This month, the nation was rocked by the news that the American economy contracted in the first quarter of 2014 for the first time in three years, and not by just a little bit. A revision to the first quarter’s GDP revealed that the economy shrank by nearly 3 percent. While economists predict that economic activity will gain steam over the course of the year, the International Monetary Fund revised 2014’s expected GDP growth from 2.7 to just 2 percent.
It is with this dismal economic news as a backdrop that President Barack Obama pivoted, again, back to the economy. It seems, however, that President Obama’s economic pitch has little to do with revving America’s economic engine and much more to do with snarking about Republicans before crowds of supporters.
In a speech on Tuesday in front of the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C., Obama informed a grateful nation that he is seeking more funding to build more “roads and bridges.” If this proposal sounds familiar to you, you’re not imagining things, as this bit of analysis from National Review’s Jim Geraghty explains:
Back in 2009, Congress made “the largest new investment in America’s infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System” and then spends about $52 billion per year, and yet we’re still hearing the same complaints about “crumbling roads and bridges.”
A Google search shows 111 news articles in recent weeks using the phrase, “crumbling roads and bridges.” (Overall on the web, 321,000.)
No matter how much we spend, we keep getting told that our infrastructure is crumbling like a stale doughnut and we absolutely must spend more. What, have we been building bridges out of balsa wood? Are we resurfacing our roads with graham crackers?
Obama’s speech revealed that this event wasn’t aimed at building support for substantive proposals, but reinforcing narratives about his opponents in the GOP.
“It’s not crazy. It’s not socialism. It’s not the imperial presidency,” Obama asserted defensively. “We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing have for the past, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.”
Obama then pivoted away from the economy and back to attacking the Republican House. “So far, Republicans have failed to act on this idea,” he said. I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted. It’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.”
Republicans cannot head into the midterms hoping that anti-Obama sentiment will be enough to capture the majority of seats in the upper chamber of Congress. The GOP needs a positive agenda to pitch to the American people, but the same goes for the Democrats. Asserting that the Republicans are mean and voting for the president’s party is a vote for the same “roads and bridges” that they failed to deliver when Democrats passed the Stimulus does not seem like a winning message.