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Robert Reich

Obama's speech: uplifting but short on specifics

Friday's tepid jobs report is a reminder that there is still a lot to be done to grow the economy. Yet Reich writes that President Obama's convention speech lacked details on how he will address unemployment and economic inequality.

By Guest blogger / September 7, 2012

President Barack Obama waves after his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday. Reich writes that Obama's speech was inspiring but failed to address the 'anemic' economic recovery.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention was long on uplifting rhetoric but short on specifics for what he’ll do if reelected to reignite the American economy.

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Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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Yet today’s jobs report provides a troubling reminder that the economy is still in bad shape. Employers added only 96,000 nonfarm jobs in August. True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3%, But the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

Unfortunately for the President — and the rest of us — jobs gains have averaged only 94,000 over the last three months. That’s down from an average of 95,000 in the second quarter. And well below the average gain of 225,000 in the first quarter of the year And compared to last year, the trend is still in the wrong direction: a monthly average gain of 139,000 this year compared to last year’s average monthly gain of 153,000.

Look, I desperately want Obama to win. But the one thing his speech last night lacked was the one thing that was the most important for him to offer — a plan for how to get the economy out of the doldrums.

Last week Mitt Romney offered only the standard Republican bromides: cut taxes on the rich, cut spending on programs everyone else depends on, and deregulate. They didn’t work for George W. Bush and there’s no reason to expect they’ll work again.

But the President could have offered more than the rejoinder he did — suggesting, even in broad strokes, what he’ll do in his second term to get the economy moving again. At least he might have identified the scourge of inequality as a culprit, for example, pointing out, as he did last December, that the economy can’t advance when so much income and wealth are concentrated at the top that the vast middle class doesn’t have the purchasing power to get it back on track.

Undeniably, we have more jobs today than we did at the trough of the Great Recession in 2009. But the recovery has been anemic — and it appears to be slowing. We’re better off than we were then, but we’re not as well off as we need to be by a long shot.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

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