The general thrust of the speech was to claim for government the mantle of progress: e.g., we are a great country today because our ancestors built roads. Going forward, with government's help we can cure cancer, get everyone educated, give everyone healthcare, save the planet from climate destruction and ensure (Obama's favorite word) that everyone who wants it has access to credit for whatever it is he wants, especially cars and more college education—which by the way everyone should do. In Obama's worldview, government is the source of all progress. I think he mentioned the word "entrepreneur" once.
Following Rahm's lead, Obama tried quite unsuccessfully to explain why it is that the roots of the current crisis lie in our failure to develop renewable energy and provide college education and free healthcare to everyone, and our willingess to allow the richest to just get richer thanks to lower tax rates.
Executives of major corporations will be presumed guilty of malfeasance if they fly in private jets. (Obama will claim the mantel of frugality by declining the offer of $11 billion worth of new Lockheed Martin helicopters to replace Marine One, but he will make profligate use of Air Force One.) Banks will be drawn and quartered if they don't use government assistance to expand their lending (but wasn't willy-nilly lending one of the major causes of the housing crisis?).
Rich people who cash out of the corporate rat-race and give all their money to their employees will be lionized. We enter a new age of enforced charity and sacrifice and community service.
After last week imploring Congress to pass without scrutiny a bill that will add trillions of dollars to future deficits, now Obama says he will go to the ends of the earth to "ensure" that the bill will not be wasteful. And he also promises to bring the deficit back down from the lofty heights it is soon to reach, to somewhere just above where he inherited it. (I'm figuring that the deficit as a % of GDP will rocket from about 6% of GDP today to almost 12%, and maybe, if all the stars are aligned perfectly, descend in 3-4 years back down to 7% of GDP.) It would be a miracle if the deficit by the end of Obama's first term is back down to the highest level of the deficit (as a % of GDP) of the Reagan administration.
He will bring the deficit down by "ensuring" that wasteful and unnecessary spending will be dutifully eliminated, and also by ensuring that those making more than $250,000 a year pick up the tab for everything else. Class warfare is so easy once you realize that the vast majority of voters make less than $250,000 a year.
Stephen Green did a great job of drunkblogging Obama's address, by the way.
How he will reconcile his assertion that we can't walk away from the auto industry, but that it must be fully competitive in the global environment was not exactly clear.
To summarize, I don't see anything that holds out the promise of making a significant difference. Sadly but fortunately, that is not new news. I think the market is already priced to no help from an Obama administration. If this is economy is going to recover, it will do so in spite of Obama's supposed ministrations. That's why I will continue to focus on the real-time, market-based indicators of where the economy is moving on the margin.