President Barack Obama delivered a State of the Union address last night that reflected a parallel-universe vision of America very different from the one most of us inhabit in the present day. It’s almost as though he had this speech written five years ago, on the cusp of taking his first Oath of Office, and had to redact and revise swaths of visionary optimism to save face after the embattled 5th year he just completed. It was a vainglorious, self-indulgent victory lap in an empty, echoing stadium.
Some of his promises sounded very Republican, borrowed from conservative critics. At other times, he took credit for things that are either demonstrably unsuccessful or, where successful, can’t be attributed to a hand up from the government – and certainly not from his. The days to come will yield a wealth of commentary and criticism, but let’s knee-jerk over a few highlights from the President’s speech.
Yes, He’s Taking Action
But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do. … I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible. … My administration will keep working with the [natural gas] industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities [No mention of the Keystone pipeline]. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. … I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities.
Obama must have seen the storm coming over his widely-anticipated promise to convert the Presidency to a monarchy. But it didn’t mute that promise; it only forced him to add a spoonful of sugar to the rhetoric. The President pledged to take executive action on domestic economic policy, environmental protection and – even in the wake of last year’s resounding Congressional defeat – gun control. Because, evidently, moral and cultural bankruptcy have nothing to do with mass murders – more unConstitutional laws do.
We Can Spend More Money To Save More Money
Of all the things Obama said Tuesday, his dogged negligence in reconciling a cavalcade of government-expanding ideas with returning our Nation to financial solvency on the global stage stands as the most perplexing – even if, by now, it ought to be a familiar Obama-Administration refrain. Here are some examples:
Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
Translation: The sequester’s over, the tap is turned on, and the Republicans didn’t get what they wanted. Someone in the future can worry about balancing out my Adminstration’s escalation of the Federal debt.
It’s not just oil [again, no mention of Keystone] and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
Translation: Let’s kill coal, which we have in abundance and which supports an established domestic economy with a well-developed infrastructure, and throw more Federal money at disastrous, discredited pipe dreams like Solyndra. Petroleum is for fat cats, and it’s time they helped pay their fair share to put themselves out of business.
When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
Translation: Small businesses, farmers and domestic industries need to bear the cost of a senseless tax on the very vehicles they rely on to produce a product. It’s the government’s job to vilify automakers by passing that financial burden on to the consumer. I am clueless that Ford – the only automaker the government didn’t bail out – didn’t need a government mandate to develop a new series of lightweight, fuel-efficient aluminum trucks in response to a need it saw in the marketplace.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.
Translation: Just what we need – another Obama-inspired insurance initiative to stand alongside the efficient, well received, seamless and cost-effective monument to nanny-state salvation that is Obamacare.
I Can Call Women Fools, And No One Will Notice Because Democrats Stand For Equality
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.
Translation: No one in this room reads conservative news sources, so I can get away with patronizing women without fear that someone may call out my own White House for paying female staffers $9,000 a year less than the males. And all this rhetoric is really in the service of a larger goal: European-style socialism that converts the private sector into a clearinghouse for government-mandated, privately-funded corporate welfare.
Let Government Manage Your Money
Obama took pride in his forthcoming policy tweak, which will reset the Federal minimum wage for contracted workers at $10.10 per hour.
“And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example: Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” he said.
Never mind that Costco is a successful company that pays its employees well because of across-the-board sound business practices.
The Federal government is in no financial position to hike wages. Unlike the government, Costco didn’t shut down three months ago, restart itself through borrowed money and make company-wide pay raises its first priority.
Then there was this:
Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans.
Well, that’s interesting. As long as we’re living in a land of fiat currency, this will either work great until, one day, it doesn’t – or it’s just ambitious pomp that isn’t intended to get off the ground. After all, George W. Bush had us going to Mars by 2030, if anyone remembers.
There’s also a possibility that this MyRA plan is the first baby step toward the government requiring people to buy into a mandatory, wealth-redistributing pension program with penalties for opt-outs. That sounds like another of Obama’s signature legacies.
It also sounds a lot like a long-range Social Security replacement program that solves nothing. And anyway, wouldn’t it be grandiose enough an ambition either to reform Social Security in the first place, or abolish it outright? Obama said little else, so it seems like early days for this one – let’s hope.
Enjoy The Silence
And, louder than any of his spoken words was the President’s roaring silence on what he’s done wrong – Obamacare’s fundamental unsustainability; a head-in-the-sand foreign policy; spending too much printed money while claiming a trimmed deficit; forcing the free market to behave like an overwrought government; using phony numbers to prop up economic optimism; and, above all, wilfully neglecting to countenance and rectify the many recent shameful scandals that lie squarely at his feet: IRS discrimination. The Department of Justice’s adversarial relationship with the American people and press. His Administration’s simpering, self-serving ignorance of the terror attack on our consulate in Benghazi.
The list goes on – but what difference does it make?
*Sam Rolley contributed to this analysis.