SOTU – The Uncommon Response
I was informed on Tuesday afternoon, that I had drawn the short straw and had been nominated to watch our President’s State of the Union address last night. After profuse thanks to the bearer of that good news (thanks Parson!!), I grabbed my pad and pen in order to bring you the Uncommon Show’s response to the SOTU.
If you haven’t seen the speech, here it is:
Let me say that my first reaction is: We did it. By “we” I mean Tea Party Patriots across the nation and by “it” I mean we forced our planks and platform into the national dialog. Now the President isn’t going to change his stripes, but one thing was readily apparent. They aren’t dismissing us anymore. Our messages of fiscal responsibility, cutting taxes, and American Exceptionalism have been heard loud and clear all the way to the White House. In actuality, this means nothing because I don’t believe for a second that President Obama really believes America is exceptional (remember he wanted to “fundamentally transform” her, and you don’t fundamentally transform something that is exceptional) or that he wants to cut taxes. He was paying lip service to us, but it’s a sign that he has been forced to take us seriously after last fall’s elections and he acknowledges our impact on the national dialog.
I’ll give my reactions in a live-blog/quick-hit format.
- I thought it was interesting that some of the state delegations were sitting together (i.e. Arizona’s Congressional delegation sat together). This hearkens back to the way things were in the olden days when our nation was just being born. I kind of like it, although I feel bad for Mark Kirk. I wouldn’t want to sit by Dick Turban either.
- The President came in loose, confident, and a little smug. For the most part, he maintained this demeanor throughout. Not nearly as pedantic as last year when he lectured the Supreme Court. Notably Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito were not in attendance.
- The overarching theme of the speech was investing in tomorrow. It was a forward-looking speech with not very many specifics but a whole lot of language which was intended to inspire and motivate. It felt idealistic and a little tone-deaf to me, given the current state of our economy and housing market. For instance he stated that our “economy is growing again” and that the stock market had come “roaring back”. The stock market is certainly beginning to recover, but it has not roared back. Today marked the first time since 2008 that the Dow broke 12,000. We’ve got a long way to go before we can definitively say that we “have broken the back of this recession” as stated last night.
- He said a few things that made me do a double-take. He said that “we need to take responsibility for our deficit” and I almost fell out of mychair. I certainly agree with him, but his Administration has more than tripled our budget deficit and has added trillions of dollars to our Federal Budget Deficit. For him to say we need to act responsibly toward our deficit is like the bully telling you “Let’s be careful how we build our sand castles, so they don’t fall over” after he gets done kicking your sand castle to smithereens.
- The President used the example of Sputnik to explain how other nations have challenged us to excel and how it led to the Space Race and NASA putting a man on the moon. This is a frequent talking point for Presidents who wish to inspire Americans to excel and innovate, but it’s puzzling given the context. For those who are unaware, we no longer have a manned space exploration program at NASA. President Obama decided to cut the Constellation project last year, which had planned to go back to the moon in 2020 and to attempt a trip to Mars in 2030. To urge Americans to innovate and compete along the lines of NASA while cutting NASA’s space exploration funding is puzzling at best.
- Some central quotes to his speech: “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-work the rest of the world.” He specifically said that he wants to innovate in 3 areas: bio-energy, information technologies, and clean energy. Specific goals he listed were getting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2050. He wants to pay for this innovation by eliminating subsidies to oil companies, which will force gas prices to sky-rocket. This is completely in line with his cap-and-trade strategy of forcing us onto “clean fuels” by making traditional fuels exorbitantly expensive. If we can develop “clean fuels”, I’m all for using them. But only because they are more efficient and cheaper than traditional fuels. I don’t want my government forcing me off of gasoline via price hikes and subsidies. I will move off of gasoline when the market dictates it is the better product. Such is the beauty of the free market..
- A point that many people have made which bears repeating is that he used the word “invest” a lot last night. Sounds good right? Who doesn’t like to invest? It sounds like we’re putting money away in a savings account or a mutual fund for the future. The only problem is that governments don’t “invest” as we do. When the President says he wants to invest in “clean energy” to the point that 80% of US energy is “clean” by 2035, that means he wants to spend a TON of our tax dollars on technology and research. He uses code-words like invest because it sounds more fiscally responsible, but this is the same old tax-and-spend rhetoric.
