"This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."
Last night, a lot of conservatives seemed to react angrily to that statement, as though calling America soft were to be considered automatically indefensible, no matter the context. My reaction was: "last couple of decades"?
We already know what this president thinks of this country: It's no more exceptional than any other country, but it might turn out to be exceptional someday if only we let him change it as he sees fit. So he also thinks it's flabby in the middle? No surprise.
What’s more troubling is that he apparently thinks the current economic mess was caused by Americans spending the "last couple of decades" eating Cheese Doodles and watching NASCAR. (If only the national economy were roaring like NASCAR.)
The bad economy used to be all Bush's fault. But the voters aren't buying that anymore, so the president's trying a new line: the whole country got a little lazy -- you know, like Americans do -- and now he's got to save it. That's why this recovery is so hard, you see. He doesn't have just four years of Bushonomics to undo, he's got several decades of couch-surfing by the entire American populace to undo.
But don't worry; the country is still awesome, he said.
"I would not trade our position with anybody on Earth. We still have the best universities, the best scientists, best workers in the world; the most dynamic economic system in the world."
Errr, but you just said we'd spent the last couple of decades going soft. If we're still the best economically, then why are things so bad?
"We just have to bring all those things together," he said.
To fix the softness America has accumulated over the last couple of decades, someone just has to bring together all the top-notch American professionals who are off somewhere engaging in self-indulgent solo projects. In short, America just has to get the band back together.
This isn't economics. It isn't even Obamanomics. It's just nonsense.
And it doesn't get any better when the president switches to Obamanomics. Here is what he told the Florida TV station when asked how his new jobs bill would create jobs in the Sunshine State:
"There are a lot of construction workers in Florida who have been laid off. Putting those construction workers back to work on construction projects in Florida would make a huge difference right now. There have been difficulties for state and local governments keeping their teachers in the classroom. So they would get a direct benefit."
The first is simply a blatant falsehood. The jobs bill would not create any construction jobs "right now." From a Tuesday Politico story headlined "'Shovel ready' jobs could take time":
“As a rule of thumb, you’re looking at three years for a project, really going from the time the federal government says we have the money and want to spend it," [Cal-Berkeley civil engineering professor William] Ibbs said. But that's for the easiest, simplest projects, such as building a road through an uninhabited piece of land. "The politicians really don]t understand how cumbersome the process is these days," Ibbs said. "Environmental permitting, especially on road projects can take years. You're hiring attorneys, not really shoveling a lot of dirt."
The reality is the quickest projects to jump-start are simply resurfacing existing roads with asphalt -- not the best way of reining in the national infrastructure crisis -- and the massive infrastructure improvements that promise generations of benefits can easily double and triple that time frame.
And teacher jobs? He's going to fix Florida's unemployment problem by subsidizing teaching and construction jobs?
That's not an economic plan, it's an economic surrender -- to left-wing special-interest politics.
America hasn't gone soft. The President has gone out to lunch.