All Talk, No Action on Jobs

Disappoint Mints*

A couple of days ago Newt Gingrich made the bizarre claim that

President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House “is a Paul Krugman presidency.”

Of course we know that Obama cannot stand Paul Krugman, because Krugman has been criticizing Obama since the back in 2008. No, Obama’s is not “a Krugman presidency.” It’s “a ‘the dog ate my homework'” presidency. It’s a “smoke and mirrors” presidency. Or maybe a “confidence fairy” presidency.

In the morning post today, I quoted both White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Treasury Secretary Tim Geither holding forth on what Digby calls “the confidence fairy.”

Here’s Carney yesterday:

Spokesman Jay Carney says there is no question that economic growth and job creation have slowed over the past half year.

But, Carney told a White House briefing, “We do not believe that there is a threat of a double-dip recession.”

Really? And how do you know this, Jay?

He blamed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, higher energy prices, default worries in Europe and recently resolved uncertainty over raising America’s borrowing limit. Carney said, “We believe the economy will continue to grow.”

Uh huh. But what’s that based on? Where is your evidence? Carney never produced any.

Now here’s Tim Geithner on the dramatic spending cuts included in the debt ceiling bill:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So this won’t cost us jobs?

TIM GEITHNER: No, it will not. Now … if we put this behind us then we can turn back to the important challenge of trying to find ways to make sure that we do everything we can to get more people back to work, strengthen our growth. And we’ll have more ability to do that now with people more confident and we can start to get our arms around the long-term problems.

Leaving aside the fact that no one I know is “more confident,” and Wall Street sure doesn’t seem “confident,” how will “confidence” translate into jobs? Especially now that there are caps on domestic spending that will prevent the government from helping create jobs?

Geithner doesn’t say.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But we’ve seen such weak growth this year, less than one percent so far this year. Are you sure that this economy’s not going to slip back into a recession?

TIM GEITHNER: The economy is absolutely slower than we thought — than everybody thought, and that’s happening around the world. Growth in the second quarter slowed, really, everywhere. Part of that is because of oil prices, part is because of Japan, what happened in Japan. But that’s not all of it. And in the United States, I think confidence here was absolutely very damaged by this spectacle they’ve seen in Washington of a significant number of elected officials in this country threatening default — and really damaging the confidence, took– caused a lot of damage to confidence.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: To the point where it could cause a double dip?

TIM GEITHNER: I don’t th– I don’t think that that risk right now is very significant. You know, I just– I spent a lot of time talking to people running businesses across the country and I’ll– I’ll give you a sense of what they say. And they still say this today. Today. Not just last week and the week before.

They say that, you know, parts of the economy are still very weak. Construction is very weak, housing is very weak, and confidence, as– we just said, has been damaged. But if you look what’s happened to exports, if you look at what’s happened to investment spending, there’s lots of encouraging signs of resilience, too. And, you know, our job is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure we encourage those.

OK, I get it. The key word is confidence. Somehow if the President can magically instill confidence in businesspeople and consumers, everything will just be hunky-dory. But I’d like Tim and Jay and Barack to explain to me how “confidence” will enable a family to buy a new car, or a washing machine, or a refrigerator. At some point doesn’t someone in that family have to have a job? You know, so they can earn some money to buy things? Because as far as I know “confidence” isn’t yet legal tender.

As Paul Krugman (who is not a fan of Obama’s and Geithner’s approach to the economy) said yesterday, “hope is not a plan.”

Today the stock market fell more than 500 points. Is that the result that Barack and Tim were looking for? Where’s the confidence, guys?

Today ABC News posted this: President Obama to Talk Jobs on Bus Tour, but Why Can’t He Create Them?

I think I can answer that question. President Obama is all talk, no action. He didn’t do his homework and now he’s bobbing and weaving, dodging the questions, hoping the bell will ring and class will be dismissed before he has to explain that Bo ate his homework.

“Putting Americans back to work.” That’s the slogan plastered atop the White House website today, signaling President Obama’s focus on jump-starting the economy now that the debt-ceiling crisis has passed.

