Obama and Congress: Match Point?

OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t watch the Prez last night wax eloquently about his jobs plan. And it’s not because I don’t care about jobs or the economic prosperity of this country. I do. But while chasing the treadmill belt yesterday early a.m. Jay Carney made the rounds of all the news shows and basically previewed the main points of the plan.

So that left me with a clear choice. Watch a televised speech about jobs by another politician who is already campaigning to keep his job — or watch the Roger Federer-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match at the U.S. Open.


Game on.

And game on with the Prez and Congress as well.

I’m not sure what realistically the federal government can do to create jobs other that flood the economy with money and arguably reduce some regulations on business and so on. So in that context, what we have now from the Prez is Stimulus Two — a nearly $450 billion package of extended tax cuts and unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending.

Unfortunately, Stimulus One was by all accounts a flop — and maybe the problem is that consumers are afraid, unwilling or unable to spend and not that businesses need incentives to hire. And if Obama is going to cut spending somewhere else — or ah, find some revenue enhancements (remember when this used to be called higher taxes?) — wouldn’t that take an equal amount of money out of the economy?

Beats me.

So let’s see what some of the so-called experts have to say.

Here’s an article from Ezra Klein in WaPo that outlines the key elements of the plan, “What’s in the president’s jobs plan and what comes next.” Note: The Prez has punted to the congressional super committee to find a way to pay for Stimulus Two as part of their work on deficit reduction. Good luck with all that.

And here’s from Paul Krugman the NYT pundit, economics professor and Nobel winner, “Setting Their Hair on Fire.” He basically believes that any and all problems can be solved if we just throw enough money at it — regardless of where the money is coming from, if anywhere. He opines:

First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

Ah, “probably make a significant dent…” Wonder how many business managers would approve a $500 billion spending plan based on “probably.”

And then there is David Brooks, the token conservative on the NYT op-ed pages. He writes “Stimulus for Skeptics.

The next question is this: Does the administration have any stimulus ideas that could actually stimulate? Thursday night the president gave one of the most forceful and compelling domestic policy speeches of his presidency. His proposals were drawn from the middle of the ideological spectrum and were selected to appeal to people who don’t put a lot of faith in government spending. There’s a payroll tax cut, a small business tax cut, infrastructure spending, subsidies so states don’t have to lay off cops, firefighters and teachers, and a plan to use unemployment insurance to subsidize temporary work for the unemployed to get them back involved in the labor force.

Republicans have supported most of these ideas at one time or another. Still, let’s not sugarcoat things. Recent stimulus packages have not exactly lived up to the hype. Temporary tax cuts generally don’t lead to much job creation. Given the long lead times involved, infrastructure spending is an odd way to combat a double dip that might be starting right now. Job subsidies often go to companies that would have hired the people anyway. One recent study showed that a plurality of the people hired under the last stimulus package already had jobs; they were just switching from one to another.

In short, the administration is putting forth a package to prevent a double-dip recession that may not come to pass with a series of measures that may not work.

Wow. Talk about a strong endorsement. I’m feeling much better now. Aren’t you?

OK. Something has to be done to get people who want to work working — and working in quality jobs that provide a fair and living wage. So Obama stepped up, served the ball, and now it’s up to Congress.

Game on. And in terms of actually getting something accomplished before the 2012 elections, this is match point.

Also, as a follow-up to my post yesterday, I’m really starting to like Carol Bartz, the recently canned CEO at Yahoo who if nothing else speaks her mind and tells the truth at least as she sees it. Refreshing — yet certainly not the standard in business, education, politics and so on.

Here’s the story that made the rounds on the Internet yesterday: “These people f***ked me over: Fired Yahoo CEO lashes out at ‘doofus’ board“:

Furious Carol Bartz did not hold back during her first interview since her sacking as Chief Executive of internet search engine Yahoo.

Barely 24 hours after company chairman Roy Bostock fired Miss Bartz in a call to her cell phone, she rang Fortune magazine to let off steam over her removal from the high profile role.

She laid into the Yahoo board that fired her after only two years in the job and said: ‘These people f***ed me over.’

The outgoing CEO, hired in 2009 to turn around the company’s fortunes, went on to describe them as a bunch of ‘doofuses.’

Miss Bartz made the call to the influential business magazine from Silicon Valley as reporters waited outside to report the news of her departure.

She said she was in New York on Tuesday to speak at Citigroup’s technology conference on the following day.

And she revealed that she was scheduled to call Mr Bostock at 6pm but when she did he promptly started to read a lawyer’s prepared statement dismissing her.

Miss Bartz told Fortune: ‘I said “Roy, I think that’s a script. Why don’t you have the balls to tell me yourself?”‘

She went on to explain that the by the end of the call she merely replied: ‘I got it. I got it’ as he finished reading the dismissal notice.

She told the magazine she had told her former boss: ‘I thought you were classier.’

Miss Bartz was recruited in January 2009 after successfully building Autodesk, the 3D design software website for the manufacturing and construction industry.

But Miss Bartz was never the turnaround chief that the Yahoo board had hoped for despite slashing costs and improving profit margins.

She failed to improve revenue growth at a time when Yahoo has lost clicks and advertising spend to Google and Facebook.

Miss Bartz said of the board: ‘They want revenue growth, even though they were told that we would not have revenue growth until 2012.’

As Miss Bartz sees it, Yahoo’s search partnership with Microsoft — a deal she negotiated two years ago to offload costs — has Yahoo paying Microsoft 12per cent of its search revenue and limits current growth but will help the company long-term.

She attributes the directors’ impatience to the criticism they faced when they turned down a lucrative deal to sell Yahoo to Microsoft in 2007, before she arrived.

‘The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country,’ Miss Bartz says.

‘Now they’re trying to show that they’re not the doofuses that they are.’
We can hope that the doofuses Inside the Beltway take that last sentence to heart as they consider how to create jobs and strengthen our economy.
Just sayin’.

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