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Obama’s ‘Giving Everyone a Fair Shot’ Speech: Have his actions measured up?


By Mitch Gurney

December 11, 2011

The economic infrastructure of America is crumbling a little bit more every single day.  If something dramatic is not done, we will continue to bleed businesses, bleed jobs and bleed wealth…the American people need to understand what is happening to the economy.  We need to work to wake up as many people as we can before it is too late.  Rep Betty Sutton

President Obama delivered a powerful speech this past week in Osawatomie, Kansas. See full text here “Giving Everyone a Fair Shot”

As is custom in politics he received accolades from some, criticisms from others and some calling this his most important speech of his presidency. The press uniformly compared his speech to one given over 100 years ago in the same town by Theodore Roosevelt, and described it as populist in tone.

And his speech was powerful, insightful and perfectly polished for the times. Much of what he said he has said before. What he told us is what many of us already know but expect Washington to fix. His speeches often make it clear he knows the deal, knows the system is rigged and what’s wrong with our country. This becomes obvious by reading ten of his top speeches. And there is no doubt he is an inspiring, polished orator.

But are words enough? Words can serve to inspire and build hope. But words without action are meaningless. Once there are actions we can measure against the words we can determine if the actions measured up. Politicians are most often long on words but horribly short on action.

The lack of jobs paying a living wage strikes at the heart of what concerns many unemployed Americans and thus a strong populist theme that resonates with many voters. Let’s compare his latest speech to those he has given in the past with a similar message about the blight of our jobs situation, “Giving Everyone a Fair Shot”

Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits – especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

There you have it, pretty straight forward. He truly “gets it” and wants us to “get it” too. For comparison here are excerpts from previous speeches delivering a similar message:

I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour.

Senator Obama speech, Keynote address at Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
Presidential candidate Senator Obama speech ‘A More Perfect Union’, March 18, 2008, Philadelphia, Pa.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Senator Obama speech – ‘The American Promise’- Democratic National Convention, August 28, 2008

When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or allowing every job to disappear overseas. The truth is, we won’t be able to bring back every job that we’ve lost, but that doesn’t mean we should…keep giving tax breaks to corporations that send American jobs overseas. I will end those breaks as President, and I will give American businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they create right here in the United States of America. I’ll eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-up companies that are the engine of job creation in this country.

Senator Obama speech – ‘One Week’ – Canton Ohio, Oct 27 2008

What he describes did not happen overnight, nor just during his watch. This has been in the making for over 30 years, and there have only been the two parties and the Capitol Hill Gang running the show. U.S companies have been outsourcing jobs and transferring their manufacturing abroad since the late1970’s. Today we have a massive mind boggling trade deficit and a massive collapse in jobs. According to a recent study of BLS data over 56,000 factories have shut down since 2001 alone. Currently there are an estimated 27 million people unemployed in the U.S. In contrast to BLS U-3 jobs reporting of 8.6% unemployed, Shadow Stats estimates that over 20% of the work force is now unemployed.

The study of BLS data was reported by Rep. Betty Sutton a Democrat from Ohio’s 13th Congressional District. She has written numerous articles about our dire jobs situation and our massive trade imbalance, the worst in the world, nearly 7 times worse than the next worse country (Italy):

The U.S. had a current account balance of negative 470 billion dollars in 2010. That figure was almost 7 times worse than the next worst country (Italy).

We are bleeding wealth so fast that it is hard to even describe it.

As I have written about previously, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day were shut down in the United States during 2010.

Overall, the U.S.has lost a total of more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

This country is bleeding middle class jobs profusely, and neither major political party seems to care.

Has Obama lived up to his words or caved to powerful interest? To be fair, Mr.  Obama may be sincere with his words, but are the political and special interest forces aligned against him greater than the will to oppose them?

Rep Sutton writes:

As I have written about previously, Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University is warning that 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if nothing is done to stop this.

But instead, our “representatives” in Congress just keep pushing more “free trade” agreements as the answer to our problems. Congress has passed new free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and the Obama administration has made “the NAFTA of the Pacific” a very high priority.

