Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Economy - President Obama at Georgetown, 14 April 2009

In President Obama's speech on the economy at Georgetown last week, he said, in part,

For even as too many were out there chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity: the crushing burden that the rising cost of health care is placing on families and businesses; the failure of our education system to prepare our workers for a new age; the progress that other nations are making on clean energy industries and technologies while we -- we remain addicted to foreign oil; the growing debt that we're passing on to our children. Even after we emerge from the current recession, these challenges will still represent major obstacles that stand in the way of our success in the 21st century. So we've got a lot of work to do.

Now, there's a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was soon destroyed when a storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

It was founded upon a rock. We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity -- a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It's a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century: Number one, new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation, not reckless risk-taking -- (applause); number two, new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive -- (applause); number three, new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and new industries -- (applause); number four, new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and number five, new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations. (Applause.)

That's the new foundation we must build. That's our house built upon a rock. That must be our future -- and my administration's policies are designed to achieve that future.

The speech is well worth reading as a masterpiece of exposition and advocacy. President Obama tells his listeners in the opening of his speech that, "I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. This is going to be prose, and not poetry. I want to talk about what we've done, why we've done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we've made, but I also want to be honest about the pitfalls that may still lie ahead."

You may not quite agree with the president's economic policies, but at least it appears to be treated by the president as a subject of democratic deliberation.

John Murphy of the University of Illinois, one of our most astute critics of presidential rhetoric, offers a nice analysis of the speech on his blog, The Oratorical Animal. Murphy praises the speech but with the reservation that, in his view, the arguments offered to support the bank bailouts are incoherent and unsupported.

Barack Obama, "REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE ECONOMY," Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 14 April 2009.

And see Paul Krugman, "Too Many Narratives," New York Times, 15 April 2009. Krugman argues that the administration has offered too many different explanations for the way it is supporting the banks, and writes, "Can I say that this very proliferation of narratives is disturbing? I don’t want to claim moral equivalence with the Bushies, who were utterly cynical about such things. . . ."

No comments: