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Jobs and President Obama's SOTU Preview

Tomorrow, Tuesday, President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union address in which he will outline his goals for the nation for the coming year and beyond. Over the weekend, he posted an online preview video. It's only four minutes:

Did you get all the way to the end? Crabby Old Lady sympathizes; she forced herself to do it for this post. Here is the short version:

  • Increase competition
  • Grow the economy
  • Create jobs
  • More innovation
  • Better education
  • Decrease deficit
  • Reform government
  • Yada yada yada

All that is as unhelpfully abstract as it has been for the past two years and long before that too. To the degree any of it has meaning, here is what it has given us:

  • Corporate profits higher than they have ever been
  • 23 percent of income going to the top one percent of earners; up from nine percent to that group in the late 1970s
  • Continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
  • The largest number of unemployed for the longest period of time since the Great Depression
  • Continued stagnant, even falling, wages for those who are working
  • Record number of home foreclosures in 2010 with predictions for a larger number in 2011
  • Public school closings throughout the states
  • Cutbacks to fire and police departments throughout the land
  • Increased state and city taxes
  • Rising food and gasoline prices

There is more, but you get the idea: everything that has been done in Washington for the past two years benefits corporations and the wealthy with barely discernible crumbs for everyone else.

Crabby dislikes one of those crumbs – the payroll tax holiday. Giving back two percent to workers from their FICA contribution sounds good, but it amounts to about $10 per paycheck for most people and deprives Social Security of tens of millions of dollars at a time when the oldest baby boomers are signing up for the program with more of them in the pipeline.

Plus, it is unlikely to expire after a year – Congress will call that a tax increase – which will further endanger Social Security at a time when it needs to be strengthened.

According to a couple of New York Times reporters on Sunday discussing probable points Obama will make in the speech, he is

”unlikely...to embrace the recommendations of a bipartisan majority on the debt-reduction commission [aka the cat food commission] he created, which proposed slashing projected annual deficits through 2020 with deep cuts in domestic and military spending, changes to Social Security and Medicare...”

Unlikely? Crabby Old Lady will be listening closely on the subject of those two elder programs Tuesday evening. Many politicians and economists have called for raising the retirement age but one respected economist, James K. Galbraith, has made a strong argument for lowering it.

Not that President Obama will consider it. Much has been made, since Obama's “shellacking” in the November election, that he is making the right choice by moving more to the political center. Center? If he were any more to the right, he'd be Eric Cantor.

Okay, Crabby exaggerates, but not by much. The past two years were spent giving zillions of dollars to banks and since that, apparently, is not business-friendly enough for rich, whiny bankers and corporate leaders, a couple of weeks ago Obama appointed Gene Sperling as his new Chief White House Economic Adviser.

This is the guy who, during the Clinton administration, had a big hand in repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which many believe helped cause the subprime mortgage crisis.

Then on Friday, Obama appointed the CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, to head his new White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. According to one of GE's websites, the number of U.S. jobs at GE has dropped by 27,000 since 2005, while overseas jobs increased by 16,000 although in the past year, the company shed 17,000 foreign jobs. Can you hear the sound of off-shoring?

In the biennial White House game of musical chairs, the same people with different names get seats.

The real reason for these appointments (and other pro-business ones), according to some, is that the Obama re-election campaign needs to raise a billion dollars (!) and they're not going to get that from 10- and 20-dollar donations from voters – especially since so many former supporters are disappointed and feel disenfranchised after these past two years.

So as far as Crabby can see, the idea seems to be to give rich business leaders powerful positions where they can further enrich corporations and themselves through more deregulation and tax breaks.

Then they'll get all their wealthy friends at other corporations (remember, there is no longer any limit on corporate support for candidates) to donate the funds to keep Obama in office for another four years during which time the status quo will continue.

The single biggest thing desperately needed by the economy and the American people are big, bold, new ideas for good-paying jobs, jobs, jobs. People in large numbers back at work and paying taxes again are the answer to a large part of the nation's woes.

