In hectoring Congress to do exactly what he wants, President Obama reverted to Candidate Obama, repeating simple themes and sharp rhetoric. "Pass this bill…or else."
And yet, what the president is proposing is nothing new, but simply another round of government spending that did nothing to fix the economy. We were promised that if the first stimulus bill were passed, unemployment would fall below 8.2 percent. Given that unemployment has only grown, it is not surprising that President Obama would avoid the word "stimulus" at all costs—even if the policies he talked about last night are just that.
As the crack research team at the Republican National Committee amply documented, countless news outlets--the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Detroit News, New York Post and many others (they've listed news organizations like Howard Dean reeled off states) have all pointed out that the president's speech was all about stimulus and contained nothing new.
As the Chicago Tribune, the president's hometown paper wrote this morning in an editorial titled "The Wrong Stimulus:"
President Barack Obama didn't use the S-word even once Thursday evening, but his American Jobs Act proposals to grow U.S. employment fully qualify as another stimulus package. … We view as sincere — and not just self-protection — Obama's effort to help those who are out of work. But we've witnessed the failure of Keynesian stimulus programs to dent this nation's jobs crisis. This is the wrong time for a president to tell Americans, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to spend.'
And yet that is exactly what the president is threatening. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," as it were.
In fairness, no bill has been presented to Congress yet. "The president is gonna draft the legislation," Valerie Jarrett admitted on The Rachel Maddow Show after Thursday night's speech. In that sense, Stimulus II is similar to the pending trade agreement with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea; despite the president's threats, they cannot be moved forward until the president actually introduces them.
Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have struck cooperative tones, speaking of finding common ground with the newly combative president. But there is no way Congress passes a bill simply to find out what is in it.
And from the president's own words we do know this much: it's another round of stimulus spending, pure and simple.