Obama Vs. Carter Vs. Mondale

On economics, Democratic campaign themes haven't changed much since 1980.


"Senator Obama says that I'm running for Bush's third term. It seems to me, he's running for Jimmy Carter's second," was John McCain's reaction to Barack Obama's big economic speech yesterday. A mildly amusing line—and one I have decided to explore. I have dug up economic-themed excerpts from three speeches, in no particular order: Obama's speech, Carter's 1980 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and Walter Mondale's acceptance speech at the 1984 DNC. They are all amazingly similar. See if you can figure out which is which. I'll give the answer at the end of the blog post.

Now I have tweaked them a bit to alter any giveaway references. For example, every "Reagan" has been changed to "Bush" or "McCain." And I have chosen to exclude Carter's famous line, "Sorry, Governor Reagan. You are no Mr. Roarke, and America is no Fantasy Island!" (That's a joke, BTW.)

Speech #1: "Eight years ago, many of you voted for Mr. Bush because he promised you'd be better off. And today, the rich are better off. But working Americans are worse off, and the middle class is standing on a trap door. ...First, there was Mr. Bush's tax program. What happened was, he gave each of his rich friends enough tax relief to buy a Hummer—and then he asked your family to pay for the hubcaps.... And John McCain believes that the genius of America is in the boardrooms and exclusive country clubs. I believe that the greatness can be found in the men and women who built our nation, do its work, and defend our freedom.... To the corporations and freeloaders who play the loopholes or pay no taxes, my message is: Your free ride is over. When the American economy leads the world, the jobs are here, the prosperity is here for our children. But that's not what's happening today. This is the worst trade year in American history. Three million of our best jobs have gone overseas. Mr. Bush has done nothing about it. They have no plan to get our competitive edge back. But we do. We will cut the deficits, reduce interest rates, make our exports affordable, and make America No. 1 again in the world economy.... We will launch a renaissance in education, in science, and learning. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And this must be the best-educated, best-trained generation in American history."

Speech #2: "We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic crisis by some accident of history. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.... It's little more than a worn dogma that says we should give more to those at the top and hope that their good fortune trickles down to the hardworking many.... ...We do the cause of free trade...no good when we pass trade agreements that hand out favors to special interests and do little to help workers who have to watch their factories close down. As a result of such special-interest-driven policies and lax regulation, we haven't seen prosperity trickling down to Main Street.... Instead of handing out giveaways to corporations that don't need them and didn't ask for them, it's time we started giving a hand up to families who are trying pay their medical bills and send their children to college. We can't afford...more years of skewed priorities that give us nothing but record debt.... We'll also need to place a greater emphasis on areas like science and technology that will define the workforce of the 21st century, and invest in the research and innovation necessary to create the jobs and industries of the future right here in America."

Speech: #3: "I see a future of economic security—security that will come from tapping our own great resources of oil and gas, coal and sunlight, and from building the tools and technology and factories for a revitalized economy based on jobs and stable prices for everyone.... But there is another possible future. In that other future I see despair—despair of millions who would struggle for equal opportunity and a better life and struggle alone. And I see surrender—the surrender of our energy future to the merchants of oil, the surrender of our economic future to a bizarre program of massive tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor, and massive inflation for everyone.... It's time to put all America back to work—but not in make-work, in real work. And there is real work in modernizing American industries and creating new industries for America as well...new industries to turn our own coal and shale and farm products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the sun into heat and electricity for our homes... ...job training for workers displaced by economic changes...and a whole new generation of American jobs to make homes and vehicles and buildings that will house us and move us in comfort with a lot less energy."

My take: In order, the speeches were delivered by Mondale, Obama, and Carter. But each gentleman probably could have given any of the three with only minor changes. The themes were similar. The GOP favors tax cuts for the rich and for big companies, free trade is costing America jobs and wealth, and it's time for government to invest in energy and education so America can grow. It's as if the past 25 years, including the Clinton era, never happened.