Obama's Address (Dave Lindorff–Counterpunch)

by Chris Sturr | February 26, 2009

Recently posted to Counterpunch. Hat-tip to Bob F. For an assessment of O.’s address by frequent D&S blogger Larry Peterson, click here; someone just left a nice comment on it: “Thanks, Larry. Some of the best writing on the economy is here at Dollars and Sense.”

Obama’s Address to Congress

Smooth? Yes. Transformative? No.

By DAVE LINDORFF | Counterpunch | February 26th, 2009

Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.

The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.

Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.

But clearly, the proposals offered by the president for tackling the crisis are not up to the task. He spoke primarily of the need to “get banks lending” again, explaining that this would require pouring still more hundreds of billions of dollars into these failing institutions. You’d think that with a whole stable of bankers at his elbow, the president would by now have heard from at least someone that this is nonsense, but apparently not. Nobody in the White House or the Cabinet seems to want to point out to the boss that the reason banks aren’t lending is because most people—and companies—aren’t interested in borrowing. The economy is tanking and assets are sinking in value by the day. Why would anyone want to borrow to invest in such an economy? Furthermore, even if someone did want to borrow, banks will not want to lend unless they think there’s a reasonable prospect of having the money repaid. That means they want to see income, they want to see a full order book, they want to see, in the case of a mortgage, an asset that is fairly valued. None of this exists.

That’s why the first $350 billion that was given to the banks last fall was simply pissed away and lost, not lent out, and it’s why the same thing is likely to happen to the next $350 billion Obama is preparing to give away. It won’t matter if he establishes a monitoring system for the second tranche of the Troubled Assets Relief Program bailout funds, or a mandate that they be used for making loans.

What is needed to fix this crisis is job security, and the only way to create that is by creating jobs. Obama talks of creating 3-3.5 million jobs, but most of these won’t even be created, even in smaller numbers, until the end of this year, by which time the official rate of unemployment could be above 9 percent , and the real unemployment rate possibly more than twice that (that would be including people who’ve given up looking for work, or who are involuntarily working part time).

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