Thursday, February 26, 2009

When the President Speaks, You better Listen, Part II

All my favorite highlights from the speech were making the post kind of long, so I thought I'd start a new one to talk about the speech itself.

The delivery was excellent, as we have come to expect from this president. But more than being inspirational, the speech was very personal. Several commentators mentioned that it was similar to FDR's "Fireside Chats". Even in its most soaring moments, it felt like the President was addressing me, touching on every one of my concerns over the financial trouble and the future of the country and the stimulus and the bailout. He was frank, honest, up-front, and determined. And that was just what I needed him to be.

The purpose of the speech, with the big ceremony and the full attention of the media was of course to settle nerves in a jittery economy. As everyone who came to our talk with Roisin O'Sullivan knows, confidence is the big unknown variable in the recovery. Confident investors, spenders, and lenders can make the nation recover far faster than just government investment alone. So President Obama was trying to relax us, and focus us on the work ahead, and he did an excellent job.

CBS News' poll reactions show that Obama's approval rating jumped 17% after the speech, from 63% to 80% and CNN reported that 68% of the people watching the speech had a "very positive" reaction, and 24% had a "Somewhat positive" reaction (though note on the CNN poll that those numbers skew Democratic, as it's mostly Democrats who tune in to watch a Democratic preisdent speak).

Some of the things that got prominent play in the speech were things we had seen before. The assurance that 95% of Americans will not see a tax increase, the importance of re-starting lending and helping home-owners dealing with foreclosure, the pledge for tuition assistance for students who commit to serve their communities, the insistence on some form of post-high school training for workers (including college, community college, technical apprenticeships, whatever, just something!). But some of it was new.

The BIG NEW THING was his pledge on health care. Specifically the President insisted that Health care reform was going to happen, and it was going to happen right away. He also promised that he's going to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Big talk considering that the deficit for his new budget is going to be $1.75 trillion. But this is a president who has never shied away from big commitments.

With popularity on the rise the president had a good base to introduce
his budget and other programs that have rolled out on Wednesday and Thursday. The new budget redirects huge streams of spending toward's the President's priorities that he campaigned on: Healthcare, Education, and Energy (which was mentioned prominently in the speech), to be paid for through raising taxes on that top 5%, having surcharges for pollution and cutting so called "mandatory spending" things like Farm Subsidies (hint: this is a signal that we are no longer in the Iowa primaries).

The speech laid out some major commitments, the new budget carried through on them, but it remains to be seen how congress is going to react. With 80% approval ratings, it's easy to assume that many who would otherwise shy away from this kind of outlay may suddenly become supporters, but it's hard to know for sure what will happen.

We'll wait and see, and TDL, as always, will be there to cover it for you.