If there were an economic recovery version of the "Mad Libs" word game, it would probably look a lot like this:
In (name of mid-to-far Western city) on (date this summer), President Barack Obama will visit the (manufacturing plant) where he will tour the facilities and deliver remarks on the economy to workers. The (manufacturing plant) received a (number less than 50) million-dollar Recovery Act grant to develop (type of clean technology). The award is helping (manufacturing plant) to create (number) jobs and expand (type of clean technology) manufacturing throughout the region.
Never mind the no-fun quotient of economic recovery Mad Libs, this is simply to say that Obama has made the same trip so many times at this point, it's beginning to feel a little (OK, a lot) like "Groundhog Day." It will come as little surprise, then, that on Thursday the president will head to Kansas City, Missouri, to tour the Smith Electric Vehicles plant, an all-electric, zero emissions commercial truck manufacturer that received a $32 million Recovery Act grant to build all-electric trucks. Much like a "Groundhog Day" double-header (the thought of which makes my eyes ache), the following day, the president will be in Las Vegas to discuss the economy in a speech that will most assuredly mention stimulus fund programs, clean technology and manufacturing. Rinse, repeat.
In an effort to convince the public that yes, the economy is on the rebound, and that, yes, the measures the White House has taken to steer the country back from the precipice were, in fact, the right ones, President Obama has embarked on a months-long journey back and forth from the center of the country. His tour of steel mills and solar panel assembly lines and battery plants, the White House says, is proof positive that We Are Recovering.
Unfortunately, the message hasn't quite sunk in. The GOP is pushing back, unemployment figures won't seem to budge, 14 million Americans are still looking for work, and, oh yeah, Wall Street is mad at Democrats. Yet, much like my father insisting on speaking "accented" English in a foreign country, instead of realizing that everybody around him does not understand what he is saying, Obama keeps repeating himself -- louder and perhaps more slowly, but in essence, saying the same thing over and over again. All things being equal, if this tactic doesn't work for my dad in Marseille, it probably ain't gonna work for the president in Milwaukee.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked why, precisely, the administration was calling this season "Recovery Summer" when, in fact, the recovery has been rather elusive. He responded, "The president was never under the illusion that economic recovery was going to happen overnight. It is going to take some time...I think the biggest -- the most important thing is, are we moving in the right direction? Are we making progress? And is the economy getting stronger, even if the pace is not altogether like we'd want to see?"
This White House cheer of "We're Back! (Kinda)" has done little to convince anyone of the strength of America's economy. For a president who talked tough on political gamesmanship during his campaign, Obama would do well to put aside the assembly line hard hats and spill-proof lab coats and stress more concrete measures. A good start happened on Wednesday, when he promised to double the number of U.S. exports by 2015. It wasn't game changing, but it was good policy -- and, conveniently, good politics.
The Washington Post, Newsweek and The New York Times all pointed out on Wednesday the estimated $1.8 billion presently being hoarded (their word, not mine) by the country's top 500 non-financial businesses -- and the fact that Washington has got to get the private sector chief executives back in the game if we're serious about a recovery. The president will have to lead this (tricky) charge -- best to get him off the tarmac and working on what will be a strange and serious courtship as soon as possible.
When it comes down to it, Obama -- a self-aware president if ever there was one -- must realize that he's done this recovery schtick one too many times already. He's taken the routine across the country and it still isn't selling seats -- how long can this go on? The country isn't buying it and the media has basically let out a collective yawn whenever these recovery trips are announced. It would seem that it's time for Obama to change it up: new tactics, new goals, new language. I mean, hey, even my dad eventually learned how to say "C'est la vie."
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