Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 30, 2010

'OUT THERE TO TALK ABOUT THE ECONOMY'.... Last week, in the midst of several discouraging economic developments, White House officials recognized the need to sharpen its message a bit. They just weren't sure when.

Yesterday, President Obama was in New Orleans for the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Tomorrow is an Oval Office address on Iraq. Later this week, the focus will be on Middle East peace talks. One official told ABC late last week, "We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week. We haven't yet figured out the way he's going to do that."

So, this afternoon, the president appeared in the Rose Garden to talk up economic policy in general, and chide Republicans for blocking the small-business-incentives bill in specific.

On his first workday back at the White House after a 10-day Martha's Vineyard vacation and a trip to New Orleans on Sunday, Mr. Obama addressed the nation's mounting economic anxieties in brief remarks from the Rose Garden. With the unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent, and the economic recovery all but stalled, he spent part of the morning huddled with his economic advisers.

While he said he and his team are "hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference" -- including extending middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire this year, investing more in clean energy and in infrastructure rebuilding -- the president's most urgent call was directed at members of Congress, who return to work next week.

"This bill has been languishing in the Senate for four months, held up by a partisan minority that won't even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense," Mr. Obama said, referring to the small business initiative. He added, "Holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth."

That last point was bolstered by a new USA Today report, which the president made reference to, explaining that about 1,000 small businesses are ready to expand, but are waiting for Senate Republicans to stop playing petty games.

Following up on what we talked about yesterday, though, is there any reason to think the White House may put forward any kind of new economic policies and/or stimulus and/or jobs bill? It's hard to say exactly -- there almost certainly won't be one, ambitious package on the way, but Obama raised the specter of "additional measures."

Specifically, the president said, "[A]s Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term, and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term -- steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year; redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D; rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future; further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States. And I'll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come."

I wouldn't necessarily interpret this as "new economic plan on the way," but it's something to keep an eye on.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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Here is a good piece on concrete actions Obama could take on the economy, WITHOUT Congressional approval.


What's he waiting for? Permission?

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on August 30, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

As I've said earlier, it's August. As Karl Rove said, you don't introduce new initiatives in August when no one is paying attention. I cannot and will not believe that our President is going to sit there and do nothing and the let the world fall in around him. Not only is he not that stupid, but he will do it when he feels the timing is right -- when everyone is paying attention. We'll be hearing more shortly.

Posted by: pol on August 30, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's not like small businesses just need more credit to start expanding:


Money quote:

Overall, 91 percent of the owners reported all their credit needs met or they did not want to borrow, up one point. Credit may be harder to get compared to the bubble period (as it should be) and is always harder to arrange in a recession. But credit availability does not appear to be the cause of slow growth as many allege.

If you want small businesses to grow, they need more than just access to lines of credit. They need a customer base willing and able to buy their goods and services.

I guess it's too much to ask for politicians, who get paid no matter what, to realize this.

Posted by: Badlands on August 30, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats have two problems right now. One is that the economy is trashed. The other problem is political: the Democrats have not been able to make a clear case to the public that they stand for fixing the economy and the Republicans stand for tearing it down. The electorate is unimpressed with the progress this Congress has made on the economy so far, and they blame the Democrats rather than the Republicans for the failure to make more progress.

The problem is that the small-business bill helps with the first problem, but not the second. It's just too small-scale. Here's Krugman last week:

"I’m finding it hard to read about politics these days. I still don’t think people in the administration understand the magnitude of the catastrophe their excessive caution has created. I keep waiting for Obama to do something, something, to shake things up; but it never seems to happen."

Got that? Bush didn't create the catastrophe; Obama did, by not doing some amorphous thing three times bigger than the things on the economy he did do.

Passing the small business bill won't energize the base, won't satisfy Krugman, and isn't attention-grabbing enough to break through the wall of ignorance and obsession with mosques that envelops right wingers and/or David Brooks. The small business bill has been kicked around for a couple months now; lefty blog people ignored it and attacked the Democrats for "doing nothing" while the dems were working on it, and the normal media ignored it just as completely. The Dems could bring the bill up when they get back to work next week, and could even pass it, and it would save jobs and help the economy, but it will still wouldn't be enough to get people's attentions and change narratives, I don't think. I think it will be ignored by the electorate the same way it was the last three times it came up, the same way everyone ignored the state aid bill. Obama talking about the bill a bunch won't change that, because nobody actually listens to Obama.

