AMERICAN CURIOSITY

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By: Wayne Brown


Much of America was glued to the computer, radio, or television last night to hear President Obama address the joint session of Congress. The buildup to the moment in the media has simply left too many curious as to what was left to be said after we witnessed weeks and weeks of debate over the debt ceiling issue just recently. The President’s actions in the prior weeks to this address also helped to add to the mystery of it all. As they, curiosity killed the cat, and so it was for much of America…curiosity.


The President opened the speech by informing Americans that we are and have been in a crisis situation with our economy and unemployment for some time now. He basically pointed out that it is a dilemma we cannot wait any longer to address. He cited the roughly 25 million Americans who are now out of work, many of whom have been out of work for months now. He cited the need to provide an economic environment in which these Americans can find meaningful employment, have money in their pockets, and inject that money back into the economy to spur it on. In the process, he also decried the selfish, political climate of Washington as the primary factor as to why this problem lingers as it does. He challenged the members of Congress to look beyond the political moment and make some decisions which would get America on the road to recovery. Of course, the thrust of his emphasis was the intent for Congress to get off its butt and pass the bill which he was hawking in the speech.


In some ways, the President touched on some good things in this speech. He recognized that the private sector which be motivated if we are to recover economically. He recognized that small businesses play a significant role in creating the job demand which is necessary to put so many people back to work. In doing so, he stopped short of restating that it was government role to create jobs…a concept the American public is tired of hearing. It was somewhat refreshing to hear the President actually recognize some aspects of what really makes capitalism work in our society.


The President went on to talk about cutting payroll taxes both for the employee and the employer. He talked about tax credits for small business that either hire new employees or give raises to their existing ones. All of this he noted would put money back into the pockets of Americans with jobs and potentially create some job opportunities for those without jobs. The end result would be a surge in consumer spending and more money circulating in the economy eventually stimulating revenue streams back to the government coffers. The President then went on to talk about infrastructure investment in roads, bridges, and transportation systems as well as in the physical facilities of 35,000 schools in America. Again, the focus was on work which would provide jobs for those seeking them.


As all the various points came to light, there was much cheering in the Chambers of Congress as the President again and again challenged his colleagues to “pass this bill”. Each time a new aspect of the bill was announced, the challenge came forth along with the supporting statement that everything in the bill was “paid for”. When the presentation was complete, it was reemphasized how important it was to “pass this bill” as if to say, “hey, the money is already there, all you have to do is appropriate it for the items specified.” Unfortunately, I am afraid that is not the case unless either the President or Congress is willing to complete the tedious task of going through government expenditures line item by line item to uncover waste and fraud to find such funds. Otherwise, this is just more deficit spending which adds bulk to the national debt.


Unfortunately, the President ignored one of the largest speed bumps to recovery which has been there from early on in his administration. The President did address some tax relief at the payroll level and some tax incentives for new employees which was positive. He also indicated that some regulations would be relaxed although he was reluctant to give much detail in this area. This too will help. The one area he stayed away from which shines like a dead armadillo on a moonlit highway was healthcare reform. This is an area which is most certainly an obstacle to economic recovery. Even though it has not been implemented, the effect is already in place.


Small businesses fear the healthcare reform and what comes with it. On that basis, they are reluctant to add employees or expand their business interest for fear they will need to cash reserves to meet the requirements of this legislation. The President offered no relief or alternatives in his plan for this concern. In retrospect, even if the other items in the plan have some positive impact, the real strength of the American economic engine will not fire unless this legislation is addressed. To ignored that fact is to ignore one of the best opportunities available to get America working once again. Unfortunately, the President considers healthcare to be off-limits when he considers everything else to be on the table.


There are those pundits who speculate that this speech was simply a “political gesture” to set the stage for Obama’s second campaign for the Presidency. The plan provides the parameters for the President to run against the failings of Congress to enact his plan thus he does not have to run on the merits of his first-term which is problematic. If indeed the Congress elects to pass some form of this proposed plan, then the President has a platform to claim that he has put in place things to begin moving America back to economic strength. Either way, he has a stronger platform in place as long as the plan does not fail too soon.


