Monthly Archives: June 2011

Obama, the Economy, and Those Free Trade Agreements

Jobs and the economy are Obama’s Achilles heel.  And he has no one to blame but himself.  Way back in 2009, I tried to warn him:

Actually, I feel like Obama’s the one getting punked. But it’s mostly his doing. Ask the many independents who voted for him. They wanted, and still want, Obama to focus like a laser on the economy. There are encouraging signs that we are beginning to turn this thing around, but we would have been much further along if that had been his primary focus. And if he had taken ownership of the stimulus bill and made sure damn near everything was stimulus and not just Congress’ pet spending projects.

Had he done that, Congressional Dems would have been golden for 2010. He could have used the remainder of his term to push for real healthcare reform. Many previously skeptical folks would have said, hey, this man proved with the economy that he knows how to focus and execute. So let’s give him a shot with healthcare.

That would have set up 2012 beautifully. After which point he could have pushed for major entitlement reform. The kind that addresses structural deficit and puts us back on path to long-term prosperity.

That’s what could have been. Instead, we have reform fatigue. We’re still digesting the economic reforms, and he’s ladling in healthcare. It’s all too much at one time. The result is that he’s going to get some healthcare reform, but it will be weak because there is insufficient political goodwill for anything more. And don’t even talk about entitlement reform.

So my issue with Obama is he has the right instincts for reform. But the way he’s going at about it — everything at once — makes it virtually impossible for his reforms to succeed. I hope I’m wrong.

(From a comment at  But the White House didn’t want to waste a “crisis.”  And so here we are, with Obama waiting for solutions from his Jobs Council.  Problems with this are three fold:

  • You don’t outsource job creation – it’s too important.
  • A 26-person (!) committee is only going to come up with pablum.  Encourage more SBA lending?  Make buildings more energy-efficient?  Streamline the federal permit process?  Heaven save us.
  • Composition of the council.  GE?  Amex? Intel? Citibank?  My goodness.  If you’ve read Clayton Christensen’s many writings on “Market Disruption” – and if you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to remedy that right away – you know that these companies are likely to be the disruptees rather than the disruptors.  Take Intel.  Its relentless focus on its core customers – desktops and workstations requiring high-powered chips – made it oblivious to the threats posed to it manufacturers of low-powered chips used in cell phones and now tablets.  Now Intel has to fight a two-front battle: try to gain a foothold in the low-powered market, AND fend against low-powered chipmakers moving upmarket.  I would have gone in a different direction, looking at companies like Nucor, Hyundai and Xerox (the focus on an article in today’s WSJ showing how it has reinvented itself).  These and other companies have innovation hardwired in their DNA, whereas most of the companies represented on the council strike me as moribund, staid, and completely orthodox.  (Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook is a conspicuous exception.)

But here’s the irony of the thing.  The one silver lining in this crappy economy is the weak dollar.  Sucks for imports and international tourism, but is like the Balm of Gilead for export markets.  More exports means more hiring, right?  So why aren’t we moving on the trade agreements?  Oh right – because organized labor doesn’t like them.  But here’s the problem.  We are not dealing in a binary world any more, where we either do the deal or don’t.  Now we compete with other countries for the same trade benefits.  And while we’ve dithered, other countries have rushed in to complete their own deals with Colombia, South Korea etc.

This state of affairs needs to be corrected, asap.  We don’t need no stinking pablum from a bunch of overpaid titans.  We need to sell our wares, and that means export markets.  So STMFTAA! (That means “Sign the Mut*a Fu*king Trade Agreements Already” – shout out to Dan Savage)  And I don’t want to hear any caterwauling from those liberals who insist that Obama must do something RIGHT NOW about jobs – but shriek like banshees when it comes to signing the free trade agreements.  Their arguments, such as they are, are easily accommodated.  So, as these guys so aptly put it, “it’s time for liberals to stop making excuses and let the deal get done.”

So, Mr. President, if you’re listening – Get ‘Er Done.


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