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Panel Discussion on Obama’s Speech and Jindal’s Response

March 2nd, 2009 by Bill Brown · 7 Comments · Politics

President Barack Obama delivered a speech before both houses of Congress last Tuesday and Lousiana governor Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response shortly afterwards.

Given the gravity of the moment, we at TNC decided to collect our thoughts on the speeches as a panel discussion.

Bill Brown

Bobby Jindal mentioned that the GOP failed to live up to its principles but almost immediately repudiated those principles by arguing that we need to “increase conservation and energy efficiency” and that the Republicans stand for “universal access to affordable health care coverage” and need to “make sure every child in America gets the best possible education.”

It’s becoming painfully clear that the Republicans have no idea what they stand for: a perfect illustration of a definitional issue. They’re all genus but no differentia.

Chuck

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the speech. All politicians nauseate me so badly I simply can’t watch them give an extended speech.

Bill Brown

It was tough to watch them, that’s for sure. My wife and I were hooting and hollering. Reading the transcripts was a much more sedate affair.

Myrhaf

If you want to see a good example of how not to write, check out this leftist’s reaction to Jindal’s response. Leftists seem to think that hyperbolic ad hominem ranting is political analysis.

Chuck

Good Lord. What is it with the Left and their compulsion to call their opponents “Liars”? I haven’t read the speeches yet, and I’m sure Jindal had plenty of bad ideas, but were they lies? Is anything in opposition to Leftist ideas automatically a lie? What a childish mentality that knee jerk reaction reveals. Political analysis reduced to the playground chant: Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Chuck

“Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.”

Once upon a time there would have been no question which politician would make such a statement – the Democrat. But, it was Jindal who said it.

The biggest laugher of either speech was this statement by Obama:

“As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.”

The implication seemed to be that he is only proposing these things because of the current crisis. So will they all be dismantled and abolished once the crisis is over? No more public education? No more Medicaid or Medicare? No more government funded energy programs? No more government funded electric or maglev railways? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Obama said exactly the kind of things you would expect a central planner to say, up to and including blaming the free market for the problems caused by the government. Which is why I can’t stand listening to these speeches – I already know what they are going to say, and it’s all bad.

Jindal also stayed on script for the modern conservative Republican, with we’re-not-as-statist-as-they-are proposals. Nothing new anywhere in either speech. Just further steps down the road to a completely controlled economy.

Bill Brown

While the tone and substance of this speech wasn’t anything new, did it strike anyone else as more ominous than ever before? The litany of government controls and dire statistics was bad, to be sure, but the real shocker for me was the part lauded as his “hopeful” section wherein he lays out his plan to “build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.”

Seeking to replace our existing energy supply with “renewable” energy by making it the “profitable kind of energy” is going to undermine an already beleaguered electric system. It will produce distortions that could seriously sabotage a system ravaged by government interventions as it is.

Setting us on the path towards universal health care by stating that “no American should have to worry about losing their health coverage—period” is going to undermine the last private medical system in the world. (Oops, that quote was from Jindal.) This is a matter of life and death; it’s also a “rights-violating road to disaster,” as one commentator put it.

Given the public education system’s dismal failure to educate and its increasing role as a liberal indoctrination camp, his promise to “ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive—from the day they are born to the day they begin a career” scares me enormously. His commitment to raising educational quality doesn’t help because I question whose idea of quality he is championing.

Taken separately, these are nothing new. Cumulatively, however, they represent a wholesale assault on freedom and individual rights the likes of which we’ve never seen—not even FDR was so bold.

Chuck

There is no doubt that everything Obama plans to do would make things worse. And since no one is writing any legislation that will improve things, undoubtedly things will in fact get worse.

But, Presidents always lay out grandiose schemes about what they are going to achieve in the State of the Union addresses, and similar speeches, most of which never actually comes to fruition. I think the same will be true here.

Which is not to say that I’m happy with how things are going. Things are getting worse, at a faster pace than usual. And Obama has a compliant Congress on his side. It’s hard to see how things could be much worse. But did anyone expect anything different?

Mike N

President Obama said in part:

“Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.”

