Thursday, February 26, 2009

Did Americans invent the car?

I do not think there is much I can add to the President’s address on Tuesday night that has already been said. I liked some of his ideas; I do think we have some serious issues that need addressing. If the President can do all that he said and not raise taxes then he is a miracle worker, I just don’t believe that is possible. I feel like he is still campaigning making a lot of promises without defining how he plans on doing anything. I do not think he can spend all this money that he announced today and not raise taxes, the rich can only be taxed so much.

As a historian I wanted to make one correction of the President in his address, it is minor, but I think it represents a lot. Obama said that we were the nation that invented the car. A minor mistake yes, but still a mistake. The Germans invented the car, it was the Americans that took the car and ran with it. We have the greatest car culture in world history. Men like Ford and Alfred Sloan (Pres of GM) revolutionized the car. Ford began the assembly line that decreased the time it took the car from 12 hours to 90 minutes. This decrease in time allowed the price of the car to be lowered to where every American family can buy one. Sloan in his brilliance marketed cars differently than Ford. Where as Ford said you can buy any color Ford as long as it was black, Sloan thought he could get people to spend more money on cars if he added more bells and whistles. What Sloan did was convince people they are what they drive, something we now all take for granted. But for all that these two men did, one thing they did not do was invent the car.

Now I realize that was a small mistake, but I think it says something. This was the state of the Union, and yes it was small, but it was a mistake. For something as big as the state of the Union he should take the time to do a little bit of research or have an aid do some very simple basic research to know who did invent the car. But instead Obama acted quickly without knowing the facts and just assumed. Now again this is a small easy mistake, but it seems like maybe he is doing the same thing with everything else. In his rush to make the people happy he is just acting quickly and not taking the time to make sure he gets it right. When it is who invented the car, no big deal, but when he acts the same way towards the economy that is a very big deal. Sometimes being president means to do the right thing not the popular thing. I think he thinks throwing money at everything is the right thing, but maybe he should take a few moments to think about it. If he has a plan to pay for all this he is being tight lipped, my guess is he is just acting quickly and will figure out how to pay for it later. So Mr. President, Karl Benz of Germany invented the car, and throwing money at everything will not fix the problem

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's First Press Conference

I realize it has been quite a long time since I have posted anything. I have struggled about what to post over the past months. The problem is I am trying not to be a hypocrite. I was always critical about how Bush was treated while acting as president and I do not want to do the same towards Obama. I do not agree with people like Rush Limbaugh who began their attack campaign on Obama’s first day. I know they disagree, but it seems like they are just trying to find any little issue to blow up into a scandal. Anyone who reads this knows I did not support Obama, but he is now my president, and just like I made the claim that Bush deserved some respect just for the position he held, I am trying to give that same courtesy to Obama. I hope he is successful, I hope this stimulus package works and the economy is revived. That is what separates me from someone like Limbaugh or Coulter, they are hoping he fails I hope he succeeds. I want what’s best for our nation and if he can fix some of the issues that have plagued us over the years, I might even vote for him. However, I do not believe that will be the case, and I do not believe the way he is going about change is positive, but I wanted to let him and will continue to let him try. However, after last night’s speech I have a few issues and an observation and I cannot remain silent.

The first issue began to bug me Saturday night as I watched Saturday Night Live. I know they have an agenda and are not meant to be taken seriously, but I have a problem when they change the facts. Then in Obama’s speech last night he alluded to the same idea, that is the Republicans have been in charge for the past 8 years, and it was complete Republican control when the economy tanked. When discussing politics this is an issue that is hard to convey to students who do not fully understand or not really paying attention. Most people associate the President with the government, in other words just because Bush was president that Republicans made all the decisions. However, for the past two years, it was the Democrats running the Congress and not the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were running their perspective branches of government, not the Republicans. Obama kept blaming the Republicans last night for the all the financial problems, but he needs to look at the Democrats involvement. Take this stimulus package right now, it is not the president making it, but congress. The president of the U.S. does not have a single dime of his own to spend, the congress controls 100% of all U.S. funds. Pay attention to the next state of the Union speech, Obama will spend a portion of it asking Congress for money for his programs. Without congressional approval, the president can do nothing.

So to say that Republicans were in complete control when the economy collapsed is false, they only ran the White House, but Democrats ran Congress. So it was Democrats that headed all the important committees including the ones dealing with the economy. It was Democrats that allowed spending to get out of control and allowed the housing market to tank, and allowed banks to deal with bad paper. The President should have watched also, but it was the Democratic Congressmen and Senators that led us down this road, the same ones that now think they have the answers, which is just more of the same they did to create the problem.

As for the stimulus package itself, Obama was wrong last night when he said there was no pork. He should have said earmarks. A great amount of the money being given to the states does not have any specific requirements, and can be used by the states for anything. It is government wistful spending at its worse. I disagree with Obama that Republicans want to do nothing. Everyone understands the economy needs a boost, they just don’t agree with the approach. As for myself, if I get a check in the mail for $1000 great, but I will not use it to stimulate the economy. It will either go directly to pay off credit cards or go to savings so I do not need to use my card when the next situation arises (by the way Obama blew off the question asked about this last night). The only way to get people spending is a tax break, not a credit, but a break. A one time credit is the same as a check in the mail, but a break means that same money on a continued basis, or in other words everyone gets a raise, it will create consumer confidence which leads to spending. Obama is trying to play to the masses that do not know better. He promised them change and now has to act on that. What better way to please everyone than sending them a check and blame everything bad that is happening and will happen on Bush. Obama can tell his supporters that at least I gave you a check. Also if he makes the situation sound bad enough, like saying if we do not fix this now, we may never fix it is not responsible. What he is doing is making people scared while blaming the Republicans if things go bad, and if he makes it sound direr enough and then we come out of the recession he looks that much better. How is this different from past political games? How is this bipartisan?

I know this is long, but I have one other observation from last night. As a political historian I have enjoyed this past year. In my years of teaching I have never seen students so interested in the political process. I spent several classes discussing the primaries or the election so much that we never got to that days lecture, and I was fine with that. Well I opened up today’s classes with asking about what everyone thought about Obama’s speech. In my two classes of about a combined 120 students, only 5 watched the speech or could even talk about the major issue. I even had several who had no idea what the stimulus package was or cared. I thought the love affair with Obama would last, but has not. They still love him and cheer when I mention his name, but already one of his largest groups of supporters has lost interest. They may come back in 4 years to reelect him, after not paying attention to any of his policies. The main answer I got today was that they do not like the package, but do not think they can stop it. Most of my students that have paid attention think it is wasteful spending. However according to Obama last night, the American people want his plan, yet I spoke to the American people today and either they did not know about the plan or felt it was not effective. I am so glad we got change.