I will give the President the benefit of the doubt and hope that he is truly interested in turning the economy around. Much more will come to light when he exposes the details of his plan in the coming days. At the same time, I think the President is making a very big mistake in hanging on to the healthcare reform legislation. Ultimately, I believe it was be a singular component in defeating his attempts to restart the economy. Ultimately, I believe that while America shows curiosity as to what the President is thinking, I believe American business is still looking at a picture that is too unstable for their taste. In the final analysis, I believe the one item which President Obama has protected, healthcare reform, will not be his legacy, it will be his downfall politically and economically.



© Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved.


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Comments 25 comments

EpowerGuy profile image

EpowerGuy 5 years ago from Benicia, CA

It's funny how people hang on one issue, an issue presented by one side of the political spectrum for their selfish interests, namely health care. It's silly to assume this issue undercuts everything else. The US would be much better off cost wise and otherwise with a public care system so everyone from businesses to unions would have none of this issue to play with - but I digress.

Your question about curiosity is an interesting one. Not sure why people aren't willing to be more curious about newer and more interesting ideas. Many small companies take advantage, for example, of the equivalent of "payday" loans when they need access to cash. By small companies I mean very small companies, like the ones on Main Streets. Financial institutions use these services to charge horrible fees, engage merchants in deceptive practices, etc. But it can be the only way that cash is available. SBA loans aren't available to most small businesses because we don't have the credit.

And my point is: how come no one is curious about these aspects of businesses and incentives, etc.?

Instead of focusing so much on silly Obama quirks and the hatred of all things socially justice and collaborative, focus on the curiosity of opportunity.

Our future would be better and conversations would be more productive.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@EpowerGuy...I think there are folks on both sides of the aisle who would tend to agree with you on some aspects presented here. From my perspective, I believe that a viable healthcare system is important to our population but not one run by the government per se...I see nothing in the history of the government's performance to warrant it running our healthcare. As with the economy, the government is in a position relative to healthcare that allows it prescribe some legislation affecting issues such a pre-existing conditions and rate management across the industry. Competition is a good thing most of the time and the same is true in the healthcare industry. Ultimately, government run healthcare focuses on providing healthcare for those who do not have any at all or elect not to provide it for themselves. Ultimately, that becomes nothing more than yet another social program which loads the costs on those who do work and who do pay taxes. In this process, we are basically abandoning Medicare without even the attempt at fixing it. I think that is a huge mistake. The implications of government run healthcare are great. At what point does government intervention into private business stop? If they can dictate healthcare this year...what is next. I think these are the fears small business people are haboring along with having to deal with miserable cash flow levels from poor consumer spending. With regard to your concept of "pay day" loans, I have known a few businesses who have taken advantage of such programs basically mortgaging their credit card receivable against ready cash on a discounted basis. That seems to work early on to solve the immediate problem but long-term it continues to constrain the cash-flow even more. I recently participated in a local effort here in a small town to get merchants together and form an association...sort of a precursor to a Chamber of Commerce. Much effort went into canvassing the various merchants and business people to participate without much success. Ultimately, these people were too busy running their own business and wrestling the problems to take the time to try to work together...it's a tough cookie getting people to embrace change or their approach to things. Thanks for the good comments. WB


EpowerGuy profile image

EpowerGuy 5 years ago from Benicia, CA

In general your comments are good about healthcare and competition, but they haven't been proven to play out well. We definitely need a new form of "double" bottom line caregiving, for sure, but there is no question it will not work without government being more than a policy-shaper. Medicare, VA, hell, even school-based health clinics prove that something viable can be built. With regressivists (the opposite of those who favor progress) just spend so much time falling backwards that they don't let the refinement of time and collaboration work, so we as a culture never get to have the chance to find the gold at the end of the rainbow of wellness.

That said, thanks for the rest. Your experience shows again why "Impact Investing" needs to happen for Main Street America too, which is likewise a good use of learning and refining. Your comments on the payday loans are right on and prove why we could use community banks, NGOs, local governments, even creative entrepreneurs and technology to take this solution and GIIN it up for success! (By GIIN I mean as in GIIN.org. Check it out if not familiar. Or look at The New Rules Project.)


