President Obama's much anticipated speech outlining his jobs agenda for the 2012 election year will sound a lot like a tiny mouse trying to make a loud roar. Instead of clarity, we'll get hedging; instead of "bold," we'll get wishy-washy. The principal aim of the speech will be to divert attention away from his administration's failure to hold to account the Wall Street perpetrators of the housing bubble/mortgage scam that ransacked the middle class.
One big idea that's been kicking around is a payroll tax holiday. That action might mollify some Republicans and put some chump change in people's pockets but it will also drain cash out of Social Security thereby giving Pete Peterson and his anti-New Deal chorus more ammunition in their decades-old project of tearing apart the social contract. Besides, how can Obama repeat the Republican mantra that deficits are akin to Armageddon only to turn around and offer up a tax "holiday?" He's probably going to say anything the average Ohio "swing" voter wants to hear. He'll offer more poll-tested boilerplate (and unattainable boilerplate given the hostility of Congress). He won't come out definitively in favor of the workers who are fighting for their lives in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere.
The president has already shown that his administration will offer little help to the 14.6 million Americans who've been stuck with mortgages based on fraudulent real estate prices. His administration's attempts to stymie New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's efforts to go after mortgage fraud is just more evidence that Obama is not serious about addressing the crisis. Schneiderman represents the last hope that some of the crooks on Wall Street might at long last be confronted. He believes the current deal the Obama Justice Department and other state attorneys general are working out with the giant banks is far too generous and gives up far too much, (which pretty much sums up Obama's "negotiating" style). The Obama "deal" allows the most corrupt banks to purchase immunity from prosecution.
The Democrats have an invertebrate as their leader. Or maybe he desired this outcome from the start, an elaborate hoax designed to channel the populist anger away from his patrons on Wall Street.
The heroic efforts of progressives in Wisconsin and Ohio are getting little more than lip service from the Obama administration which is intent on coddling banks and speculators even in the face of mounting evidence from whistle blowers, reporters, and even members of Congress that the criminality on Wall Street is far more pervasive than previously imagined. The mortgage fraud crisis must be staunched before there can be any serious "jobs" program. But Obama won't go there. He wants Wall Street's campaign cash and thinks his soft touch toward the banks will shake it loose.
Obama spent most of 2010 either capitulating to the Republicans or beating down his own base. Now he appears surprised when millions of his supporters are less than enthusiastic. Calling on progressives to "grow up" and accept Obama's jellyfish leadership, as CNN's Fareed Zakaria recently did, is a one-dimensional and elitist take on the current political context, which is (of course) naturally considered "conventional wisdom" inside the Beltway.
Even when most Americans agree with the views of Obama's progressive base, such as not cutting Social Security and Medicare, taxing the rich and corporations, and shutting down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he distances himself from those who played the biggest role in electing him.
People were not "naïve" to think that Obama was going to do something for ripped-off mortgage holders given his rhetorical flourishes during the 2008 campaign. But since he already elevated his rhetoric to the stratosphere in 2008, the 2012 election is shaping up to be a Jerry Seinfeld election about nothing, even with all of the suffering out there.
Even if Obama manages to squeak out a second term we can expect more of the same: "tough" talk followed by caving in to Republican demands. If you think Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was bad, just wait until he's the Majority Leader. Obama's second term will look more like George W. Bush's third term.
The hottest places in hell are reserved for politicians who come on like gangbusters when they want to be elected only to throw their followers over the cliff after attaining their goal of winning.
Obama can't really do anything about jobs with a hostile Congress, but he could at least draw stark contrasts with his Republican opponents. The world's largest economy sits dead in the water awaiting a failed (yet lauded) private sector to save us -- kind of like an abused spouse cringing in the bathroom hoping (and waiting passively) for the abuser to stop drinking and turn a new leaf.
Obama has already surrendered the narrative to the Republicans by 1). Embracing their views on debt and deficits; and 2). Capitulating to their every demand. When will the free ride of the Wall Street banks at the country's expense be over?
Follow Joseph A. Palermo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JosephPalermo1
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