Business

07.24.13

Obama Pivots to Economy in Lengthy Speech

The president’s much-touted speech was long on words but short on new initiatives to bolster the economy—and it inspired a decidedly mixed reaction.

In a long speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, on Wednesday afternoon, President Obama presented a few new proposals. Aimed at the middle class, the prevailing theme was “A Better Bargain”—for middle-class families to get more bang for their buck in multiple areas. With Congress gripped by gridlock, Obama hinted that, where possible, the executive branch would act on his own. The plan was short on highly detailed proposals. But he did present some old proposals with new urgency, and there was some newish material in there. Among the highlights:

• Using infrastructure spending as a way of creating jobs that can only be done on U.S. soil.

• Improving education by bringing high-speed Internet to 99 percent of students over the next five years.

• Suggesting the creation of a Community College to Career Initiative that will allow workers to upgrade technology skills in the communities where they live.

• Giving homeowners a chance to refinance their mortgages while rates are still low.

 • A proposed increase in the minimum wage.

The speech (predictably) resonated with Obama partisans and fell flat among his critics. Here are some of the instant responses.

Josh Lederman, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, tweeted the length of the speech—something that was mentioned quite a lot across the site as the speech dragged on. Some even compared the speech’s length to a State of the Union address: @joshledermanAP: #Obama’s economy speech in Illinois clocks in just under 1 hour 7 minutes.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York tweeted her support, using one of the Obama administration’s hashtags associated with this speech: @SenGillibrand: Unacceptable that a single parent working 40 hrs/week, 52 weeks/yr to support a family earns just $290/week or $15,000/yr. #RaiseTheWage

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chair of the DNC, jumped on one of the Republican hashtags against Obama’s speech, and spun it in the other direction: @DWStweets: Republicans are right–#SpeechesDontHire. The plan President Obama has laid out for our economy–that will. #ABetterBargain

Speaker of the House John Boehner tweeted: @johnboehner: Mr. President, Americans aren’t asking ‘where are the speeches?’ – they’re asking ‘where are the #jobs?’

In a statement, Sen. Ted Cruz echoed a similar sentiment to Boehner’s: “Today President Obama rehashed essentially the same economic speech we’ve heard for years: more government programs, more taxes. He’s out of ideas to fix the economy, and unwilling to do what it takes to remedy the harm his policies are inflicting.”

Of Obama's strategy, which economists describe as a “middle out” plan, Bloomberg Businessweek Economics Editor Peter Coy said in an article: "‪The argument that strengthening the middle class is the best way to make the economy grow is Obama’s attempt to go over the heads of Republicans in Congress and win public support for his imperiled second-term economic agenda."