When we first started blogging, we took great delight in ripping the woeful efforts of particular columnists whose work attracted our ire and to the point we commissioned something called the Walter Duranty award for journalistic putridity to honor those so deserving.
We haven't handed any out in some time and for no particular reason as the state of journalism certainly has not improved much over the past 2-3 years but Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times on Tuesday got us in a very 2008 sort of mood.
It's an embarrassing piece, wreaking of desperation as the spin is in 8 weeks shy of a mid-term meltdown. The whirling dervish got himself really excited over a speech made by the President who wants to spend money we don't have to create "jobs" that won't be created (sound familiar?).
On Labor Day afternoon in Milwaukee, President Obama finally began to vigorously push the kind of high-profile, rebuild-America infrastructure campaign that is absolutely essential if there is to be any real hope of putting Americans back to work and getting the economy back into reasonable shape over the next few years.
In a speech that was rousing, inspirational and, at times, quite funny, the president outlined a $50 billion proposal for a wide range of improvements to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The money would be used for the construction and rehabilitation of highways, bridges, railroads, airport runways and the air traffic control system.
Mr. Obama linked the nation’s desperate need for jobs to the sorry state of the national infrastructure in a tone that conveyed both passion and empathy, and left me wondering, “Where has this guy been for the past year and a half?”
Allow us to help you out, Bob. For the past year and a half after getting the $800 billion Porkulus bill passed of which we were promised that no less than $40 billion would be spent on the very American infrastructure Obama was speaking of on Monday (and as we noted a couple of days ago, this is all on top of the $286 billion Highway bill of 2005 that was signed into law by President Bush), he was busy ramming through a gargantuan entitlement/regulatory regime the nation does not want. Aside from nationalizing a goodly portion of the domestic auto manufacturing industry, attempting to choke the nation's energy sector and suing a state for upholding the law, yeah, that's pretty much been it.
The president’s plan would include the creation of an infrastructure bank that would use public dollars to leverage private capital for major projects. If properly conceived and executed, the bank could become a crucial factor in financing the nation’s long-term infrastructure needs.
It should be kept in mind that Mr. Obama’s proposal is only a first step. Despite the $50 billion price tag, it’s not in any way commensurate with our overwhelming infrastructure needs or the gruesome scale of the nation’s unemployment crisis. But it’s an important step. It’s a smarter approach to infrastructure investment than the wasteful, haphazard, earmark-laden practices that we’ve become accustomed to, and it will put some people to work in jobs that pay decent wages.
What plan? There is no plan. There's a speech where he talks about a plan but there is no freaking plan.
And admitting that it's essentially an open check book and employing "smarter approach" in the same breath is ludicrous.
Herbert seems to realize this, though, because in the very next paragraph, he attempts to dumb down expectations.
The details of the proposal are less important than whether the proposal itself is a sign that Mr. Obama and his party are ready, at long last, to engage this awful economy with the sense of urgency and bold initiatives it requires. The plan won’t help Democrats in November. It’s already too late for that. But a good faith commitment to rebuilding the infrastructure would show that the party has some idea of the scale of the effort that’s needed to overcome the worst downturn since the Great Depression and, ultimately, to build an economy that offers the prospect of a decent living to the next couple of generations.
Translation: Aw, screw it. The fact that this "plan" will just be an open-ended pork-laden exercise in patronage is secondary to the President's totally awesome speech.
Leaning toward the microphone, with his shirt collar unbuttoned, Mr. Obama spoke in a way that belied his reputation for aloofness, for struggling to connect in a visceral way with ordinary working people. He was speaking to a pro-Obama labor gathering, so he didn’t have to win over the audience. But if his goal was to demonstrate that he genuinely cared about the struggles of the people in the audience and those watching on television — and about the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren — he largely succeeded.
Did we mention how totally rad Herbert thought Obama's speech was?
That Herbert fails to note that this mini-Porkulus "plan" is an act of desperation designed to stem the bleeding of the President's approval numbers and Democratic congressional membership come November is either a sign that Herbert is nothing more than a cheer leading partisan hack or that he is a journalistic incompetent.