If you can believe it, zero jobs were created between 1999 and 2009. The following comes from an article in Washington Monthly

But our leaders don’t care about us. In fact, even the members of Obama’s “jobs panel” have been shipping jobs out of the United States at a very rapid pace.

What has happened is what has played out so many times over the last 30 years that it is nauseating. Both parties hoodwink their followers with polished rhetoric that resonates with their loyalist. But legislation time is where the rubber meets the road and when all the polished rhetoric vanishes. Both parties are captured and what we have is one big Capitol Hill Gang.

Corporate lobbyists own Washington. It should come as no surprise the members of the Deficit Super Committee for example are reported to have received over $64.5 million in corporate donations over the years. One can only speculate how effective such a bought committee can truly be in making drastic budget cuts that would have a negative impact on those contributors dependent on corporate government subsidies.

Even if Congress were controlled by the Democrats would they actually collaborate with Obama and oppose these powerful forces? If history serves as a guide, I don’t think so. The Capitol Hill Gang has the system all locked up.

Perhaps it could be argued that Obama has tried. A case in point is in 2009 he attempted to end tax corporate loopholes and raise revenue but encountered massive resistance from the corporate clan and their lobbyist front, the Chamber of Commerce that claimed he is anti-business. Obama explained his objectives at time:

“The tax code is “full of corporate loopholes that make it perfectly legal for companies to avoid paying their fair share”

“I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world,” Obama said. “But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens.”

While a very divisive issue, another example might be some of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and in particular a provision in the law called the medical loss ratio which took effect on December 2nd:

…the provision of the law, called the medical loss ratio…requires health insurance companies to spend 80% of the consumers’ premium dollars they collect – 85% for large group insurers – on actual medical care rather than overhead, marketing expenses and profit. Failure on the part of insurers to meet this requirement will result in the insurers having to send their customers a rebate check representing the amount in which they underspend on actual medical care. Read more here…

The Republicans, who mostly represent big business, claim Obama is anti-business. In this July 2009 article The Weekly Standard stated:

Democratic presidents are not famous for appointing businessmen, merchants, or entrepreneurs to their cabinet or senior White House staff. The number of such people appointed by Obama: zero.

Excuse me, but who are they kidding? Anyone with their head above water knows Obama’s cabinet is loaded with corporate executives. And this is typical and is actually a historical fact of our political system since its inception. I agree to a degree with the rationale given by the author of the Weekly Standard article who justifies that cabinet appointments should be ‘business people’ in that “they might be more sensitive in how government can help or hurt business” but we need better balance. We have enough big business influence over the Capitol Hill Gang. Enough is enough.

When the Supreme Court can rule (Citizens United) that attempts by the federal government or states to impose reasonable limitations on campaign funding are unconstitutional, thus equating money to free speech our democracy is in grave danger. It’s time to save our democracy.

Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for an Amendment to the Constitution explaining in Saving Our Democracy:

The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country already never had it so good. History will record that the Citizens United decision is one of the worst in the history of our country.

According to an Oct. 10, 2011, article in Politico, “the billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million – potentially much more – to conservative groups ahead of Election Day 2012.” Others are doing the same thing.

Does anybody really believe that is what American democracy is supposed to be about?

Mr. Sanders asked:

Does anybody really believe that is what American democracy is supposed to be about?

Rep Betty Sutton doesn’t think so and has joined colleagues in the House that are pushing to introduce a finance campaign amendment to the Constitution. She warns in the Worst in the World:

The economic infrastructure of America is crumbling a little bit more every single day.  If something dramatic is not done, we will continue to bleed businesses, bleed jobs and bleed wealth.

Please share this information with as many people as you can.  The American people need to understand what is happening to the economy.  We need to work to wake up as many people as we can before it is too late.

That is the choice voters face; we can continue to be hoodwinked by polished rhetoric or pull our head out of the sand. Does policy in this country tip too far in favor of big business or are we in need of a better balance between what serves the needs of corporations versus those of the people? We know what the last 30 years have brought us.

