Back to school night

It was back to school night in the Feehery household, so I missed the president’s address to the Congress.

Bummer.

I knew the president was giving a big speech because all the roads around the Capitol were closed, complicating my effort to find parking at Back to School Night (my son’s school is about 4 blocks from the white domed building).

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I can’t say I was that disappointed to miss the speech. In my congressional career, I saw plenty of joint sessions where a president makes this or that speech. I remember when George Bush the First gave an address to Congress where he tried, in vain, to shift his attention from the fascinating things that were happening in the rest of the world to a domestic agenda back here at home. But Bush didn’t have much of the “vision” thing, and he ultimately lost.

In fact, Obama’s troubles remind me a bit of Bush’s downfall. Both promised to cut regulations after signing laws that vastly expanded the regulatory framework of the country — Bush signed the Clean Air Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a new Civil Rights bill; Obama signed ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. Both have had to contend with fiscal crises — Bush had to bail out the savings and loans; Obama had TARP. Both have had moments where they signed tax policies that went against their political base’s wishes — Bush broke his no-new-taxes pledge; Obama extended the previous administration’s tax cuts for the rich. Both appointed chiefs of staff from Chicago — Sam Skinner and Bill Daley, respectively). Both had notable victories overseas — Bush won the first Persian Gulf War; Obama authorized the assassination of Osama bin Laden). Both had to contend with high unemployment rates and staggering budget deficits. Both Bush and Obama are left-handed and both have been called wimps by their more ardent critics.

The Obama speech yesterday wasn’t really supposed to grab the attention of the viewing public. I bet you that more than a few people were either going to school events like me or attending high-school football games or getting ready for the Packers-Saints game or were stuck in traffic, trying to get home from work.

The speech was not meant for viewing. It was meant for key passages to be captured on tape, so that the president’s campaign could ready a passel of 30-second (or 30-minute) commercials for when the going really gets tough. Nothing better than having the president standing on the House floor, holding his finger up (with Speaker John Boehner sitting behind him), saying: “Pass this jobs bill now.”

That’s the theory, at least.

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The White House sent out a memo detailing how his plan will help Hispanics, blacks, Native Americans and women. It didn’t detail how it was going to help older Irish-American Catholics like me, so I had to read the whole plan for myself, and what I found was that it wouldn’t help really at all.

In an era when every major economist says that the best thing we can do for the long-term economy is to flatten out the tax rate, get rid of all the loopholes and make it fairer, simpler and permanent, the president proposed a bunch of temporary little tax provisions that would make the code much more complicated and harder to understand.

In an era when our entitlement programs are running out of money, he proposed diverting the funding from Medicare and Social Security to pass for a short-term economic stimulus.

In an era when small business is asking the government to get off its back, Obama proposed a plan to make it easier for small business to get more government into its operations.

In an era when local and state governments are trimming back and fighting their local unions, the president proposed a plan to give the state and local unions more bargaining power to get more money.

In an era when we need to fix the housing market, Obama offered a proposal to help homeowners rehab their homes.

In an era when we have persistent long-term unemployment, the President makes it easier for people to stay on unemployment.

And then, to top it off, he asked the supercommittee to pick up the $447 billion price tag.

That is kind of like going to a restaurant when you are on a diet and on the wagon, ordering the Surf and Turf and Cristal, and then having the folks at the other table pick up the tab.

Congressional Republicans were overly polite to this president during and after the speech. They understand that unemployment is a big issue facing the country, and they understand that people are tired of partisan warfare. That being said, this speech was a joke and the proposals are worse than a joke.

Obama  should go back to school and take some business classes. It might help him understand why his “vision thing” is so bad for the country.