Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why Obama's "gaffe" was really a kiss on the cheek to public sector unions

President Obama's now-infamous statement that "the private economy is doing fine" has been written off by many as a "gaffe," or a "slip-up."

But, as ridiculous as his comment was, we don't think the President's statement was a mistatement at all. In fact, we think it was a highly-calculated, deliberate post-Wisconsin election message aimed at mollifying public union supporters who are angry that the White House left them high and dry last week when their attempts to oust Governor Scott Walker failed.

The message comes across loud and clear when you look beyond the President's inane statement about the private economy and focus instead on the broader context of his remarks. Here's the text of what he said:

"The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.

"And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry." (Source)

Translation: To members of the public unions who lost in Wisconsin, President Obama is sorry and he wants you to know that he still has your back. He wants you to know that he still doesn't think government is big enough, and he's focused on doing whatever he can to spend more government money in support of taxpayer-funded projects that benefit public union workers – even though the nation already finds itself $15.735 trillion in debt (a number which is rising… fast).

Basically, President Obama knows he needs staunch union support in order to win a second term. He has a tough race ahead, and even though he didn't travel to Wisconsin to support the unions, he expects them to go to the polls for him in November.

But, will they?

Going forward, we'll be watching for answers to two main questions: (1) Will this attempt by the President to reassure labor unions be enough to make them forgive and forget, or will they still look to the President to say it like he means it, and (2) To the extent the President's rhetoric translates into actual calls for additional public spending, how effective can Republicans be at exposing and exploiting President Obama's big-spending, big-government agenda?