“In the coming months I’ll continue also to fight for what the American people care most about,” Obama said from the Rose Garden Tuesday, “new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth.”

But how, Mr. President? How are you going to do that? Every time Obama talks about jobs, he mentions free trade agreements and patent reform. Jay Carney mentioned both today when ABC’s Jake Tapper tried to get Carney to explain what the President is actually doing about jobs. Please go read the whole thing. It’s hysterically funny.

Here’s a sample:

TAPPER: Well, what is the president doing? We know that he went to a — — he went to fundraisers last night. What’s he doing today? …. We hear him hectoring Congress about all the stuff that needs to be done to help create jobs —

CARNEY: That’s right. And Congress —

TAPPER: — and then he flew off to Chicago. What is he doing today?

CARNEY: The president is having meetings with his senior staff. The president has called on Congress to move quickly on things that have bipartisan support and are in Congress’s lap, the trade — …. Congress has the power to pass legislation that the president can sign. The actions that it can take could create more jobs right now, if it passed the patent reform, if it passed the free trade agreements. And as you know, there are other issues that the president encourages and will push hard for the Congress to take up when it returns from its recess, including extension of the payroll tax cut, which would put — which has this year put an additional $1,000 in the pockets of every American, or typical American family.

So what do patent reform and free trade agreements have to do with creating jobs in the U.S.? In my not-very-expert opinion, very little. That’s just my gut reaction, but I’m sure Dakinikat could spell it out in plain English. I did find this article on patent reform at Huffpo.

The first item on Obama’s list of immediate, job-creating congressional actions was the passage of patent reform legislation.

“Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea, because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs,” he said….

Today, the patent bill looks like a scorecard tallying points for powerful corporations: a win for pharmaceutical companies whose monopolies are driving up Medicare costs; a win for Wall Street’s battle against check-processing patents; a loss for tech giants who had hoped to curb costly lawsuits.

Left out of the tally is the public, even as the economic landscape for American families grows darker. Historian Richard Hofstadter famously observed that Congress during the Gilded Age busied itself with dividing the nation’s spoils among the rich and powerful. But as the current patent struggle suggests, the spoilsmen are back and Washington is once again an arbiter of who lands the lucre.

But how does this create jobs? From what I can gather, the argument is that making it easier to get patents and not be sued over them will encourage “entrepreneurship,” which will in turn create jobs.

But won’t that take a long time? Why does job creation have to be so indirect? Why doesn’t the President know that FDR used the power of the government to create jobs directly during the Great Depression? Could it be because the President didn’t do his homework? Or did Bo eat it?

Now what about free trade agreements? How do they create jobs? Intuitively, it seems as if they would create jobs in other countries, not here. Susie Madrak had a great post about this yesterday. There is a video of Dylan Ratigan explaining what free trade agreements do (not create jobs in the U.S.). I’m hoping Minkoff Minx will embed the video here for me, but for now, you can watch it at Crooks and Liars.

Here’s Ratigan from his blog (H/T Susie):

If you want to know why politicians are so eager to pass a free trade agreement with Panama this month, type “Panama offshore banks” into Google and look at the paid ads. What you’ll see is advertising by law firms and banks that will offer you help to set up a secret corporate structure in Panama immune from taxes.

The State Department knows this. Here’s how the State Department described the Panamanian economy in 2006 in a secret memo revealed on Wikileaks.

The Panamanian “incorporation regime ensures secrecy, avoids taxes,and shields assets from the enforcement of legal judgments. Along with its sophisticated banking services, Panama remains an environment conducive to laundering the proceeds from criminal activity and creates a vulnerability to terrorist financing.”

Yet, here’s how President Obama describes the three NAFTA-style Free Trade agreements that Congress is attempting to ratify later this month, one with Panama.

“There are a few things that we can and should do right now to redouble our efforts on behalf of the American people. Today, Congress can advance trade agreements that will help businesses sell more American-m­ade goods and services to Asia and South America, supporting thousands of jobs here at home.”

And here’s Emptywheel on the Korean free trade agreement:

Obama plans to “pivot to jobs” by creating them in Korea. (This video came from his statement today after the deficit ceiling bill got through.)

