There’s a pretty strong sense among Democrats in Washington that the Obama Administration is blissfully headed for an electoral iceberg that will sink it in a two-year morass of partisan gridlock, investigations and bickering. There is little hint that any serious thought is being given to changing course, and that is scaring the cognoscenti bigtime.
We’ve seen this movie, and it doesn’t end well for Leonardo Obama and company. When 60 percent of the country thinks we’re headed in the wrong direction, framing the election as “going forward versus backward” is not exactly a winner.
There’s still time for the President to recast this election. Time for him to acknowledge that he’s gotten out of step with those who elected him, and to put forward a program to stimulate the economy, change Washington, and strip the status-quo mindset from his Administration.
He’s your speech, Mr. President. Lock and load (and please lose the teleprompter).
My fellow Americans, I have asked to speak to you from the Oval Office this evening to do something that Presidents very rarely do. I want to apologize to you for taking my eye off of the fundamental reason you sent me to Washington nearly two years ago.
You sent me here to restore our economy and to bring real change to Washington. As you know, when I was elected, the economy was in free fall; financial institutions around the world were on the brink of collapse; and we faced the very real threat of a worldwide depression.
In our haste to pass legislation to stimulate the economy and stabilize our financial institutions, my Administration drew too heavily on the advice of those who got us into this mess, and those who were captive to the status quo in Washington and on Wall Street. We assumed that the way things have been done on Capitol Hill was the way things had to be done. We focused too much on preserving jobs on Wall Street and K Street, and not enough on creating jobs on Main Street.
From now on, that’s going to change. Tonight I am sending to Congress legislation that will stimulate job creation on Main Street, while restoring fiscal discipline for America’s future. The legislation I am proposing will cut in half the payroll tax for the next two years, allow businesses that put buildings or factories in service in the U.S. within the next three years to write off the full cost of those new investments over a five-year period, and keep the Bush tax cuts in effect for the next two years for families earning less than $500,000 per year. That will stimulate demand, and help at long last to put people back to work. Part of the cost of these cuts will be offset by a special surcharge on those earning more than $1,000,000 per year, and part by an end to government subsidies to firms with revenues greater than $5,000,000 per year.
At the same time, I will be asking Congress to enact real deficit caps beginning in 2013, which will fulfill my prior pledge to cut the deficit in half by 2015. I have already appointed a commission to make recommendations about cutting the deficit, and the enactment of these caps will force Congress to adopt these recommendations or come up with alternatives to put the nation on a path to fiscal responsibility. I want Congress to pass this legislation right away to give businesses the certainty they need to invest in creating jobs for America’s future.
We must also change the way business is done in Washington. I am tonight sending Congress legislation to enact the proposal I made in my State of the Union address to stop lobbyists and lobbying firms contributing to, or fund-raising for, members of Congress. Fund-raising is what gives lobbyists the special access they have enjoyed for too long. That special access must end, and I call on Congress to enact this simple reform to clean up the way Washington works.
I am also announcing tonight a number of personnel changes in my Administration. I have accepted with gratitude the resignations of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers. I have asked Paul Volcker to serve as Acting Treasury Secretary; I will be nominating FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair to serve as Deputy Treasury Secretary; and former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz to serve as National Economic Director. These three very distinguished public servants understand that our financial institutions exist to provide capital to businesses and individuals, not to line the pockets of senior executives who leveraged up their balance sheets with debt and put the entire economy in jeopardy. I have also asked Paul O’Neill, the former CEO of Alcoa who was forced out as Treasury Secretary in the prior Administration for opposing its reckless deficits, to serve as my special advisor for manufacturing and job creation. It’s time that we have someone in a senior position in this Administration who has created jobs on Main Street.
I will also be nominating Elizabeth Warren to serve as the director of the new consumer agency created by the financial services reform legislation. She has been the leading advocate for protecting consumers against predatory and unfair practices by banks, credit card companies, and other lenders, and she will do an excellent job in this important position.
My fellow countrymen and women, I want to close by saying that my Administration has accomplished quite a bit in the past 18 months, but we haven’t yet done what you elected me to do. With the initiatives and changes I am announcing today, we will restore the promise of my campaign and steer a new course toward a brighter and more prosperous future for all Americans. I won’t stop working until all of us are back at work.