Crabby suspects that if there were going to be anything big and bold and new from this president, we would have seen it already and she doesn't expect much of that tomorrow night. She fervently hopes she is wrong.

SPECIAL NOTE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears poised to approve a new brain scan test that can show the plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease in a living brain. Although there is no known treatment for this terrible disease, it might help physicians and patients plan for the future.

Tomorrow, the TGB Geriatrician, Dr. Bill Thomas, and dementia expert, Dr. Al Power, will discuss the ethics of early diagnosis of Alzheimers in a live internet presentation. You can watch it here at 11:30AM eastern U.S. time.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alan Stewart: An Encounter with a Big and Bobbing Adam's Apple


The only thing more disillusioning that what you laid out, which I pretty much see the same way, is who the Republicans are likely to put up against him who will be 100% worse. Real choices? And then I wonder does this really represent who the majority of Americans are and what they want... or does anybody care about that!

Obama is turning out to be no different from a Republican; the unexpected, unasked-for cut to Social Security left me without any desire to support the guy. I'm reminded of Malcom X's support of Goldwater vs. Johnson. Malcolm X said something to the effect that, at least with Goldwater, you knew what you were getting. I'm starting to feel like that about supporting Republicans.

More than anything, though, I'm coming to think that the whole right vs. left, Republican vs. Dems mentality is a red herring manufactured by the real rulers to keep us from finding common ground against them.

Paul Krugman has a good op-ed piece in this morning's NYT on the buzzword 'competitiveness' pointing out that lack of competition had nothing to do with the recession. It is a red herring.

I wish that Obama had learned from Franklin Roosevelt and put in place WPA type projects that repaired the infrastructure,improved America and actually put people to work. He is not bold and listens to the wrong people.

I just hate to read anything said by our government anymore. It feels like I'm reading a story about how a once powerful country descends to Third World status except that it's real and we are in it. Is there some gene that causes people not to see that the emperor is naked? How can this happen? My father was retired Army & a news junkie and I find myself wondering what he would make of this.


I think Darlene sums up the Prez nicely: "He is not bold and listens to the wrong people."

Most of my political life I've had to snipe around the edges of the Democratic party, trying to get pols to do what we elected them to do. Unrealistic hope turns out to have been I'd ever get to do anything else, tho one of the guys I've worked for, Tom Ammiano, did get a citywide universal health plan through in San Francisco -- and Vermont is now pushing toward enacting single payer. We seem to be in another season of pushing for incremental improvements at the margins so as to change the possibilities at the center.

Dear Ronnie;

Thank you for putting it all into a readable and concise post. And not for the first time of course!


Think I'll run for President: I might get a lot a votes. (After I've whitnessed what Bush and Obama have accomplished, I truly believe ANYONE can be President!) My slogan will be "Don't vote for me, vote for my ideas." I'll run on the Demi-Pub Ticket. I'd require S.S. Taxes to be paid on ALL earned imcome, regardless of source or amount. Eliminate ALL Corporate Tax breaks, especially Agriculture and the Oil Industry. Bring home immediately ALL Troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Korea, and Europe. In some cases, the wars have been over for over 50 years and the US has spent Billions to rebuild their Countries. (This from a Father of a US Army Chinook Pilot who has served two years in Iraq and One in Taliban Country where the President's Brother gets a cut off the Opium trade, it's alleged. We really need friends like that, don't we.)Replace Free Trade with FAIR TRADE. I'd stop illegal immigration within 48 hours with Active Duty Troops on the Boarder.Yes Folks, we'll rebuild the United States. Start spending all of our money on US Citizens instead of begging the world to like us because we give them money we've borrowed from China. What a laugh. Yes, we'll rebuild Fortess America. Stop the Woe Is Me China is overtaking us talk. Roll up our sleeves and put people back to work. Bring back the CCCs and the WPA. Stop Corporations from off shoring jobs. (Go ahead and open up foreign Divisions; just don't plan on importing products made there back to the US.) Require Taxpayer Funded National Elections; stop the Corporate AND Union Campaign Contributions. Prevent the Gerrymandering of House Districts. Negotiate with the Drug Industry over Medicare drug prices.Stop spending thousands of dollars through Medicare to extend a Senior's life by only a few months (Like John Kennedy said "Who ever said life was fair?"). The United States is still the greatest Country in the World; to hell with The New World Order! Our piss poor National Leadership just has to stop giving our Country away and apoligizing for ever thing we do.

