As a black man without a dynasty behind him, Barack Obama has never had the liberty to make alarming speeches on behalf of great liberal causes. However, his mellow approach to promoting something as inoffensive as the American Dream’s promise of shared opportunity, surely, reflects his calculating nature as much as his constricted circumstances.
Obama's Galesburg speech re-launched his appeal for a package of mainstream Democratic measures to support a more balanced economic recovery for the middle class and, especially, for the working poor. His speech was partisan. But, above all, he appealed to America’s more generous instincts. Yet, just before closing, before issuing his grand challenge to Galesburg and America, he offered nearly everyone a way out:
“We’ve come a long way since I first took office. (Applause.) As a country, we’re older and wiser. I don’t know if I’m wiser, but I’m certainly older. (Laughter.) And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis -- as long as we don’t shut down the government just because I’m for keeping it open -- (laughter) -- as long as we don’t risk a U.S. default over paying bills that we’ve already racked up, something that we’ve never done -- we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. If we stand pat and we don’t do any of the things I talked about, our economy will grow, although slower than it should. New businesses will form. The unemployment rate will probably tick down a little bit. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and, most of all, because of the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by.”
Obama’s 2008 message “Yes, we can!” now includes: “But, we needn’t”. Sophisticated but hardly inspiring.
This was the first speech in a series of speeches about the economy and this paragraph may not survive. It won’t be missed. The economics is not airtight and, besides, the speech is already very long.
Tactically, by not too being demanding Obama is putting further pressure on the Republican Congress to blink on the debt ceiling and their threat to filibuster Obamacare financing. However, implying that US economic policy today can literally “stand pat” is an extraordinary assertion.
The US recovery is being fueled, in large part, by the largesse of the Federal Reserve. As with China, the US economic recovery for those who have figured out “how to get by” is being financed by easy credit by increasingly uneasy central banks.
Obama did get a laugh when he suggested that thousands of US bridges are old enough to be on Medicare. It probably would have been too embarrassing to point out that because of gridlock on his watch the US Treasury actually ran a surplus last month, taking 117 $B more out of a weak recovery than it delivered in help.