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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, with President Obama officially on the campaign trail now, it is hard not to be reminded of the kind of candidate he was the last time around and to marvel at the difference.
At some point the postpartisan healer who pledged to unite Red and Blue America became the ``divider in chief,'' a deeply divisive President who never seems to miss an opportunity to pit one group against another and who is now determined to win reelection not by appealing to America's best instincts but all too often to its worst.
Even the New York Times editorial page, this very morning, says the country is more divided than it was 4 years ago under this President. Some have argued that the transformation we have witnessed proves that the President was a liberal ideologue all along, that the task of governing revealed his true instincts. That may be true. But there is an even simpler explanation than that, and one that in some ways is even more disappointing. It is the idea that the President said what he needed to say to get elected then and that he will say whatever he needs to say to get reelected now.
It encapsulates why the American people are so very skeptical of politicians. The President's policies may have disappointed. A health care bill that was supposed to lower costs is causing them to rise. A stimulus bill that was supposed to create jobs was better at generating punch lines. But one of the greatest disappointments of this Presidency is the difference between the kind of leader this President said he was and the kind he has turned out to be.
How did that happen? Well, I think the President just put too much faith in government. Let's face it; there isn't a problem we face that this President didn't think the government could solve. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he still can't seem to shake the idea that more government is the answer for what ails us.
When the stimulus failed, it wasn't the government's fault; it was the Republicans. When the health care bill caused health care costs to rise, the same thing. When trillions are spent and jobs don't come, it is ATM machines, it is the weather, it is bankers, it is the rich, it is Fox News--it is anything other than the government.
This is why the sickening waste of taxpayer dollars we have seen so many times over the last 3 years--whether it was at a solar company such as Solyndra or at a lavish party that Federal bureaucrats threw for themselves in Vegas--is viewed not as a symptom of a larger problem in Washington but as a problem to be managed, something to acknowledge and then move beyond because they just don't seem to see it. The President seems to view government the way some parents view their children: It can do no wrong.
So if there is a problem to solve, a challenge to tackle, the solution is always the same: more government, more government. And the results are always the same: a disappointment to be blamed on somebody--anybody--else.
I think the President summed it up pretty well during a speech he gave in New York just yesterday. This is what he said:
The only way we can accelerate job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress.
Really? The only way to accelerate job creation is through Congress? Not the private sector? Hasn't the experience of the last 3 1/2 years taught this President anything at all about the limitations of government action?
Madam President, 3 1/2 years and $5 trillion later, there are nearly a half million fewer jobs in the country than the day the President took office. That is not what most people would describe as a good return on investment. Yet that is all we get--the same government-driven solutions he has been pushing for 3 1/2 years.
Nearly 13 million Americans who are actively looking for jobs can't find one. Millions more have given up looking for a job altogether as the worker participation rate is the lowest it has been in 30 years.
More than half of all college graduates--the best prepared to enter the workforce--can't find a good job. More than half of college graduates can't find a job. And this President is proposing the same old ideas that have failed before. Some government action failed? Then just do it again on a larger scale. That is the approach this President has taken. It is his approach still. It is the clearest sign he is literally out of ideas.
But he is unwilling to try something different. He is unwilling to confront the fact that a government that might have worked well a half century ago is outdated and in desperate need of reform. So he is resorting to the same old political gimmicks and games that he criticizes others for using.
Earlier this year the President mocked those who, every time gas prices go up, dust off their three-point plans to lower them, especially in an election year. That was the President. Yet yesterday he was proposing a five-point plan of his own to revive the economy, a to-do list in effect for Congress.
The cynicism is literally breathtaking. Here is a President who, in the morning, worked hand-in-hand with Senate Democrats to ensure that legislation to freeze interest rates on student loans wouldn't pass, and in the afternoon gave a recycled speech in which he pleaded for an end to the very gridlock he was orchestrating. There is perhaps no better illustration of how far this President has come from the heady days of his last campaign.
Look: Americans voted this President into office on a promise of bipartisan action.
Orchestrating political show votes on student loans and giving Congress a post-it note checklist of legislative items to pass before the election is not what the American people expected.
They expected us to work together and they still do.
The President knows as well as I do that the solution to our economic problems lies not in a Post-It-Note congressional agenda dictated from a lectern in New York, but through a sound limited-government pro-growth plan, which includes comprehensive tax reform, a true all-of-the-above energy policy and the elimination of burdensome regulations that are hurting business and hindering job creation.
Republicans have been calling for these policies for years and the President at one time or another has claimed to support them. These are proposals where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground. In other words, a plan designed not to control free enterprise from Washington but to liberate it. We just need the President to show some courage and leadership.
We will get this economy going not by handing out more special favors and credits to favored industries and groups, but by simplifying the code, clearing out the loopholes, and lowering rates for everybody.
In less than 8 months, Americans will be hit with the biggest tax increase in history--unless we act.
The President knows as well as I do how devastating this would be for the American people--for everyone.
People who are already struggling will have to do with even less. Businesses that are already struggling just to keep afloat will see Washington getting an even bigger take than it already is.
This looming tax hike will be absolutely devastating. Yet here we are less than 8 months away from it, and the President is busy orchestrating failure in the Senate and waving around some 5-point plan cooked up by some high-paid political consultant in Chicago.
Now, I am not in the business of giving the President campaign advice. But I am in the business of trying to get the best possible outcome for the American people. And here is an issue--tax reform--where I know the two parties have a shot at working together to help this economy, and restore the American Dream for all those who've started to doubt whether it will even be there in a few years.
So I would respectfully ask the President to ignore his campaign consultants for once and do what's right for the nation as a whole. Republicans in Congress are ready to work with you, Mr. President, on the kind of comprehensive reforms that you yourself have called for in the past.
Working together might not help your campaign, but it would help the country. So my message to you is this: We are ready when you are.
I yield the floor.
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