President-Elect Barack Obama today delivered a stark warning about the state of America’s economy in a speech clearly aimed to rally public and political support to get a massive stimulus and economic re-orientation policy in place ASAP.
He called for laying the groundwork for a sound 21st century economy — but the real, hard-nosed question now will be: if the political and financial systems failed all these years to fix the problem will Obama run smack, dab into the “realities” that the political system is still geared to the 20th century? And there are signs that Obama may have some work to do in winning over his some members of his own party.
Here’s a video of his speech today:
The text of his speech is HERE.
But the Wall Street Journal reports that there are now signs that Obama is going to face stiff opposition to some of his plans from his own party:
The Democratic-led Congress is moving to assert control over President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to revive the U.S. economy, posing an early challenge that could define his relationship with Capitol Hill, where the resurgent Democratic Party has strengthened majorities in the House and Senate.
Before this week, the sweeping two year plan had been closely held. Top Obama aides, including economic adviser Jason Furman and National Economic Council director-designate Lawrence Summers, hammered out specifics with Democratic congressional leaders, amid hopes for a rapid vote this month, perhaps even by Inauguration Day. But the newly sworn-in lawmakers of the 111th Congress began questioning specifics of the plan and dashed expectations for a quick vote.
Some of the strongest objections can be found within Mr. Obama’s own party. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) raised doubts Thursday about the job-creating value of Mr. Obama’s proposed $500 payroll tax holiday, which he scoffed would only put $20 a week in a worker’s paycheck.
“How much lift is that going to give?” he said. “I don’t think there’s much bang for the buck there.” Sen. Conrad urged greater emphasis on initiatives that will to shore up the housing market, among other things. “We don’t have unlimited money,” he said. “We’ve got to target.”
Also Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) questioned Obama proposal to reward businesses with a $3,000 tax credit for every job they create. “There’s just not a lot of history of that working very well,” said Sen. Wyden, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which will be a starting point for the stimulus package on Capitol Hill. He suggested that infrastructure spending would have a “much bigger economic” impact, and cited a specific need for investments in high-speed rail.
Bloomberg News also notes the Demmies’ reaction as well:
President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package ran into turbulence in the U.S. Senate, where members of his own party criticized elements of the plan as ineffective.
Lawmakers, who met today with Obama advisers, took aim at a plan to withhold less from workers’ paychecks, tax incentives for businesses to hire new workers, and the share of the plan dedicated to tax cuts. Others said Obama’s plan wouldn’t do enough to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil while others called for more infrastructure spending.
Several lawmakers criticized a $140 billion proposal to give $500 to individuals and $1,000 to families by withholding less from their paychecks, saying it would do little to boost the economy. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, compared the idea with rebate checks sent last year by the Treasury Department, which he said were “largely a bust” in terms of boosting consumer demand.
It’s useful to remember that when Bill Clinton became President Democrats and others were hopeful there would be major change. But Clinton soon found that some of his plans ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from the Republican still-powerful minority plus huge problems with his own party in Congress. And thus triangulation was born.
Is Team Obama prepared to deal not only with GOPers who may be on the same page, but Democrats who want to turn the pages beyond the page Obama is pointing to?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.