When the president makes his Knox College speech on the economy in a few hours, what he says will get far less attention in Beltway circles than arguments about why he is saying it.
The standard term for Obama’s intentions among both Republican critics and MSM folk is that he is executing a “pivot” back to economics because the rest of his second-term agenda—you know, guns, immigration reform, climate change—hasn’t gotten anywhere and his approval ratings are dropping.
Well, whatever. Having done everything imaginable to prevent action on Obama’s agenda, congressional Republicans don’t have a lot of standing to complain that he’s “changing the subject.” It’s particularly rich to hear John Boehner say this after pursuing his own agenda of contrived “scandal” investigations and abortion restrictions:
“The president says he’s going to go out and ‘pivot’ back to jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday. “Well, welcome to the conversation, Mr. President. We’ve never left it.”
Rather than “changing the subject” to the economy, I strongly suspect what Obama is up to this week is to remind Americans of the connection between economic policy and upcoming controversies in Washington. If, as appears likely, there is another big collision on fiscal policy, it will occur because Republicans continue to argue that short-term economic recovery and long-term economic growth require a fairly radical reduction in levels of federal domestic spending along with lower high-end and corporate taxation and less regulation. Indeed, the biggest question at the moment about what happens in September and October is whether congressional Republicans decide to go to the mats to “defund” Obamacare, largely on grounds that it’s a “job-killer” and is fundamentally incompatible with a capitalist economic system.
So Obama isn’t “pivoting.” He’s rehearsing the arguments he will have to make in a few weeks anyway when he’s forced into another fight for hostages—maybe a debt limit increase, maybe the appropriations necessary for the federal government to function.
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