Twice in the last week I’ve noticed that President Obama has told the American people some tough things, and has then gone on to do a good job of explaining why things are the way they are.
This is something that Obama does a good bit better than President Bush. I don’t remember Bush ever addressing the issue of outsourced jobs or bankruptcy for the auto makers.
Obama was very careful in how he talked about bankruptcy yesterday during his speech on the auto companies.
“Now, while Chrysler and GM are very different companies with very different paths forward, both need a fresh start to implement the restructuring plan they develop. That may mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger,” Obama said.
He then took pains to clarify what he meant and what he did not mean.
“Now, I want everybody to be clear about this. I know that when people hear the word ‘bankruptcy’ it can be unsettling, so let me explain exactly what I mean. What I’m talking about is using our existing legal structure as a tool that, with the backing of the U.S. government, can make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down so that they can get back on their feet and onto a path to success; a tool that we can use, even as workers staying on the job building cars that are being sold,” he said.
“What I’m not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off, and no longer exists. We’re not talking about that,” he said, reassuring auto company workers who would understandably be anxious or fearful at the mention of bankruptcy.
The other time Obama did something like this recently was at last week’s “virtual town hall.” A woman asked him through a YouTube video, “When can we expect that jobs that have been outsourced to other countries to come back and be made available to the unemployed workers here in the United States?”
Mr. Obama talked about the job market overall and his economic plan, but then addressed the question directly.
“Now, a lot of the outsourcing that was referred to in the question really has to do with the fact that our economy — if it’s dependent on low-wage, low-skill labor, it’s very hard to hang on to those jobs because there’s always a country out there that pays lower wages than the U.S.,” he said. “And so we’ve got to go after the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future.”
Obama talked about new energy industries as the high-wage sector of the future, and then made a somewhat eyebrow-raising comment, especially when you consider some of his rhetoric on the campaign trail about the Bush administration outsourcing jobs.
“So I guess the answer to the question is, not all of these jobs are going to come back. And it probably wouldn’t be good for our economy for a bunch of these jobs to come back because, frankly, there’s no way that people could be getting paid a living wage on some of these jobs — at least in order to be competitive in an international setting.”
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times