I love your comments James but unfortunately this will never happen. I feel truly sorry in my heart not only for my son but for all our children working today who will have to endure the future of whatever will come of this country. I read TGB faithfully and have answered all calls to phone, write, email and sign petitions. I have even added my personal comments on all the correspondence that I have sent. I have to wonder if our words and thoughts are even considered. Once a person is elected does all our input end on election night. I am thinking that it does. I am thinking that like everything else they do and say whatever it takes to get to their objective and quickly forget the people that put them there. The President is our bright and shining example of this.

In an ideal world, I might vote for candidate James A. Nelson because I support some, though not all, of his ideas. At least he has ideas! Unfortunately, it's in the best interests of the rich and powerful to keep the middle and working classes fighting among ourselves for the crumbs, and we oblige them. Economic, class and racial strife works to keep us distracted and angry while the upper 2% goes about amassing still more wealth. Even though we ordinary citizens far outnumber the superrich, we can't get past what divides us to come together on what should unite us.

I don't have the answer. It doesn't seem to lie with the Democrats as much as it once did, although I'm not yet as disillusioned with President Obama as some are. It's not possible to turn around decades of bad decisions and kick-the-can-down-the-road fiscal policies in two years, especially during a major recession.

What never ceases to amaze me is that so many ordinary working people, including retirees, support the Republicans and even the tea party. What is it about "These folks are NOT on your side" don't they understand? In my view our best chance still rests with the Democrats. Consider the alternative. . .

Rumor has it that Obama will not ask for "cuts" to social security, but will mention "changes".

Changes that were recommended in the cat food commission report and which are very likely to be included (IMO) are a) increasing the age to receive full benefits to 70, and b) switching the CPI index currently used for figuring COLAs to the Chained CPI (C-CPI-U/W), which essentially puts cost of living increases 2 years behind actual cost of living. The commission advised that the CPI change should apply to current and future SS beneficiaries.

These particular changes would hit the neediest among us hardest. This is not the change I believed in. But I'll reserve judgment until I hear what he has to say.

Yes, it is just reported in the Washington Post that the President will not go along with the Commission suggestion of raising the retirement age and cutting benefits.

I voted for Obama but now I'm feeling we got a cuckoo egg in our nest. What an inheritance to leave our children who will never be able to save for retirement on the minimum wage jobs that appear. Reminds me of a cartoon about new jobs, low wage and part-time, created during the first Bush's tenure The figure in it is saying "yes, there are many new jobs, and I have three of them."

I'd be happy if we could just buy our prescriptions from pharmacies outside the country. Instant free-market solution to high drug costs!

Let's give Hillary a try. Are you ready for this? Your only other choice is a Republican or more Obama. To have a president half white and half black is really great in terms of "post-racial" progress--would you want to give up that aspect just because he's moved toward the center (toward pro business)? Personally, I'll take Obama. I like the situation all around--as long as he keeps hands off SS.

I'm in favor of the James Galbraith proposal to lower the retirement age so that all us late-50s and early-60s people can get full retirement and medical. That might also provide opportunities for the 20-somethings to find real jobs.

I dunno who's gonna pay for our new benefits. But Galbraith is a smart guy. Let him figure it out. But he's gotta do it pretty fast b/c he's 59 years old and should retire soon.

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