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A newspaper editorial today greeted Barack Obama in an entirely new way as he traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn., to visit an Amazon.com business center and lobby for his newest strategy to try to create jobs for Americans.
“Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough,” said a commentary in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“Forgive us if you are not greeted with the same level of Southern hospitality that our area usually bestows on its distinguished guests. You see, we understand you are in town to share your umpteenth different job creation plan during your time in office. If it works as well as your other job creation programs, then thanks, but no thanks. We’d prefer you keep it to yourself,” the newspaper said.
“That’s because your jobs creation plans so far have included a ridiculous government spending spree and punitive tax increase on job creators that were passed, as well as a minimum wage increase that, thankfully, was not. Economists – and regular folks with a basic understanding of math – understand that these are three of the most damaging policies imaginable when a country is mired in unemployment and starving for job growth.”
At Amazon’s Chattanooga fulfillment center, Obama praised the operation for being “kind of like the North Pole of the south right here. … Got a bunch of good-looking elves here.”
He boasted of creating “7.2 million new jobs over the last 40 months” because of the “grit and resilience of the American people.”
“But as I said last week, and as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not there yet,” Obama said. “Even before the financial crisis hit, we were going through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, but most families were working harder and harder just to get by. And reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority.”
He said he wanted to lay out his ideas for creating good jobs but lamented that the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t give him everything he asked for.
Obama cited a strategy to offer incentives for manufacturers to keep jobs in the U.S. or bring them back from overseas, spending billions to catch up on “deferred maintenance” in the U.S., creating jobs in wind, solar, and natural gas industries, and exporting more.
He also said he wants corporations to hire more people.
“We’re not lacking for ideas, we’re just lacking action, especially out of Washington,” Obama said.
The newspaper noted “64 percent of Chattanooga respondents said they would rather you hadn’t chosen to visit our fair city,” but the editorial said it actually was good that Obama visited.
“It will give you an opportunity to see the failure of your most comprehensive jobs plan to date, the disastrous stimulus scheme, up close and personal,” the newspaper said.
The commentary cited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009’s funding of the “Gig to Nowhere.”
That’s a $552 million “socialist-style experiment in government-owned Internet, cable and phone services orchestrated by EPB – Chattanooga’s government-owned electric monopoly.”
“The Gig to Nowhere is a Smart Grid, a high tech local electricity infrastructure intended to improve energy efficiency and reduce power outages. After lobbying for, and receiving, $111.6 million in stimulus money from your administration, EPB decided to build a souped-up version of the Smart Grid with fiber optics rather than more cost-effective wireless technology. This decision was supposed to allow EPB to provide the fastest Internet service in the Western Hemisphere, a gigabit-per-second Internet speed that would send tech companies and web entrepreneurs stampeding to Chattanooga in droves.”
The reality, however, is that the project is “an absolute bust.”
“While the Smart Grid will cost taxpayers and local electric customers well over a half-billion dollars when all is said and done, there has been little improvement in the quality of EPB’s electric service. Worse, despite being heavily subsidized, EPB’s government-owned Internet, cable and telephone outfit that competes head-to-head against private companies like AT&T and Comcast is barely staying afloat, often relying on loans from electric service reserve funds to afford its business expenses,” the newspaper pointed out.
“Further, there has been no credible evidence to suggest that EPB can even provide a gig of service consistently and reliably. Any companies hoping to utilize the Gig to Nowhere are quoted monthly billing costs that make the service unfeasible. As a result, Chattanooga has remained a relative ghost town for technological innovation. Almost no economic development whatsoever has resulted from the gig,” the newspaper said.
The newspaper said what the government program has achieved is a “shocking price tag.”
“Because of your unwillingness to balance the budget, Mr. President, the $111.6 million federal handout to subsidize the Gig to Nowhere will actually cost federal taxpayers $158.2 million, due to interest. Once EPB received the stimulus infusion to fund the pork project, the electric monopoly took out a $219.8 bond that will balloon to $391.3 million by the time Chattanoogans are done paying it off.
“The bond’s first payment comes due this fall and there remain significant questions about how EPB can manage to pay the debt without hiking electric rates on EPB customers,” the newspaper said. “Building a Smart Grid to get into a telecom sector already well-served by private companies was a bad idea from the start. But getting government involved in places it doesn’t belong is a hallmark of your administration.”
Obama’s explained his newest strategy is a plan that “simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages.”
He said he would be willing to consider tax code reform – but only if it allows the government “to use money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs.”