Thing is, the Democrats actually do have to pass the small business bill. So anything more dramatic (bring back that bit from the Jobs for Main Street Act the House already passed, redirecting $50 billion from TARP to infrastructure spending?) if it happens at all, probably has to wait until after that. Except once the small business bill and the military authorization / DADT repeal bill get through the Senate delay machine, how much time will even be left before the election?

Posted by: mcc on August 30, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Obama have to use the phrase "partisan minority?" Why can't he just say, "Republicans?"

Instead of

"This bill has been languishing in the Senate for four months, held up by a partisan minority that won't even allow it to go to a vote."

How about

"This bill has been languishing in the Senate for four months, held up by Republican obstructionist tactics that won't even allow it to go to a vote."

Let's at least pretend to fight.

Posted by: bernard Yomtov on August 30, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Considering that Obama just gave an interview to Brian Williams where he said "the debt and the deficit" would be his primary focus," I think the idea that Obama is going to do anything worthwhile in terms of economic stimulus is a fantasy. "Yes, we can" has become "No, we won't."

Posted by: Rachel on August 30, 2010 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

I know people have asked this a million times, but where are the President's surrogates? Why is nobody hammering these points home over and over on his behalf? The DNC/DSCC, etc., give good press release, but where are the folks with some gravitas that might get a few seconds of coverage on the nightly news once in a while?

Posted by: DavidG on August 30, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

I remember as a boy going with my mother to a WPA work site to deliver my father's lunch pail, which he had forgotten that morning when he left for work. His crew was constructing a large roadside park along the Dixie Highway near Flint, Michigan. He was, along with most of the other men, an auto worker on a years-long lay-off. (I think the job paid $25 a week, which was enough back then, I ask you to believe, to feed his family of four.) If repairing our infrastructure is a goal, I can think of no better means than reinventing the old Works Project Administration for this long-term recession. It would also mean jobs—lots of them.

Posted by: buddy66 on August 30, 2010 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Absolutely pathetic messaging. The President should fire his p.r. staff and hire a dozen commentators from this blog.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on August 30, 2010 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't p.r.

Posted by: square1 on August 31, 2010 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

"And I'll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come."

Absolutely depressing.

You know, if you haven't a clue, perhaps you could resign now and let President Biden start working.

Posted by: Jimo on August 31, 2010 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Brian Lefever on August 31, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

square1: "The problem isn't p.r."

We all know what the problem is, and so if your message gives the idea that after all this time you don't even have a handle on how to approach the problem, e.g., "...my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term..." as if we haven't already been over this a hundred times, blah blah blah, then YOUR problem is p.r.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on August 31, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I admire Obama greatly. I think he may be the most brilliant President I have seen in my lifetime. He set out to govern wisely, generously and fairly, and if the USA were a functional nation, his government would be something we could all be proud of, the middle class would be strengthened, and all Americans would be much better for it.

But these are extraordinary times. When approximately 25% of Americans refuse to be governed, refuse to recognize the Constitutional rights of fellow Americans, refuse to acknowledge--much less address--the challenges facing the USA and have billionaires and corporations funding their delusions and their propaganda machines--it evidently isn't enough to be wise and generous.

I don't understand why the Obama WH has not fought back more aggressively. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity."

I am discouraged not just because Republicans may grow stronger in November, but because Obama may be the best chance we will ever have to restore American honor and strength after 30 years of Republican misrule. If these crazies get back into real power...! It is a vicious, vicious cycle. They don't understand cause and effect. They do the wrong thing, and bad things result. They respond, "well, we better do more of the wrong thing because look how bad things are!"

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 31, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

R&D Studies vs R&D Software
R&D Software can be a helpful tool, but, ultimately, a company still needs to compile a thoroughly-documented study if they are going to be positioned to support R&D credit claims in the event of an audit. The process of identifying qualified R&D activities, of determining applicable percentages of staff time, of determining certain aspects of the required calculations (e.g., related to fixed base pc) cannot be fully automated. For large corporations with significant six figure - seven figure credits, the additional cost of R&D software can be warranted. For small to mid-sized companies, the software, as an additional tool to go along with the R&D study process, generally is not warranted.

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Posted by: Jeffrey Feingold on September 25, 2010 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK
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