His refusal not to mention any culpability of government entities like Fannie and Freddie, the CRA, FHA, The Fed and so on demonstrate an ability for massive evasion of reality that is truly frightening. If his economic stimulus plans don’t work, if they result in massive inflation or collapse the economy causing untold poverty, I have no doubt that he will not hesitate to call an end to freedom in America and establish the socialist dictatorship he and the Democratic Party so earnestly desire.

Every dictator that has ever lived has declared one way or another that he needed more power in order solve problems, restore order and create prosperity. President Obama is following the same path to a planned economy. I don’t think for a minute that he is just badly misinformed, doesn’t know about Austrian economics and would see the light if he would only read von Mises and Hayek. He knows of these economic and political principles but chooses to look the other way, to ignore them and cling to Keynesian principles for the same reasons the Congress, Academia and the Press cling to them: Keynesian philosophy allowes them to exercise the power of force over the market which means all citizens. Some of these people like, even relish this opportunity while others just don’t see any other way to deal with their fellow man except by force. But they will not question their core principles no matter how much destruction they cause.

I don’t see any evidence that Mr. Obama would check his premises if they resulted in wide spread disaster and suffering. He clearly thinks force is the solution to all problems.

“Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.”

He used the word ‘force’ twice in that paragraph. He likes this new power of his. I really would like to be wrong on this but I don’t think I am. Thoughts to the contrary anyone?

Myrhaf

“As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.”

This from a man who is creating a massive budget deficit by increasing government spending through the roof. Every proposal in this speech contradicts the notion that Obama does not believe in bigger government.

The worst thing about having a President Keating is that he does not understand that his words should have some relation to the facts of reality. His primary concern is what people think, not what are the facts. He sensed that it would be useful if people think he is not for bigger government, so he said it.

His explanation of why we are in our current mess also has no relation to reality:

“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway.”

The meaning of those three sentences is, “The crisis happened because of greed. People are naturally greedy, which is why government must regulate the economy.”

In fact, the problem was not because we did not have enough government regulation of private greed. It was in fact the opposite: government intervention caused the crisis. It was not just a matter of short-minded buyers and predatory lenders, both so blinded by greed that they could not see that what they were doing was wrong. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 mandated that banks lend to people they otherwise would have judged as bad risks. The problem happened because if lenders had not pushed those bad loans, they would have been thrown in jail.

Also, notice that Obama outrageously characterizes what I assume is Bush’s tax cut as “an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.” Because the wealthy were allowed to keep more of their money – because the government was thwarted from taking that money – it was not invested in our future. In fact, only private individuals can invest in our future. Government spending only consumes wealth; it never saves capital to be invested in the future.

Everything Obama proposes in the rest of the speech is more government intervention in the economy. Left to themselves, people get into a mess by following greed. It follows from that premise that we must have ever bigger and bigger government control to save individuals from themselves.

“As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.”

Again, Obama misreads the problem, which was government regulations and government backed unions. Decades ago I read that carmakers are penalized by government regulations if they make the big, long cars America used to make. Government charges them something like $1,000 for every foot of car length past a certain point. This regulation, inspired by the environmentalist desire to have smaller cars, was got around by producing SUV’s to satisfy consumer demand for larger vehicles. If government would get out of the automobile industry and let manufacturers meet consumer demand with their own judgment, there would not be any problem.

All Obama’s plans will do is increase government intervention. When the next crisis happens, doubtless, the next president will blame greedy capitalists and call for even more government control of every aspect of our lives. For statists, the solution is always more chains, bigger chains and better chains to keep those selfish, greedy capitalists in their place.

One note on the foreign policy section. Obama says, “To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.”

Are we now in the Global War Against Extremism? And what balderdash, “no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.” The example of America will not stop Islamic militants from waging war on America. In war, an example is not a force; only force is a force. Obama seems to think war is a counseling session or something.

Let’s hope President Keating is capable enough of seeing reality to learn – and learn soon – that the enemy wants to kill us. Pious preening about how we shut down Guantanamo Bay will do nothing to stop them from killing us, and will actually do the opposite and encourage them to continue their jihad against the West.

The essence of Jindal’s response is these two paragraphs:

“Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

“In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. To create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times — including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences — we worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, D.C.”

The Governor says cutting taxes will stimulate the economy more than increasing spending will. He is right.

It’s too bad that the Republicans will probably support spending increases anyway, just not as big as the Democrats want. Under either party, government continues to grow.

