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Collective, bipartisan eye roll

"Collective, bipartisan eye roll" Continued...

“And we never heard back,” Pearce said. “That typically is what we find. We hear lip service but not much real intention to engage.”

Labrador also has written Obama, pledging to work with the president on regulatory reform and tax reform items that Labrador occasionally hears in Obama’s speeches.

“To this day I haven’t heard from the president on any of these issues,” he said.

Obama delivered his Illinois talk at Knox College, the same spot where he gave his first major economic address in 2005, just months into his tenure as a U.S. senator. In that speech, he outlined his belief in the government’s power and obligation to create and sustain economic growth and a large middle class. This time around, Obama used the same location to trumpet the economic progress he said has been made.

“We’ve come a long way since I first took office,” he said to applause.

But Republicans back in Washington responded with data comparing 2013 to 2005. Back then the unemployment rate was around 5 percent. This June it was 7.6 percent. While a tad more than 7.5 million Americans were listed as unemployed in June 2005, about 11.8 million are out of work today. The average duration of unemployment was less than 18 weeks in 2005 while it was nearly 36 weeks in June 2013.

Obama in his speech at the college accused Republicans of making gridlock worse during the last six months. And he scolded them for not offering any ideas.

“Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending is not an economic plan. It’s not,” Obama said. “I say to these members of Congress: I’m laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. So now it’s time for you to lay out your ideas.”

Republicans pointed out that Obama’s own White House decided to delay some major elements of his new healthcare law. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner tweeted a message to Obama with a web link to the House Republicans’ 10-step plan for economic growth, which includes energy independence, simplifying the tax code, and controlling spending.

But that is what Washington politics has come to in 2013: tweets in response to speeches, while politicians remain hundreds of miles apart. Tweeting was not available to Clinton and the House Republicans he had to work with in 1994. But even in the 21st century, the political sign remains a timeless tool. Along the presidential motorcade route in Illinois, one person held up a poster reading: “Want jobs? Open Keystone.”

That proposed pipeline project, long stalled, is just one example of a project Obama could work on with members of both parties to help the economy, according to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

“And there’s a lot more we could get done if he’d actually pick up the telephone and try to work with us every once in a while,” McConnell added. “I know Democrats would love to hear from him every now and then too. Because every time he goes out and gives one of these speeches, it generates little more than a collective, bipartisan eye roll.”

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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