But his call on Congress to pass trade deals with Korea, Panama, and Colombia just got even more cynical.

First, because he says these deals will “help displaced workers looking for new jobs.” That word–displaced–is often used to refer to those who have lost their manufacturing jobs because they got sent to, say, Mexico in an earlier trade deal. “Displaced” usually refers to just the kind of people devastated by these trade deals. It seems Obama is pretending that new trade deals will create jobs for the people who lost their jobs because of earlier trade deals. But of course, last we heard, the folks who just successfully held our economy hostage were refusing to pass these trade deals with Trade Adjustment Assistance attached. In other words, chances are good that if these trade deals pass, they’ll pass with nothing to help those who are displaced because of it.

And note Obama’s promise to export “products stamped, ‘Made in America’.” Aside from the fact that a lot of what we’ll be exporting will be American-style fraudulent finance, not manufactured goods, his use of the term is all the more cynical given the likely reason he used it: because of the polling showing near unanimity that the US should make things again–like the 94% of Americans polled who think creating manufacturing jobs here in America is important.That is, he’s trying to co-opt the almost complete opposition to this policy–which almost certainly wouldn’t create any new manufacturing jobs here in the US–as a way to try to claim that trade deals that will result in a net loss of jobs will instead create them.

So maybe Obama did do his homework after all. He just didn’t do the homework the American people assigned him to do. Instead he acted on an assignment he got from Wall Street.

I know this is a long, rambling post, so I’ll end here. I guess my point is that when it comes to creating jobs here in the U.S., Obama is all talk. He talks and talks and talks and talks–like a high school kid who didn’t read the textbook and is tap dancing, hoping to just fake his way through answering the teacher’s questions.

I just don’t think it’s working for him this time. I think the American people are getting wise to his games. And while Wall Street may have the big bucks, but we ordinary Americans still have our votes. Or as Jim Morrison used to say, “they have the guns, but we have the numbers.”


* Univ. of Tenn. bookstore stops selling mints satirizing president after legislator complains

17 Comments on “All Talk, No Action on Jobs”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    My mom always used to say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Obama’s actions tell a different story than his words.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Wow, righteous rant woman! Great job loaded with goodies!

  3. madamab says:

    No matter what nonsense Carney or anyone in the Administration spews, I believe that Obama has no intention of creating jobs here in America. He had two years to do it with a full Democratic Congress, and he didn’t. He always finds something else to focus on – something that “just happens” to move wealth from the bottom 99% to the top 1%.

    That is truly his only agenda in the White House. Expecting him to do otherwise is a waste of time and energy, and causes emotional pain and cognitive dissonance. Forget the “D” label – the only letter he should have after his name is “E” for EVIL.

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB, I tried to get the video to embed…I got one more thing I can try.

  5. Fannie says:

    Warren Jeffs – found guilty………….

  6. Allison says:

    Why are they touting free trade agreements at all? Surely they’re aware how hated those agreements are by the working class voter.

    I collect mid-20th century American housewares and textiles (think retro, like Fire King and vintage chenille bedspreads). I have a fab collection of vintage dinerware, like Buffalo China and Syracuse. My whole house is decorated in thrift store finds of this nature. The quality is fabulous – there is no comparison. Made in America (and I’m recycling, too!).

    Hatred of unions and free trade agreements have killed manufacturing here. It makes me sick to my stomach when I buy something I find out out was made by slave labor. It’s hard to avoid it these days!

    • bostonboomer says:

      I think they don’t care what working class people think. But your house sounds wonderful. I wish I could see it.

      • Allison says:

        Thanks! It’s not all that – I have a tiny brick ranch and I’ve filled it a little too full methinks. Also the barn…lol.

        Agree they don’t seem to care. The goal is to create a poor underclass who’ll work cheap. It is not incompetence – it’s by design. Race to the Bottom!

    • Fannie says:

      Ditto – I have over 400 pieces of pottery………..Bauer, and the colors in the house go with.

  7. djmm says:

    President Obama has gone against every bit of advice that Prof. Krugman gave him. This is not a Krugman-inspired president. I only wish we had one.