Mike N

I have a pet theory I’ve been working on about the psycho-epistemology of a pure pragmatist. I call it stoke and evoke. He knows that feelings motivate him and thinks everyone else is also so motivated. Ideas? They don’t exist or at least don’t count. Or more precisely, ideas exist only to evoke feelings.

The method is to say something general that might have a chance to evoke positive feelings. If it does, then continue with more of the same. If a hostile response is forthcoming then follow up with words of conciliation or moderation to assuage fears. This is why you are right when you said that Obama “… sensed that it would be useful if people think he is not for bigger government, so he said it.” Your word ’sensed’ is right on the money. It’s how his mind works. If he gets the nodding heads and smiling faces of a large enough majority in the press and Congress, then all is right with the world. He will say to himself, “I have said what they wanted me to say.”

I don’t think he will always be committed to pure pragmatism. He believes in the principles of statism, collectivism, and altruism which he denies are principles but considers as just practical behavior. The way in which he will use words to stoke and evoke feelings in the future will be interesting to watch I do think.

Myrhaf

You’re onto something there, Mike.

If the media ever turn on Obama, it will be especially devastating to him because of his social metaphysics.

The Inspector

I could only read to this point:

“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.”

And was then too disgusted to continue. I can see from Myrhaf’s comment that I didn’t really have to read any further. It was clearly the essence of the speech.

The thing is cookie-cutter leftism designed to blame the problem on everything but government. Even though he starts out by saying the government was part of the problem, he goes on to say that their only sin was not regulating enough. He can appear to take some blame while really only advancing his agenda.

Bleh.

Bill Brown

This speech is an excellent example of pragmatism at work. By severing his ideas from both reality and principles, the pragmatist inevitably contradicts himself and shackles his thoughts to concretes.

In Obama’s estimation, the problem at the root of the crisis was the over-leveraging of the housing market by greedy banks followed by their reluctance to promiscuously lend after that market retracted. The solution? To encourage the banks to lend to homeowners who can’t afford the houses.

To the non-pragmatist, this is contradictory and akin to the “hair of the dog that bit you.” But Obama et al. would argue that before the banks were lending out of greed but now “it’s not about helping banks—it’s about helping people.”

Similarly, much hay has been made about the experience of Japan during its prolonged recession in the 90s—the so-called “Lost Decade.” But to the pragmatist, concrete-bound as he is, that has no bearing on “whatever works” because that was in a different country, with a different economy, and in a different time period.

This pragmatism, far from the common usage of “being practical, commonsensical, and grounded,” is quite literally living (or governing, in this case) by trial and error. But it is a trial and error with a potato sack over your head. We need only look at FDR’s experimentation to confirm what a disastrous approach such foundering represents.

Our credit markets are already paralyzed from the indecisive, unprincipled actions of Paulson, Bush, Obama, Summers, and Bernanke. They are unwilling to lend any money or make any investments because they literally cannot know where they stand in the long term, much less “beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.”

They are sitting on the gobs of cash that the administrations have been heaping on them. This hoarding has put off the inflationary effects of the federal government’s action, but some day the banks are going to mete out that money and we will finally experience the severe inflation that has thus far eluded us.

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Galileo Blogs

    Great discussion. I especially benefited from the granular discussion of Obama’s pragmatism and how the mind of a pragmatist works. “Stoke and evoke” and “trial and error with a potato sack over your head” are colorful and true reminders of the essence of pragmatism’s method. In dealing with others, the pragmatist “stokes and evokes,” and in dealing with reality, he is the idiot running around with a potato sack over his head.

    Principles are practical. A true principle does not have to be constantly re-examined the way a pragmatist is forced to do by his rejection of them. Imagine if an engineer were a pragmatist in his method. How could he ever rely on the proven strength of steel or the effects of gravity when he designs a bridge?

    Imagine a “trial and error” methodology applied to bridge building. Yet, that is what is happening to our economy with our leaders eschewing the method of principles (or, if they have them, having false principles).

    I also agree with two other points:

    (1) Underneath the pragmatist method, Obama’s true principles are collectivism, statism, and altruism. Those principles will steadily come to the fore in his policies and actions, as they have already.

    (2) Because of Obama’s social metaphysics, if the media does turn against him, it will be ugly. I have had this sneaking thought for awhile. Will the media turn against Obama? If they do, Obama will not know what to do.