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@EpowerGuy...I don't know...we have one of the finest healthcare infrastructures in the world with some of the best doctors in the world. The issue is not the quality of care or how well the sytem is run, it is a function of affordability more than anything else. In essence, very few of us can really afford it if it comes down to paying out of our own pocket. That is the basis for insurance. I am much more in favor of seeing some level of reform in the insurance industry as opposed to allowing the government to basically take a straggle hold on the medical profession. Eventually, this will result in nothing more than the entire system lapsing into mediocrity as has been proven with education and other items in which the government is far too involved. We have a banking system which just got it hands slapped and is getting more legal action from the government for basically taking advangtage of something the government under the Clinton Administration put into play with the modifications to the Fair Housing Act...we end up a falsely inflated market populated with people who cannot afford what they have bought and all of is guaranteed on the back of Freddie and Fannie...all done with government guidance in an attempt to show that homeownership is a "right" and not an "opportunity". No, in my mind the federal government has already made itself the center of our universe which it should not be. The handling of money such as Social Security and MediCare, which by all rights should have been hands-off trust funds, speaks volumes about the government's inability to properly manage anything. The laws enacted under the LBJ Adminstration gave the government full access to these funds and basically turned both programs into nothing more than Ponzi schemes which the government will get away with until around 2025 when the revenue shortfalls in the programs finally catch up to the level of "borrowed funds". Being progressive within the private sector is one thing...allowing the government to function as a progressive entity is quite another...some call it socialism. WB


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

The other thing Obama finally acknowledged is that we are not in the economic recovery he has been claiming since last year's 'Recovery Summer'. In fact, he has finally admitted that the economy is very bad, and that his trillion dollar stimulus was a failure.

That in itself is a start. What he should also admit is that his policies are all failures and that he should do what works, like putting Obamacare on hold for at least ten years, or even better, by repealing the monster altogether. That alone would jump-start the economy.


EpowerGuy profile image

EpowerGuy 5 years ago from Benicia, CA

Wrong on just about every front. But I'm sure Glen Beck is happy you weren't sleeping through his commercials.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

The whole thing would have been much better had the detailed plan been presented prior to or with the speech. The cry for urgency in signing this blank piece of paper most likely fell on deaf ears. There were good ideas presented, no doubt about it. But the statement that it is all paid for leaves me wondering how this can happen.


EpowerGuy profile image

EpowerGuy 5 years ago from Benicia, CA

The Super Committee is going to figure out how to fit it in. Why would he not take this route since that group could otherwise cut it all out anyway. So he's trying to use the built-in idiocy of this group in a way some might think it should be used. But then again, many people don't want government solutions (which a committee of this nature is) to work anyway; they just want them to be available to bitch about. It seems to me a "fair and balanced" way to ensure their is money in the bank to cover the checks.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Thanks for an informative hub. I was hoping you would write a summary. And who else could use such descriptive phrases: dead armadillo on a moonlit highway.

I must admit I was watching the NFL season opener - Saints and Packers' game.


EpowerGuy profile image

EpowerGuy 5 years ago from Benicia, CA

Hummm. My comments are getting linked to some of the wrong things. Wayner, I do appreciate what you said. But there is no way to seperate good business and good government and good enterpreneurism. In fact, we should strive for a balance of all, and particularly in the areas of the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (which actually meant entrepreneurism in the olden days, by the way). What's called Impact Investing is this, using new ways of thinking. I have no problem with each sector having influences here and there but together they all make for a better recipe. I think, in time, Medicare and other government based community and system health care options could learn to be efficient. In the past, prior to technology, the game was different. We should now be on the side of the possibilities of collaboration and make for the best socialistic answer available. I have fewer problems with the "s" word, though I recognized some evil early media folks hurt the concept pretty severely. We just need to push through that prejudice and built a new vision of a workable future that care for its people. Thanks for the commentary.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Hi, Wayne. Excellent summary of Obama's tired jobs plan. He proposed much of this last year, too. Was anyone besides me watching Hilary Clinton sitting in the front row during Obama's speech. The only time she stood to applaud heartily was at the end of the speech. Probably delighted it was over!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I could not sit through more than half of this speech but I don't think I missed much.I see the president as being much like a religious fanatic that keeps pushing his beliefs despite all evidence that they are false.He thinks his methods will create jobs even though it has failed so far and has failed historically.But true believers cannot be moved in another direction.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I watched the speech and I was not at all impressed. Telling Congress to pass the bill 17 times sounded empty and desperate and frankly stupid. Where is this bill? Can we hold it our hands? Can we read it? Apparently not. It's time for real answers not smoke and mirrors. If Obama had come before the American people and said that Obamacare would be repealed, that would have been meaningful. If he would have admitted that Obamacare is too expensive and not the answer to our problems, that would have been something. If he said that he was open to anything that will being our nation back from the brink, that would have something. If he agreed to lower taxes across the board and let people and business breathe, that would have been something. Up interesting and awesome.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

