There's an old saying in the investment business that goes like this: "The reason stockbrokers aren't rich is they don't believe their own BS."
Barack Obama can be a very compelling speaker … at times. He saved his campaign in 2008 with a world-class speech on race. He played the role of "Consoler in Chief" magnificently at the funeral for those killed by a mass murderer in Arizona when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was severely injured. He also is very effective in settings involving the military and their families, or if his commitment to the country's security is questioned.
This election, however, is not going to be about race or support for military families, and it probably won't be about national security, barring a September 11 type event. It's going to be about the economy.
Obama has to defend his record on the economy, and lay out a plan for the future. So far, he's done a mediocre to poor job on both counts.
Obama says we should spend money on infrastructure and increased hiring for firemen, cops, and teachers. Romney says we should cut spending to reduce the deficit. The Obama argument, which should be a winning argument, is not getting through.
GOVERNMENT: PROBLEM OR SOLUTION
When you come right down to it, the divide between Obama and Romney is about whether or not government is a proper vehicle for accomplishing big things that benefit the country as a whole the way FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, and LBJ did. Or, do you believe as Grover Norquist, the patron saint of the far right, that our immediate goal should be "to shrink government down to size where we can drown it in the bathtub"?
After all, if you're rich enough, how much government do you need? A strong defense; a Coast Guard to protect your private yacht; airports to land your private plane; subsidized rail transit to get from your Greenwich, CT estate to your Park Avenue apartment. That pretty much covers it. Maintain and improve our national parks? Please. How bourgeios. Sound financial market and bank regulation; environmental protection; aid to education; infrastructure improvements? Stop it, you're killing me.
Obama clearly believes that government is a proper vehicle for accomplishing big things that benefit the country as a whole. He seems, however, strangely reluctant to say that loudly, explicitly, and with passion.
He needs to get down to absolute basics. There are three sources of spending in the economy: consumers, business, and government. In tough economic times, when business and consumers have cut back their spending, it's incumbent upon government to increase spending on worthwhile projects to stimulate the economy and make the country more competitive.
The worthwhile project that's staring us in the face is infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum, the US ranks 16th in the world in terms of quality of infrastructure … roads, bridges, rail systems, port facilities, etc. Not long ago, we were 6th. We rank behind countries such as Germany, France, South Korea, Canada, Sweden, and Japan.
Our crumbling infrastructure affects quality of life. It affects the efficiencies of American businesses (notice the trucks idling while waiting to cross the George Washington Bridge). It also affects our ability as a country to attract multi-national corporations when they make choices on where to build new facilities.
The President should go big on infrastructure. Accept the right-wing challenge that government doesn't work. Take the other side of that argument. Support an infrastructure spending bill 10 times what they're talking about in Congress. That's what you'll push for in a second term.
Let Romney be the naysayer. You be the one who's for jobs; for putting money in the working man's pocket; for business efficiencies; for American exceptionalism. Just like Eisenhower was in 1956 when he pushed for the Interstate and Defense Highway Act.
Say it like you mean it. Your job is at stake.