Opinion: Obama blasts critics of stimulus: ‘Time for talk is over’


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President Obama sounds mad.

During a visit to the Energy Department, Obama blasted Republican critics of his $900-billion stimulus package for suggesting more tax cuts, saying they are peddling “the same worn out ideas that led us here in the first place.”


Going through a list of dismal job numbers -- 2.6 million jobs lost in the last year, 500,000 jobs lost each month for the last two months, more bad economic news expected Friday -- the president called on Congress to act, and act quickly, on his stimulus package to resuscitate the economy.

These numbers that we are seeing are sending an unmistakable message and so are the American people. The time for talk is over. The time for action is now. Because we know if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. Crisis could turn into catastrophe.

More interestingly, Obama took aim at a key plank in Republican orthodoxy -- the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down, that cutting taxes stimulates the economy because entrepreneurs start businesses, hire employees and contribute to local, state and federal tax coffers.

Conceding that Congress has an obligation to scrutinize his plan -- ‘That’s a good thing; that’s the way democracy is supposed to work’ -- Obama argued that ‘ we can’t go back to the same worn-out ideas that led us here in the first place.’

And he singled out for criticism the repeated calls from Republicans for more tax cuts.

In the last few days, we’ve seen proposals arise from some in Congress that you may not have read but you’d be very familiar with because you’ve been hearing them for the last 10 years, maybe longer. They’re rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems; that government doesn’t have a role to play; that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough; that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges -- the crushing cost of healthcare, the inadequate state of so many of our schools, our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

So let me be clear. Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed. They’ve taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars, and they’ve brought our economy to a halt. And that’s precisely what the election we just had was all about. The American people have rendered their judgment. And now is the time to move forward, not back. Now is the time for action.

It was almost as if the president was reminding senators that George W. Bush -- and his ideas -- lost the election.

And just for good measure, he also tweaked Republican senators for suggesting that it was ‘pork’ to refit the government’s fleet of vehicles to make them more energy efficient. ‘They call it pork,’ he told employees at the Energy Department, where he was pushing for energy reforms. ‘You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create jobs manufacturing those vehicles, it will set a standard for private industry to match.’

The president added, ‘So when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, is it any wonder we haven’t had a real energy policy in this country?’

-- Johanna Neuman