President Obama scolds Congress, praises the Chiefs in Kansas City
President Barack Obama arrived at the Ford Stamping Plant in Liberty carrying with him a page from the Republican Party’s annoying and specious rhetoric playbook.
In order to explain the complexities of the economy to a crowd of regulars, Obama decided to compare personal finances with federal budget, even though it’s well-established that neither is related in any functional way.
Obama whipped the crowd into a lather with a forceful denunciation of Congress in his visit to the Kansas City area Friday, an arrival to the Plains around noon that was just preceded by the House passing a spending bill that would defund Obamacare.
If the middle class has problems, Obama implied, then look no further than the do-nothings in Congress, particularly those lawmakers from the Far Right.
“They’re not focused on you, they’re focused on politics,” Obama said over the din of a roaring crowd of about 1,000. “They’re focused on messing with me, but they’re not focused on you.”
Politically speaking, Obama is right to make his case against Congress, because it would be difficult to assemble any crowd of meaningful size and find much praise for how Capitol Hill behaves itself. It so happens that Congress has a 14 percent approval rating, close to the lowest of all time in the era of scientific polling.
At issue is the deadline to pass a federal budget in 10 days. House Republicans are holding the line on raising the debt ceiling unless they can eradicate Obamacare in some way. Obama’s signature health-care legislation has been in the cross hairs of most of the GOP, including Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, ever since conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal members of the court and found that it was constitutional. Since then, members of Congress have misfired on about three dozen attempts to repeal the bill, in each case failing to gather enough votes among Democrats and moderate Republicans.
Obama says he won’t negotiate on Obamacare, which establishes the prospects that Congress won’t pass a budget bill a week from Monday, which would lead to a government shutdown.
It’s not likely that there are enough votes in the Senate to push through the House’s plan (and less so to mount an override of Obama’s veto), but a shutdown is a possibility while senators work out some kind of deal beyond the deadline. A shutdown would keep many federal workers away from their jobs and serve as another embarrassment for the government.
Obama said raising the debt ceiling is a routine budgetary process that every president (including Ronald Reagan, the conservative’s patron saint of fiscal orderliness) has done over the last half-century. Republicans have made raising the debt ceiling sound like greasing the rails for a runaway train of government spending. Mindful of his crowd, Obama compared the Republican way of thinking with buying a Ford truck, taking out a loan and then skipping on payments so it has money to do other things and calling it a savings plan.
“This is the United States of America, not some banana republic,” Obama said, opting for a pejorative term to describe corrupt Central American countries that had been exploited by American business interests long ago. “…We don’t run out on our tab.”
A protracted dispute over the budget could lead to the United States’ defaulting on its debt.
Obama didn’t spend the entirety of his remarks flaming Congress. He offered his praise to the Kansas City Chiefs for picking up their third victory in as many games following a Thursday-night result against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Before you get carried away, I’d just like to point out that the Bears are 2-0,” crowed the Chicago-minted politician.
Obama also pitched the audience on his work on behalf of the middle class, knowing that outside the Democratic dignitaries in attendance, like Emanuel Cleaver, Claire McCaskill and Sly James, much of his crowd was working-class.
He praised his administration’s work on creating jobs coming out of the recession (although many of those jobs aren’t good ones), trying to overcome a fickle and labyrinthine health-care system and helping ease the tax burden on the middle class – all platitudes despite a gap in income inequality in the United States that is the largest it has been since 1928, the year before the stock market crashed and led to the Great Depression.