This morning as networks were setting their schedules to accomodate the President's economic policy speech in Cleveland, the Romney campaign decided they needed to try and upstage that by having their boy give one in Cincinnati at the very same time. How mature of them. As Martin Bashir notes, we're surprised they didn't put on some fake police uniforms and pull over the President's motorcade.
After other Romney campaign operatives demonstrated how utterly stupid and childish they were by driving their campaign bus around the venue for President Obama's speech, things got real. Let me just cut to the chase. Here's the President's vision for the economy: Education. Energy. Innovation. Infrastructure. Here's Mitt Romney's:
"You may have heard that President Obama is on the other side of the state and he’s going to be delivering a speech on the economy. He’s doing that because he hasn’t delivered a recovery for the economy," Romney said. "And he’s going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better. But don’t forget, he’s been president for three and a half years. And talk is cheap. Action speaks very loud. And if you want to see the results of his economic policies, look around Ohio, look around the country, you’ll see a lot of people are hurting."
Yes, well the thing is, a lot less people are hurting than were in 2008. Here are the 2008 numbers, taken from the text of the President's speech:
For the wealthiest Americans, it worked out pretty well. Over the last few decades, the income of the top 1 percent grew by more than 275 percent -- to an average of $1.3 million a year. Big financial institutions, corporations saw their profits soar. But prosperity never trickled down to the middle class.
From 2001 to 2008, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical family saw their incomes fall. The failure to pay for the tax cuts and the wars took us from record surpluses under President Bill Clinton to record deficits. And it left us unprepared to deal with the retirement of an aging population that’s placing a greater strain on programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Without strong enough regulations, families were enticed, and sometimes tricked, into buying homes they couldn’t afford. Banks and investors were allowed to package and sell risky mortgages. Huge, reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line. And too many from Wall Street to Washington simply looked the other way.
For a while, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the reality of this new economy -- people borrowed money to keep up. But the growth that took place during this time period turned out to be a house of cards. And in the fall of 2008, it all came tumbling down -- with a financial crisis that plunged the world into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Here in America, families’ wealth declined at a rate nearly seven times faster than when the market crashed in 1929. Millions of homes were foreclosed. Our deficit soared. And nine million of our citizens lost their jobs -- 9 million hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were forced to pay for the irresponsibility of others.
Now given those constraints, and also given that the economy has not recovered completely but is in danger of stalling due to the current Republican-made stalemate in Congress, it's fair to say that we are not where we were in 2008. I remember far worse days than today. It is possible to point to progress, after all, without claiming "mission accomplished." Better than 2008, but a long way to go, as Martin Bashir explains.
Bashir gives the numbers on the Ohio economy, which is performing better than the national economy. The unemployment rate in Ohio is down sharply from 2009's high of over 10 percent, for example. In Ohio, things are much better today than they were in 2008, and there's absolutely no reason to expect that Romney's policies would maintain or improve their lot.
President Obama clearly outlined the choices between Romney and himself as far as economic vision goes. Romney wants austerity; Obama wants shared prosperity. Romney wants a top-down economy; Obama wants a middle-out economy. That term is a little bit tortured, but essentially Obama is arguing that demand will drive economic recovery, whereas austerity will kill demand further, placing more strain on a fragile recovery.
What I took away from the speech was that there's a stark choice to be made about the economy, as David Corn says. It's a choice between returning to Bush policies or pushing ahead with the Obama economic policies. I offer that with one criticism: There was too much emphasis on the debt and deficit. While I realize that the national debt and deficit are major concerns to many voters out there, it would have been better for him to explain why the investments need to be made now, with the tax changes coming later. This is what he did back in September when he introduced the American Jobs Act which the GOP killed in a matter of hours.
As much as I liked the speech, I also wanted to hear him draw the comparison between the old Bush-style economic policies and Mitt Romney's Bain Capital days. After all, Romney left companies in smoldering, bankrupt hulks, much like George Bush's policies left this country back in 2008. It's a fair comparison, as is a comparison to Massachusetts' economic woes when Romney left office after incorporating his policies.
Some critics of the speech (Jonathan Alter most notably) were disappointed that it didn't have "more memorable lines." I figure you can either pay lip service to the problem or actually try and explain that problem cogently. Economic policy just doesn't lend itself to catchy lines. "Yes we CAN tax the rich" rings a little bit hollow when we've got Congressional wingnuts up there on Capitol Hill voting a zillion times for anti-abortion bills and the like while completely ignoring the economic realities of their stall game on the Hill.
Are we really going to expect that a major policy speech should have catchy lines now? Ok, well, just for Alter, I offer a couple of catchy lines. I imagine a jingle contest could be launched to set them to music. Here are a couple:
Education. Energy. Innovation. Infrastructure.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Also, this one:
...through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.
And the only thing that can break the stalemate is you.
There was no comparison between the two speeches. Mitt Romney is extraordinarily bereft of any new ideas, he's got an entire staff comprised of Bushies, and a whole bunch of College Republican idiots driving around Obama rallies in buses, wasting gas and dropping noise pollution into a crazy-noisy world.
There's also no comparison between the visions. Whether you think the president should go even farther with his ideas or not, the choice on the other side is not even an option.