UPDATE: The speech has ended.
President Obama is set today to deliver the first in a series of speeches designed to push the economy -- and his proposals to ensure long-term growth -- to the center of the national political debate after months of focus on other issues. Read the full text of Obama's remarks and watch a clip from the speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., below:
Scott Wilson previewed Obama's speeches earlier this week:
White House officials described the effort Sunday as a way for the president to revisit some of the economic themes he has spoken about since his early days in the U.S. Senate and to outline how he intends to appeal to Congress and the public to secure his goals in the months ahead.
Obama will seek to remind the country, beginning with this week’s three scheduled speeches over two days, that the middle class remains imperiled by the lack of progress in Congress on his proposed job-creating measures and by Republican fiscal priorities. The push is meant to frame the debate around his economic agenda in the remaining summer months before Congress takes up some of his budget proposals this fall.
Wonkblog took note of something that is unlikely to be included in Obama's remarks:
What’s interesting, though, is that the biggest economic decision Obama is likely to make in his second term will almost certainly be left out of the speech. Obama will talk about all kinds of things that Republicans in Congress almost certainly won’t let him do, but he won’t talk about the one big thing they will let him do, and that will have profound effects on the path of the economy even after he leaves office. I’m talking, of course, about naming the next chair of the Federal Reserve — a decision that House Republicans (and, for that matter, House Democrats) don’t even have a role in.
It’s no surprise that monetary policy will be left out of Obama’s speech. Ever since President Richard Nixon bullied the Fed into helping with his reelection campaign, White Houses have been skittish about talking monetary policy, as even discussing the issue is seen as coming troublingly close to compromising the Fed’s independence.
And yet the decision will happen, and soon. On Tuesday, I reported that the White House is leaning toward Larry Summers. It’s not a sure thing, by any means, but it’s where the process seems to be headed right now.
The chair of the Federal Reserve is arguably the most important economic policymaker in the world. He or she is certainly the most important economic policymaker during times of divided government, when the president can’t get much done. And the position is even more powerful now than it was a few years ago, as the experience of the financial crisis and then the regulatory overhaul in Dodd-Frank gave the chair of the Federal Reserve vastly more power to regulate financial markets, housing markets, and much else. It’s not just interest rates anymore.
Meanwhile, The Fix's Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan write that Obama's speeches are unlikely to change anything.
In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 45 percent of Americans approved of how Obama is handling economic issues while 49 percent disapproved. A year ago, 44 percent approved of Obama’s economic approach — a number statistically unchanged despite the fact that the president swept to a second term thanks, at least in part, to making the 2012 election a referendum on his economic priorities.
A look even further back suggests a remarkable stability in Obama’s numbers on the economy. In October 2010, just before Republicans won 63 House seats to reclaim the majority, 44 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s approach to the economy in Post-ABC polling. Go back a year before that — December 2009 — and Obama’s economic approval is 46 percent.
The numbers simply don’t move — or, if they do, they quickly snap back. No speech — no matter how eloquent or well delivered — can or should be expected to change that dynamic.
By this point in his presidency, most people have made their minds up — about Obama and about how he is doing on the economy. Speeches won’t change those minds. Then again, nothing else will, either.