Politics

Obama Sells Economic Snake Oil

President Obama returned to form in his prime-time address on Tuesday as this nation’s premier seller of economic snake oil.
In the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, Obama argued for massive subsidies for renewable energy and wants to use the Gulf oil disaster to shove an “energy and climate” bill, which is to say some form of a carbon tax, down the throats of taxpayers.
Obama touted an increase in green energy-related jobs and other efficiency-related trends in America from the “stimulus,” seeming to forget that those jobs came at a steep cost.

While voluntary gains in efficiency are a good idea, Obama laid out the framework for a boondoggle which could make Obamacare’s costs look small in comparison, saying that renewable energy has the potential to grow our economy “but only if we accelerate that transition, only if we seize the moment.”  

He touted the Waxman-Markey “energy and climate” bill and admitted that “there are costs associated with this transition.”  He then argued against claims that we can’t afford the costs by saying we can’t afford not to take on the costs.  In typically progressive style, Obama said the one thing he won’t accept is inaction on this issue, ignoring the obvious fact that doing nothing would be better than implementing a bad plan. 
Obama said that he wants to make “clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.” This is perhaps the most dangerous sentence of his presidency. 
There are two ways to make clean energy, which is inherently inefficient with today’s technology, profitable:  one way is to transfer massive amounts of money to inefficient producers of energy, the other is to tax energy-dense fossil fuels so heavily that they become unprofitable.  In either case, the consumer and taxpayer will suffer cost of living increases which make health insurance costs pale in comparison.
Trying to whip up some sort of wartime nationalistic spirit, Obama argued that people who say we can’t move to his renewable energy utopia are analogous to those who said we “could not produce enough planes and tanks in World War II” or doubted we could land a man on the moon.  He pressed on with calls for shaping our destiny even if “we’re unsure exactly what that looks like, even if we don’t yet know how we’re going to get there.”  It’s textbook progressive rhetoric: metaphors of war used to foment desire for action – any action, at any cost.  Let’s hope a few Gulf Coast Democrats side with a united Republican caucus in the Senate to block what Harry Reid is likely to propose: the biggest and most destructive tax hike in our nation’s history.  A few pretty words in a mercifully short speech should not be the foundation on which our nation’s economic gallows are built.
“For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels… Time and again the way forward has been blocked.” Obama said that China is investing in “clean energy jobs that should be right here in America.” Somehow he forgot to note that China is drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Northern coast of Cuba.
After trotting out some of the usual canards against oil, and then mixing in the tragedy of what is happening to the Gulf Coast, Obama returned to his threadbare “now is the moment” rhetoric: “Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.” 
Extremely pretty words of a most generic sort.
While Obama’s speech about the Gulf oil disaster contained almost no new information, most of it was delivered with a level of confidence which had been noticeably absent in recent weeks.  Even if viewers were slightly distracted by Obama’s constant talking with his hands, the tone of his voice and manner of his speech were presidential for the first time during the Deepwater Horizon crisis. 
Unfortunately, as is typical of this President, the content of the speech was a lot less impressive than the sound of his voice.
He noted that the depth of the leak “has tested the limits of human technology”  while taking credit, as he’s done for weeks, for “directing BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology” and reminding people that a relief well scheduled for August may be what it takes to stop the leak permanently.
Obama said that the spill is “like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”  He emphasized that the government will “fight the spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage the company has caused. And will do whatever is necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”
The President repeated recent talking points about utilizing 30,000 workers and thousands of ships to contain the oil. He also said he’s authorized the deployment of 17,000 National Guard troops to help with everything from cleanup to helping process claims against BP.  Obama was at his least credible when repeating that recent oil collection was “because of our efforts.”
Along with his “epidemic” statement, Obama made his first real attempt at rational expectations management by reminding people “there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.”
In perhaps the strongest moment of his speech, Obama talked about people he met in those coastal areas of Louisiana and Alabama: “The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost.  It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost. I refuse to let that happen.”
From his most empathetic, the President moved immediately to his most dictatorial: 
“Tomorrow I will meet with the Chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.”  To be clear, BP is not a victim here; they are a company which has a rap sheet as long as your arm when it comes to safety and other rule violations.  This disaster is BP’s fault.  But for a President to “inform” a CEO that he “is to” do something smacks of the rhetoric of Hugo Chavez.
Obama said that he has tasked the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, a “son of the Gulf Coast” to “develop a long term Gulf Coast restoration plan as soon as possible” in consultation with various local stakeholders. “And BP will pay for the impact this spill will have on the region.”  If I were BP’s lawyers, despite the public statements by BP’s CEO that the company will pay all cleanup costs and other “legitimate claims,” I’d be gearing up for a fight with the Obama Administration over just what "legitimate" means.
Obama “wants to know why” the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, so he’s “established a national commission” to find out and suggest new federal drilling standards.  Obama said he has “already issued a six-month moratorium on deep water drilling” adding “I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs.” 
But with claims of “for their safety,” he didn’t back away from the moratorium despite its extreme unpopularity with Gulf Coast politicians of both parties.  This statement was perhaps the most out-of-touch of his speech as it showed a complete lack of understanding of the economic ripple effects of non-functioning oil rigs.  It isn’t just the people who work “on the rigs” who lose their income, but all the companies and people who support the rigs and their employees with services, products, food, and entertainment, who will go broke waiting for a bureaucratic commission to write rules. 

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