Thoughts on Obama's first primetime press conference

February 9, 2009 in Economics,Politics

Remember this, the controversial "3am phone call" ad?

How about this response?

Last Thursday, President Obama wrote an opinion for the Washington Post which contained the following paragraph:

And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

We may never be able to reverse the recession!?! Sounds an awful lot like the politics of fear to me. In any case, it sounds nothing like the politics of hope. I hear excuses for the President's rhetoric involving words like "pragmatism" and "realism".  There is nothing pragmatic nor realistic about an irreversal recession.  In the President's first press conference this evening, he furthered these claims:

As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across America. Last Monday, more than a thousand men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine. And if there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from.

Invoked imagery: "The entire state of Maine!"

We have tried that strategy [of cutting taxes], time and time again. And it's only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now.

Invoked imagery: "Nothing else is working!"

[They will be] jobs doing the work that America desperately needs done, jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our dangerously deficient dams and levees, so that we don't face another Katrina.

Invoked imagery: "Pass the stimulus, or a city will be destroyed!"

My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in ever -- even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income and even greater loss of confidence.

Invoked imagery: The Great Depression!

Fortunately, thanks to a burgeoning film industry, we actually know what language the government used to address the Great Depression at that time. What follows is footage of FDR's 1933 inaugural speech -- I have excerpted a small piece, but the full speech is well worth watching:  

 

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Now there are the politics of hope!

I do not approve of Obama's manner of campaigning for the stimulus, nor the words he employs to inspire fear in those that would not adopt his plan. There is a difference between presenting facts, which are scary enough on their own, and phrasing them as threats.

Consider these three sentences from today's press conference, two from the beginning and one from the end. Taken together, they paint a dire picture of the government as the savior of last resort. Inaction is not an option; only this stimulus can save us from never-ending recession:

But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs.... My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in [even] greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income and even greater loss of confidence.

That sounds a lot to me like this:

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