If we want real change we need campaign reform and an end to lobbying of congress. But it will be impossible to get legislation such as those introduced by Sanders and Sutton through a congress whose vested interest is in direct conflict with them. We must pack Washington with newly elected officials who will support Mr Sanders and Ms Sutton. This time we must be smart enough to vote nearly every one of them out of office.

Mitch Gurney

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  • Teddee

    It’s time for a real change. Our president and the president before him bailed out banks. Thats right the almighty banks that steal from me and you everyday. These banksters have lear jets, mansions, very, very, big bonuses for their whole crooked crowd, but nothing for the people they steal from.

    Get smart America….Ron Paul for president!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://thepoliticalbandit.com/ William Cormier

    This is a synopsis from NEWSER and it definitely demonstrates that President Obama can’t resist caving-in to the GOP/Tea Party radicals even before the 2012 elections. Some “Constitutional Scholar” he turned out to be….

    Obama Throws Away Civil Liberties With Defense Bill
    President to sign bill allowing indefinite detention of Americans

    Newser) – President Obama is taking a lot of heat today for dropping his threat to veto a controversial defense bill that could allow the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on US soil. In a fiery editorial, the New York Times today called it “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency,” saying it had too many objectionable parts to name. Other criticism has included:

    Andrew Sullivan, a longtime Obama fan, says the move“is another sign that his campaign pledge to be vigilant about civil liberties in the war on terror was a lie,” noting that the president’s initial objection to the bill was not that it infringed on Americans’ civil rights, but on executive power.

        Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald takes an in-depth look at the bill’s language, demonstrating that it does indeed codify indefinite detention under the law, expand the scope of the war on terror, and at least leave open the possibility of the military detaining US citizens. We recommend taking a lookMORE

    Every day Ron Paul or Rocky Anderson look better for the Presidency…

  • http://thepoliticalbandit.com/ William Cormier

    As far as Legislation that affects the general population of the United States, none has been so egregious (besides the Patriot Act) as the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012, otherwise known as S 1867. With President Obama being a so-called “Constitutional Scholar,” many Progressives and Liberals were hoping that Obama would Veto this unconstitutional bill and respect Habeas Corpus and the Rule of Law – but with new knowledge obtained from Op-Ed News, this is not likely to happen.

    In fact, quite the contrary; it saddens many of us that once again, President Obama has taken the road to tyranny and authoritarian rule just as he did when he voted for the Patriot Act, apparently interested in gaining “centrist” points for the upcoming 2012 elections rather than representing the people and his oath of office to “protect the Constitution.” Most of us were initially unaware that Obama had requested the provision for indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial:

    Why Obama Will Not Veto NDAA Military Detention of Americans: He Requested It.

    By Ralph Lopez
    Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) on Senate floor explaining it was Obama who requested the provision for indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial.

    Senator Diane Feinstein recently confirmed that she was unable to excise Section 1031 in an email:

    Senator Feinstein Confirms President and Military Can Detain US Citizens Without a Trial

    Like you, I oppose these provisions. Section 1031 is problematic because it authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process. In this democracy, due process is a fundamental right, and it protects us from being locked up by the government without charge. For this reason, I offered an amendment to prohibit the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial or charge. Unfortunately, on December 1, 2011, this amendment failed by a vote of 45-55.

    I was, however, able to reach a compromise with the authors of the defense bill to state that no existing law or authorities to detain suspected terrorists are changed by this section of the bill. While I would have preferred to have restricted the government’s ability to detain U.S. citizens without charge, this compromise at least ensures that the bill does not expand the government’s authority in this area. MORE

    Based on this and President Obama’s constant caving-in to the GOP/Tea Party Radicals, I see no reason to believe that his speech in Kansas is anything more than pure political rhetoric. If there’s a “New Obama” in town, we won’t be able to ascertain that until after the 2012 elections, and IMO, that is far too late for the nation and the people as a whole to know and understand that our Commander in Chief is nothing more than a professional politician and liar – not unlike the Congress that constantly votes for their own best interests, not that of the people who elected them to office.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mitch – vote the whole lot of these liars and thieves out of office and start all over again.

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