The point about eliminating uncertainty is a good one, and seems to have been missed by your commentors. Most succesful businessmen will not go forward without understanding the cost risks associated with a new system. In my mind it is not fair to look at the bill in front of you and say 'look this is paid for' while at the same time we know about the unpaid pile of bills in the background. Thats what unbalances a budget.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Will Starr & Old Poolman...Thanks to both of you...solid comments. WB

@EpowerGuy....I don't disagree that we must have some balance between good business, good government, and good economics. For now, I think we are way out of balance and government is far too dominant in the process and far too surpressing of both business and economics in the process. We need government in order to speak and act with one voice, provide infrastructure, and defend us against attack. Beyond those levels, I have little use for the intervention into our lives. Most of that intervention has been the spending of taxpayer money to buy some politician a place in American history..."The Great Society", etc. Too much of our money is squandered on legacy and buying voting blocks for my satisfaction. Too many people look to the government for too many things...that is a dependence just as if it were an addiction. We certainl need to help our fellow man who needs help but the government does not have to be the entity through which it is done. I think your point is that we all need to work together at "our various levels" in a more cooperative manner to insure that things get better" rather than to look to the government or anywhere else first. I agree with that but we also have to be cognizant that the regulations and fees government continues to put into place slowly chokes the private sector's ability to step up and take risks which in the end makes the whole nation less competitive. Again, we come back to politicians playing to interest groups for votes...a great example is the environment and the EPA...totally out of control and no politician will go near turning it back. WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Truckstop Sally...I can't say as I blame you on the game watching...I heard that both teams were terrific! As I point out, curiosity was more the driving force for me. I wanted to see if Obama was really willing to push a level playing field out. He stopped short of that not going near his legacy...healthcare reform, which has the private sector spooked. In effect, he may be making things worse in that he is reducing the potential revenue stream of the government through payroll tax deductions and tax writeoff for businesses. If the private sector remains stymied and consumer confidence remains low...which it will if jobs do not materialize, then the end result is the government will have even less money on hand. Businesses in the private sector everyday are voicing their concerns over healthcare reform. Also, the other other shoe has yet to fall as to how things are to be paid for but the speculation is that taxes may be going up on the corporate side through loss of capital equipment depreciation on some items and closure of loopholes. Some of this may fly but in other cases it may backfire and actually surpress some associated industries causing a drop in sales and job layoffs. We have seen that before. WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@drbj...I think Hilary has to be weighing things as to her fate. If she leaves this administration, she drops out of the public eye for four years and maybe actually be a bit too old to run in 2016. Then there is either the prospect of running against Obama or joining him on the ticket to attempt to shore up some support, something which she does not relish but must admit would keep her in the public eye. Otherwise, her options may lie with some of the world organizations. I must also comment that it was quite a distraction watching Obama speak with those two "sad sacks" sitting behind him on each side. Boehner has proved only one thing since the mid-term elections and that is that the old guard Republicans are not going to allow any new blood to push for change from the status quo of spend, spend, spend. Thanks, Doc. WB

@dahoglund...You tend to mirror Will Starr's position, DA. Obama is not about to admit to failing although he came mighty close in pointing out the current situation in our economy. By this time he should know that "money" is not the solution yet he is unwilling to unbridle the private sector for fear that he will not get credit for the recovery. I think this was nothing more than a political move designed to set him up to run his second campaign against his opponents in Congress claiming that his plan would work if they did not oppose it...it beats running on his past record. WB

