Rush, Reich, and Retch

I’m not particularly a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. There are a number of conservative commentators and radio personalities that I prefer. But Rush has been in the news today with the headline of “I hope he fails”, referring to President Obama.

Here, more or less verbatim, is the transcript of what Limbaugh said

I got a request here from a major American print publication. “Dear Rush: For the Obama immaculate Inauguration we are asking a handful of very prominent politicians, statesmen, scholars, businessmen, commentators, and economists to write 400 words on their hope for the Obama presidency. We would love to include you. If you could send us 400 words on your hope for the Obama presidency, we need it by Monday night, that would be ideal.” Now, we’re caught in this trap again. The premise is, what is your “hope”. My hope, and please understand me when I say this…I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, “Well, I hope he succeeds. We’ve got to give him a chance.” Why? They didn’t give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated the search and destroy mission had begun. I’m not talking about search and destroy, but I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed. If I wanted Obama to succeed, I’d be happy the Republicanshave laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he’s talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work. So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words. I hope he fails.’ …

As I said above, I never quite got Rush. I understand he has many fans and that they find him entertaining. But in Rush’s defense, he is hostile toward the government takeover of, as he says,

…the banking business…the mortgage industry…the automobile business…[and]…health care

I remember having discussions with many colleagues who were fans of Obama, and I would say that they were uniformly against the bailouts that have been established so far. Conservatives tended to rail against the bailouts on principle. The liberals tended to rail against the bailouts because they viewed them as rewarding evil businessmen. Nobody actually saw the employees, America’s prestige, or our security. So, in this regard, Limbaugh does not seem too far outside the mainstream. Or maybe the continued deterioration of the economy has changed some people’s minds?

While CNN.com was happy to pound on Limbaugh, I do not recall seeing any stories on Robert Reich. You will recall Robert Reich from the Clinton era, when he served as Clinton’s Labor Secretary. According to the Wikipedia article

In 2008, Time Magazine named [Reich] one of the Ten Most Successful Cabinet Members of the century, and the Wall Street Journal placed him among America’s Top Ten Business Thinkers.

Quite the accolades, no? No wonder that Obama asked Reich to be a member of his economic transition advisor board. But Reich has stepped on his crank, but you’d never know it. Consider Obama economic adviser voices controversial concerns about construction stimulus outlays from the Phoenix Business Journal

Arizona’s beleaguered construction industry and Valley cities have been lining up in droves for a piece of what could be a $1 trillion economic stimulus package from the new administration. Contractors, construction firms and cities including Scottsdale, Phoenix and Mesa want to see the federal plan fund construction projects for water, airports, roads and other public works.

But one of President Barack Obama’s economic advisers has voiced some controversial concerns about federal outlays for construction and other public works and infrastructure projects.

Economist and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich worries about too much of the Obama stimulus going to white males in the construction sector.

“If there aren’t enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most — women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed — will be shut out,” Reich said on his economic blog.

In Arizona, Obama’s New Deal-style stimulus could fund improvements and expansion at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Deer Valley Airport, and water infrastructure in Scottsdale, Phoenix and other cities.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I wonder where on earth white males dominate the construction industry? Maybe Finland?

In terms of large American cities, I don’t think that Phoenix cracks the top 10 in terms of “whiteness”. Phoenix is no Cincinnati, Boston, Portland, or Seattle. Maybe white males dominate construction jobs in Altoona, Dubuque, and Eau Claire. Maybe even in Cracker Country.

But seriously, what should concern us more? An entertainer entertaining, or a presidential advisor suggesting that stimulus funds for construction jobs should go to women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed? I understand what Reich is trying to say. He does not want the stimulus to increase wages in sectors where there are limited skilled professionals. But maybe a better way to say it is to simply suggest expanding training programs so as to expand the potential recipient pool of the construction stimulus funds. Reich does hint at this in his blog here (see the January 8 entry). But I don’t think we need to be mentioning, specifically, women, minorities, the poor, and the long-term unemployed. It sounds too much like liberal business as usual. Is that post-partisanship in action?

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