    In less free societies than ours, what a dictator does is close down the media. We are not in dictatorship yet, but government power is getting stronger. What will Obama do? The answer is he may not be able to get away with much, but a successor will, enabled by powers such as a new Fairness Doctrine, if Obama gets away with implementing that.

    Thank you for an interesting discussion. There is much to enjoy and think about here.

  • madmax

    My observations:

    1) Myrhaf writes:

    “The crisis happened because of greed. People are naturally greedy, which is why government must regulate the economy.”

    This reveals Obama’s deepest metaphysics and that is that people are inherently greedy or stated another way that people are sinful. This is the Original Sin premise which is the legacy of Christianity. It is the foundation of the welfare state and the regulatory state.* Mankind can not be allowed to be free because if he does than he will harm his brothers, so he must be reigned in and he must be forced to support those less fortunate. Its amazing that this religious concept still lives in the 21st century. Also, it never fails to amuse me that it is the foundation of today’s Left which is supposedly secular.

    2) If Jindal is representative of what we can expect the Republicans to give us in 2012, then Obama will reign for 8 years. Further, the Right may be dead as any type of “limited government” party (which it never really was). What we will have is what Europe has, a far left party and a slightly less far left party (with more religion thrown in).

    I too get a sense that we “have turned a corner.” I am trying really hard not to get depressed but it is hard. Increasingly, to borrow Heinlein’s expression, I am feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

    * I also think it is one of the foundations of environmentalism. Original Sin with regards to environmentalism would read as follows: “Mankind if left free will destroy himself with his own technology. Therefore, he must be restrained from this by placing limits on (or ending completely) industrial society.”

  • Jim May

    The method is to say something general that might have a chance to evoke positive feelings. If it does, then continue with more of the same. If a hostile response is forthcoming then follow up with words of conciliation or moderation to assuage fears.

    Put another way, 65 years ago:

    The true aim of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study the masses. The speaker is in constant communication with the masses; he hears an echo, and senses the inner vibration. In forever setting new and contradictory assertions before his audience, Hitler is tapping the outwardly shapeless substance of public opinion with instruments of varying metals and varying weights. When a resonance issues from the depths of the substance, the masses have given him the pitch; he knows in what terms he must finally address them.

    — Konrad Heiden, “Der Fuehrer”

  • Mike N

    Jim:
    Excellent quote. Thanks.

  • Natasha Hale

    Regarding Myrhaf’s reference to Obama as President Keating:

    I think I will have to disagree with you here. He might want you to think of him as a Peter Keating type, but in reality he is more of a Ellsworth Toohey – which is actually much worse. In fact if anyone is a likeness of Keating, it would instead be John McCain.

    Obama has the same charisma as Toohey which has allowed him to acquire those who follow him blindly. Both have been accused of being “cult leader-esque”. They both preach there is no virtue in selfishness, Obama explicitly sating so on at least two occasions. They seek to kill off the mind and leave the masses dependent on the rulers, who are then in full control.

    I used to believe that Obama was a puppet; that they were using him to gain power because of his charisma. However recently the true evil behind him has shown through. He does not say what people want to hear so they will like him, but so he will remain in control. If they start to doubt his intentions they might start thinking for themselves, which is the bane of the Left.

  • Myrhaf

    If you are right, Natasha, it would just about be enough to make this atheist say, “God save America.”

  • Jim May

    Regarding the inflation, there is a pathway by which that inflation will enter the economy, regadless of what happens to the credit markets: to the extent that the banks are insolvent, the wealth that their customers put into their checking accounts has been destroyed.

    The idiots screaming about the bank “hoarding” of the bailout money, because the banks are merely “bolstering their balance sheets” with it, are evading the fact that in doing so, they are ensuring that our checks don’t bounce and that our ATM cards work.

    Unfortunately, that bailout money — unlike the dollars we put into our checking accounts — do not represent wealth; they came from nothing.

    So, if you are a Citibank or BofA customer, you are likely spending new dollars into the economy already.

    So, inflation is already seeping into the system now, even if the economy stays prostrate — and there is no way in hell the Fed tries to soak that liquidity back up under these circumstances.

    Tada, “stagflation”. This depression will have 1970’s characteristics, but with the 1930’s depth.