Dan Middleton’s Political Punditry, Part II.

Dan’s latest dose of synthesis and analysis.

So here I am,looking at rain, wearing a sweater, and watching the leaves fade to yellow a bit more each day. Summer is over, and for President Obama the duel challenge of governing and campaigning will begin in earnest this week.

And not a moment too soon. With the European economy in serious trouble, and the U.S. economy struggling to maintain any kind of momentum, the Republican’s perverse fascination for austerity at the federal, state, and local level has been relentless and destructive (and of course, deliberate…as the saying goes, “just follow the money”). For different reasons, austerity either by choice (the Cameron coalition in the U.K.) or necessity (the Eurozone) is badly hurting economic growth, as government investment in people and projects shrinks. In times of acute economic stress, stimulus is the choice, regardless of the debt incurred, because economic growth is the best way to shrink debt over the long term by refilling meager coffers with tax revenue.

David Leonhardt, who writes elegantly and simply about economic matters reflected on the ideological split in this country between those who fear debt versus those who embrace stimulative spending. Obviously, Leonhardt favors stimulus:

“One of the tricky things about the subject is that almost nothing is certain in the way that, say, two plus two equals four. Economics — which is at root a study of human behavior — tends to be messier. Because it’s messier, it can be tempting to think that all uncertainty is equal and that we don’t really know anything. The earth is not perfectly round, of course. Some smokers will never get cancer, while most cancer is not caused by smoking. Yet in the ways that matter most, the earth is still round, and smoking does cause cancer. But we do. It’s just that the knowledge tends to come with caveats and nuances. Economic truths may not rise to the level of two plus two equals four, but they are not so different from the knowledge that the earth is round or that smoking causes cancer.”

So on Thursday evening, all eyes will be on the President at 7:30 PM EDT as he addresses Congress about our economic challenges and his proposals for the future. There has been much conversation about how confrontational he might be, or how ambitious his ideas should be. It is hard to know for sure, but his very well-received, feisty speech to thousands yesterday in Detroit gave some hopeful clues, particularly when he pointedly blamed Republicans in Washington for doing nothing about our economic perils as well as the Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio for their assault on unions. Remember that, sadly, the electorate voted for divided government last Fall so there is just so much the President can propose with any chance of passage.

But he did offer a few hints about his approach to Thursday’s speech yesterday when he told the crowd in Detroit:

“I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. And given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together.

“The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises. No more games. Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs; now is the time for them to worry about your jobs.””

“But we’re not going to wait for them. We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give them a plan, and then we’ll say, ‘Do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding America. Do you want to help our companies succeed? Open up new markets for them to sell their products. You say you’re the party of tax cuts? Well then, prove you’ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. Show us what you got.”

Now, I don’t expect him to be that confrontational speaking to Congress, though it would be great if he did after how badly behaved the Republicans have been towards him and the office he holds. Thinking about his upcoming speech, I found a quote I transcribed from a speech he gave to some autoworkers workers he gave not long ago in Toledo. It would be wonderful and effective if he could incorporate these sentiments into his crucial Thursday address:

“I want our future to be big and optimistic, not small and fearful. So we’ve got a lot of hard work that’s left to do, but we’re going to get there, and if anyone tells you otherwise, I want you to remember the improbable turn around that’s taken place here at Chrysler. I want you to remember all those voices who were saying, ‘No, we can’t.’ Because, Toledo, you showed that this was a good investment, betting on America’s workers. What we see here is a proud reminder that in difficult times, Americans, they dig deep; they recapture the toughness that makes us who we are: builders and doers, who’ve never stopped imagining a better future.”

That is a call to action forcefully stated. “I want our future to be big and optimistic, not small and fearful.” And that is the contrast between his vision for the future and that of the GOP I hope and expect he will present to the country on Thursday. Because that is what the whole “Tea Party Movement” is about–fearfulness, greedy, regressive, repressive and mean.

Just how crazy is the GOP? This from an ex-GOP staffer on Capitol Hill in the House and Senate has become a web sensation. Give it a read, because it shows just how far to the right Rick Perry and his fellow Limbaugh Republicans have gone. It would make a great script for a horror film.

More tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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