Opening remarks: "Tax cuts alone" can't create jobs, he says.
Last I heard 40% of the stimulus package was going to tax cuts.
After passing both the House and Senate the $827 billion package will go to a conference committee to hammer out their differences. The Senate put in more tax cuts than the House did. The Senate cut out alot of money for aid to states who are in fiscal crisis.
I wrote the members of Maine's Congressional delegation tonight asking them to take out the $50 billion nuclear industry subsidy. They won't do it.
In his opening remarks Obama said nothing about the military budget which is eating up the vast majority of every tax dollar.
The first question to him from the media asked if he was being too negative about the state of the economy - essentially scaring people. "I'm absolutely confident we can solve this problem, but we are going to have to take some significant steps," Obama replied.
One significant step does not appear to be cutting the Pentagon budget.
He is falling into the Republicans trap about responding to their criticisms that government should not be spending so much money.
He should go on the offensive and talk about the cost of two wars and the 50% increase in military spending during the Bush years and make the point that we have to move money from there into creating green jobs - we need to create an industrial base that will lay a solid foundation for creating jobs. That means mass transit systems, wind turbines, solar and more which would require massive investment. Obama and Congress are only throwing pennies at these technologies.
The second question is about Iran. His response: "Iran's actions have been unhelpful when it comes to promoting peace and prosperity around the world....we will be looking for openings.....it's not going to happen overnight....a nuclear Iran could set off a nuclear arms race in the region that could be unstable [nothing said about Israel's nuclear weapons]."
Third question about bi-partisanship in Congress. He gets defensive saying "I didn't underestimate" the difficulties of working with the Republicans....He complains once again about Congress "playing the usual games". He just slammed the Republicans for presiding over a "doubling of the national debt" but doesn't mention that alot of that was the cost of two wars and legions of expensive high-tech weapons systems.
His answers are much too long. He comes across as argumentative and lecturing. He sounds frustrated already.
4th question - consumer spending - should people who gets tax cuts save or spend? Does not answer directly but says once we get stabilized we are going to have to make serious cuts (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) because "there is no such thing as a free lunch."
5th question - don't we have to give the banks more money to really solve the credit crisis? "My immediate task is to make sure that the second half of the money ($350 billion of the original bank bailout) must not be wasted."
It's clear that trying to put band-aids on capitalism's collapse just won't cut it. We need major systemic reform and neither Obama nor the Congress are going anywhere near that task.
He keeps talking about the economy "growing again" but we must ask - grow from what? What do we make in this country? We are a nation of paper pushers and service industries. How can we grow when we don't have an industrial base (other than military) to create jobs for people?
A question on Iraq. Four GI's killed in Iraq today. He calls them "our fallen heroes." "We are reviewing policies now." Shortest answer of the night.
Afghanistan - Obama says the government there is "detached" which is code language for we need to change the leadership. "Through going review" underway. (Sounds like Vietnam talk) "Bottom line is the region served as a base to launch the attack" on 9-11. "We cannot allow the terrorists to operate there." He continues the phony lingo of the war on terror. Mentions Bin-laden. Sounded much like King George II on this one.
Helen Thomas, the oldest member of the White House press corps who Bush would never call upon because she always had tough questions, asked him which countries in the Middle East have nuclear weapons today. "I don't want to speculate," he responded ignoring the fact that Israel has them. The US government sure doesn't mind "speculating" about Iran's nuclear program! Talk about a double standard - and the rest of the world knows it. He then talked about the US and Russia needing to get back to negotiations on nukes and honoring the NPT. The key to that happening is US willingness to back off "missile defense" deployments in Europe.
Question about prosecuting the Bush pirate team for crimes. He avoided a response at first and talked about how he is not going to torture. Then he came back and said, "Nobody is above the law and if there are clear instances of wrong doing then people should be prosecuted just like ordinary citizens. But, I want to look forward rather than backward."
Here's a prediction - we are going to see alot of this kind of talk from Obama. On the one hand and then again on the other hand. He is slippery at times.
He ends the news confab and turns to walk back down the long red carpet lined hallway. His advisers will slap him on the back and tell him he did a great job. But the doubts will linger in his mind. He knows he blew off Helen Thomas. He knows he gave short shrift to Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows the economy is in big trouble and that more tax cuts aren't going to create the jobs that are needed.
Listening to C-SPAN they took citizen calls after it was over. The 2nd call was an old woman and when they asked her if she supported the stimulus package she replied, "If it was going to help the poor people I would, but I think it is only going to help the rich."