AT's political correspondent Rich Baehr has an excellent piece up at Pajamas Media this morning that correctly identifies the ridiculous strawman arguments made by the president in his speech last night:
About half of the money in the program announced tonight relates to continuation of existing programs that were due to expire - the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, and the 2% payroll tax cut for workers. In other words, they do not represent new money thrown into the economy, but simply not taking money out of it. This is very similar to the extension of the Bush tax cuts passed by the lame duck Congress in December 2010. Clearly that extension, the extension of unemployment benefits that was also passed at that time, and the 2% payroll tax cut that was created at that time have done very little to create new jobs in 2011. Zero jobs were created in August, a pathetic performance for an economy more than two years into the weakest recovery in a century. The reality is that the repeated stimulus efforts have failed on the consumer side because Americans became overleveraged during the housing boom and have used any new cash from temporary tax cut measures or federal spending programs to pay down personal debt.
But there is a second side to the current economic sluggishness. Why are big companies, which have been recording solid profits and accumulating lots of cash, not hiring? That is a question the president addressed tonight through one of his favorite techniques - by offering as the alternative to his approach a collection of absurd strawman positions suggesting the other side (the Republicans) want the end of government, a position favored by no one other than perhaps a Paul or two.
Some of those strawmen are so ridiculous, it's amazing that the president would think anyone would believe him. Said Obama:
"Ask yourselves - where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn't had that chance?
How many Republicans don't support the G.I. Bill? Or funding schools? Or constructing and maintaining highways and bridges?
It's nonsense. Sure there are a few libertarians and nihilists who are opposed to just about all government spending, but the vast majority of Republicans want good government, smaller government, more responsive and transparent government - not "no government" as the president accuses.
Read the rest of Rich's piece for a good summary of why the president's plan won't work.