There was quite a stir this week over the major economic speech that President Obama delivered in Osawatomie, KS. In the speech, Obama struck a more populist tone than he has previously, and he essentially called capitalism a failure and argued for more government control.
“ ‘The market will take care of everything,’ they tell us. ‘If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will, eventually, trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle downdown,’ they argue, ‘that’s the price of liberty.’
“Now, it's a simple theory. And we have to admit, it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked,” Obama said.
He was reportedly channeling Teddy Roosevelt, but the speech has been compared by many to President Carter’s economic malaise speech in the late 1970s. Still, I think many people are underestimating the potential power of this message.
From a political standpoint, the problems are obvious – economic growth is half what it has been, unemployment has practically doubled, and the debt is rising at a rate that brings into question the very viability of our government. The problems are obvious to everyone; the only things that remain to be decided are who is to blame and who can solve it?
In tough times, populist messages are always popular; after all, they offer easy solutions and someone to blame. I believe the Occupy Wall Street movement was created for a specific reason, and that was to make the populist message that Obama is now advancing far more palatable.
Many believe that this country isn’t ready to support a campaign that rejects the fundamental system that has allowed this country to experience more growth than any country in the world, along with its corresponding gains in standard of living. They may be right, but that isn’t how it will be presented.
Obama has taken a lot of heat for his Kansas speech among economists and the business community. But, I think it shows that we are now in full-blown election mode, and Obama is very good at campaigning. Ironically, with this seemingly being the chosen election theme, neither Obama nor the Republicans have a vested interest in seeing the economy improve. And, that’s a little discomforting.