@breakfastpop...Yes, Poppy...we can never let a good disaster go to waste...always consistent in that area and always with a sense of high urgency. This way we can avoid getting caught up in the details...same old politics. WB

@FitnezzJim...That has been the key point of several of my articles. There is too much uncertainty in the private sector from top to bottom right now and very much so in the small business sector which is suffering greatly from cash flow shortages as consumer confidence continues to languish. Fuel, higher cost of foods at the grocery store, etc. are taking a greater and greater share of the money out of the pockets of those who still have a job. Healthcare reform is still a large obstacle talked of frequently in the private sector as too uncertain to risk any gambles on in terms of expansion or growth. At the same time, the banking system has been raked over the coals and continues to be plagued by government regulation which surpresses any desire to loan money to small business...as a result both are suffering greatly. Obama has taken a half measure here which if enacted will only reduce the government revenue stream and pile up more debt leaving unemployment to a continued stagnation. WB


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

I also watched the speech and wasn't impressed for the most part. Now we wait 10 days for more details. His example of Buffet was stupid as he probably lives off his investments and not a paycheck like his secretary. I can't argue that there are many tax loopholes that need to be fixed however. The healthcare bill needs to go and another one designed that can work without breaking the back of companies. I like your summary overall and hope that both sides of the aisle will come together for the good of our country. As for Obama, that was a campaign speech just like all the rest.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Pamela99...Great to hear from you as I have not seen you around. I agree totally with your assessment. This guy has not a clue as to what to do and he is surrounded by people who only know and want a socialist state with big government at the center and everyone sharing a pie that gets smaller every time another person shows up for a slice of it. My wife works in commercial real estate leasing and property management for a group of investors. One of the properties that she controls here in Texas is a large executive two-story home in a high end neighborhood. This home leases for almost $2000 a month. Recently, it was without a resident and she received a call on it wanting to know if she would accept a "Section 8" client as a resident. We didn't know much about that program but investigated it enough to find out that it was a program in which the government pays around 95% of a person's rent if that person can show that they have no income. Apparently, no one checks to see what the person is renting. Later, I began checking around and found that most of the apartment complexes on my side of town are now Section 8 approved. This side of town was quiet and well-established until that happened. Now, the crime levels around those apartments is out of sight and it is going into the neighborhoods more and more each year. Some of the apartments who been so damaged that the city forced them to be closed and torn down. This is what the government does for us with our tax dollars. WB


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Wayne interesting take and voted up, I was left with media replays via internet video, I might should hook up a TV. It came down to a campaign speech from what I saw and heard [my opinion]. Your spot on over healthcare still the wolf keeping business expansion out of play. Same stuff different teleprompter writer, dust

The video was funny and right on the mark in showing how many do teach and practice business admin. funny funny


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@50 Caliber...Thanks, Dusty. Sometimes I want to unhook my television! I had much rather watch a Ronald Reagan moment. WB


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Wayne I had a Ronald Reagan video of a speech of standing on a manure pile that busted me up laughing, I'll see if I have it still and send it, if I didn't already. He was an entertaining speaker that you could listen to and not feel "butt hurt" afterward, LOL,

Peace Amigo,

dust


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Wayne as always a great article. Our President has a knack to "misrepresents the facts - aka 'mispeak.'" To wit:

An enormous percentage of taxes are payed by a minority of "rich" Americans:

The Top 1% of taxpayers pay 29% of all taxes.

The Top 5% of taxpayers pay 50% of all taxes.

The solution is simple. Lower corporate income tax. Provide an incentive for corporate America to bring back their "foreign" corporations and declare and pay American taxes.

By-the-way... Warren Buffet, the president's "poster boy" has with-held over 1 billion in unpaid taxes pending court litigation... (public record).


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Wayne did the video come through? I'm not sure I have the current g mail address, dust


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@50 Caliber...I got the video Dusty...that was really a great story and only Ronald Reagan could tell it like that with a little grin of his. Thanks much! WB

@dallas93444...Obama is just lucky that Buffet is still for some unknown reason a democrat. For all of his smarts about money, that one eludes me. Your points are good ones, thanks much! WB

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