- He did say a few things that I agree with. Specifically he made the point that we need to celebrate the winners of the Science Bowl, not only the winners of the Super Bowl. I think our culture holds scholarship in pretty low esteem and I would agree with him that this should change. He said he wants to cut the corporate tax rate without adding to the deficit. This surprised me. He’s been on the “corporations = evil” bandwagon for a long time, so I think this was a bone thrown to Republicans. He also said that he’s interested in exploring tort reform. This got the best reaction of the night. Speaker Boehner, sitting behind him, looked up a little surprised and started clapping. Vice President Biden did not. He also vowed to veto any bill that comes across his desk with earmarks. This is a good thing. Will it stop Congress from loading bills with pork? Of course not, they’ll simply find another way to get away with it, but until they do it will prevent more tax revenues going to things like turtle tunnels.
- Harry Reid claps like an old lady. Seriously dude, you used to box. C’mon..
- The President said he’s ready to protect our borders and enforce our laws on immigration. Say WHAAAA? This is the same President who has directed his Attorney General to sue the State of Arizona for passing a law which simply restates existing Federal law on immigration. When is he planning to start this “enforcement”? Does this mean he will crack down on so-called sanctuary cities like Chicago, D.C. and L.A.?
- He got to the subject of regulation. He touted the “regulatory overview” which he has recently ordered. If there is any regulation which is an undue burden on businesses, he pledged to “fix it”. Not eliminate it. Fix it. Our lives and businesses are already choking in over-regulation, why wouldn’t he pledge to eliminate onerous regulation? Because his buddy Cass Sunstein can’t jive with that! This was one of two times where his intention was to sound reassuring but the words were less than so. Later in the speech he spoke about the redundancies found in the Federal government and how he wants to get rid of government waste. This is a positive thing to hear, coming from a Big Government type of guy, right? But then he said he wants to “merge and consolidate” parts of the Federal government which are redundant. Not cut government, but consolidate it. Anytime I hear a Progressive speak about merging and consolidating government, my libertarian instincts start to tingle like Spiderman. Sounds like he’s interested in keeping the same amount of Federal influence in our lives, just consolidating the power into fewer offices. This is not a good thing, my friends..
- If he says Tollybon or Pahkeystahn one more time, I’m gonna lose it.
- The President stated that combat troops in Afghanistan will begin coming home in July. This was right after he patted himself on the back for the end of the Iraq War. You know, the war which was won by the implementation of a surge of troops in 2008? This same surge which he spoke out against publicly.
Overall, it was a speech that seemed tailored to convince America that President Obama was willing and able to “triangulate” like Clinton did. He wants to reassure us that he can “play nice” and move the country forward. The problem is that a) I don’t believe him when he says that he wants to do what it takes to lay a solid foundation for the next generation because that would necessitate his abandonment of Obamacare and the radical reduction in entitlement programs and b) his base won’t support his attempt to move to the center. We’ve already seen the backlash that comes from the Left when he attempts to move to the right (Bush tax cuts, gay marriage). He will be have a much tougher time in 2012 if he doesn’t please his hard-Left supporters. He didn’t convince me that he knows what this country is going through right now. He certainly convinced me that he knows where he wants to take this country, but his policies will not lead to his professed destination.
I thought Rep Paul Ryan’s response was excellent. He’s long been one of my favorites in Congress and I like the solutions offered by his Roadmap for America. He seemed really tight and nervous at the beginning, but definitely loosened up as he went along. He didn’t mince words and nailed the President on a few points, namely the wasteful albatross known as the Stimululs Package and Obamacare. My favorite point of his was regarding the ever-growing list of companies who have been granted waivers from Obamacare’s mandates, he said that in his opinion “the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.” I also like that he told Americans to “hold us (Congress) all accountable”. His points about the necessity of limited government and self government were right on and well-said. His full speech is here.