President Barack Obama's Tuesday visit to an Chattanooga Amazon fulfillment center went about as you might expect. In front of an adoring crowd of Amazon employees and a few local and state dignitaries -- all of the Democratic persuasion, sans former U.S. Rep Zach Wamp and current state House Majority Leader Rep. Gerald McCormick, both Chattanooga residents and stalwart Republicans -- Obama announced a proposal he called a "grand bargain" to cut corporate taxes and implement some other tax changes and use the proceeds to fund infrastructure improvements and other projects. Everyone applauded loudly, the president said, "Let's get to work!", and everyone gushed about how wonderful he was as they streamed to the exits, only to be corralled by security until the motorcade had left the premises.
And it's true -- Obama is a dynamic speaker live. Dressed in black pants and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, as if to say, "I'm ready to work, are you?", the president gave a forceful speech about creating stable jobs for the middle class. And if he was delivering that speech at a warehouse where workers make $11 an hour, are often only offered seasonal jobs, and are frequently subject to unsafe working conditions? Well, at least they're hiring, right?
The president was at his strongest when criticizing the gridlock in Washington, especially that in the House, and how it's not doing anything to help the economy:
Gutting investments in education, that's not a jobs plan. They keep on talking about this -- an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that's estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs -- that's not a jobs plan. Wasting the country's time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare is not a jobs plan. That's not a jobs plan.
That last line? It brought down the house, as you might expect. Outside the massive warehouse, where people lined the streets with signs in support of the president, "Thank you for bringing us healthcare" was a common refrain. There supposedly was a Tea Party protest, somewhere, probably closer to the airport, but despite all the bitter statements and other propaganda issued by the always classy Tennessee GOP, Obama has a lot of fans in Chattanooga. And Memphis. And Nashville. And Knoxville. The mayors of all those cities (except Nashville) were in attendance, and in the parking lot there were cars with license plates from counties across the state.
The Washington Post is already calling Obama's plan dead on arrival, and, given the divisions between the House and the Senate, they're probably right. But whether this "grand bargain" goes anywhere or not, Obama's presidency is sticking around. "I'm just going to keep on throwing ideas out there to see if something takes," the president said, and then continued:
We've got to be honest about the challenges we face, but also the opportunities that are out there.And that's what I'm going to be focused on not just for the next few months. I'm going to be focused for every one of the 1,270 days I've got left in my presidency on how to make sure that we've got more opportunity and more security for everybody who is willing to work hard in this country. That's where I believe America needs to go.
In short, don't hold your breath, America, but don't totally give up hope either. Maybe on one of those 1,270 days something will actually get done.