arrogance. It should be about the people, not the President.


rdanielpl260
rdanielpl260

@deconstructiva I can't remember a President who really shaped the Economy. They were all figureheads working for the special interest. HINT I will lobby Congress to pass new legislation for the Affordable Health Care Act. HINT Congress is the special interest working for the President. Our own elected representatives are the ones holding us back.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@unclefreddy Thanks for you silly rant. No wonder less and less of America now identifies itself with the GOP.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@unclefreddy

Clown?!  Does he amuse you? Does he make you laugh, He's here to frickin'amuse you?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@AlanMacDonald 

blah blah blah, down with rich people, blah blah blah, rich people suck, blah blah blah

cent-fan
cent-fan

@ViableOp Most of the masses wouldn't understand or be interested in the truth if it was handed to them on the wrapper of a fast food burger or read to them by Kim Kardashian.  The rest of the masses are so foaming-at-the-mouth biased to their own world view that they wouldn't believe the truth if it wasn't the "truth" they expect to hear from the only source they trust.

Controlling the masses?  That's what TV commercials are for.

mjshep
mjshep

@cjh2nd @AlanMacDonald Other than the fact that the rich have sucked the lifeblood out of economy, sent jobs away, stolen everything that isn't nailed down and some that is, crashed the nation's fiscal health while making a profit doing so and then paid themselves huge bonuses, all the while cutting their own taxes to the detriment of the government and everyone else, today's rich are simply great.

rdanielpl260
rdanielpl260

@mjshep @cjh2nd @AlanMacDonald Democrats or Republicans show no real interest in leveling the playing field. You are either helping the rich or helping the poor. The middle class is non existent.