Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SOTU Brutus?

I missed the delivery of the State of the Union (SOTU) address tonight, but read the text.  As usual, the President has conveniently forgotten facts and argues against straw-man positions that Republicans have never taken.  Before I plunge in with criticism, there were some things that were good, or at least not that awful.

Is Uncle Joe falling asleep back there?
  • With the exception of path to citizenship, Obama said most of the right things on immigration reform.  I especially liked this quote: And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy. If only I thought he really meant it.
  • He made a feeble call for compromise, which would have been nice if he had practiced it any time over the previous four years.
  • He calls for means testing Medicare, of course, he doesn't call it that, stating obliquely that he will "ask more from the wealthiest seniors." I actually believe this is a good idea, because as the level at which means testing for medicare falls, which is inevitable, given its problems, political support for the status quo will be undermined.  Without getting specific, he says that he will propose more cost savings from Medicare.  That would be great if it were not for our experience with him, that when he offers no specifics, he actually has no plan.
  • Deficit reduction gets a lot of air time.  That in itself is evidence of how the tea party has changed the political dialog.
  • He talked about bursting the college bubble.  I like that he points out that college costs are soaring and threatens to link federal aid to reigning in costs.  Emphasizing the known link between good technical education at two year schools and employment was also good to read.

Of course there were multiple lapses of memory and disregard for fact:

  • He calls sequestration harsh, blames the Congress for passing it, neglecting that he signed the bill.
  • Standard accounting treatment of assets that are depleted is called a tax loophole.
  •  He conveniently ignores that the federal government created the college bubble through various loan and scholarship programs.
  • al-Qaeda is a shadow of its former self. Really? How do they strike deep into the desert and take over an Algerian gas plant? 
  • We will invest in new capabilities for the armed forces.  I hardly think so when you signed the sequestration law that significantly cuts their budget.  If true, he will have to cut troop strength even more, because that is the only place to weapons development money.
  • He waves the bloody shirt of Newtown to propose gun control that would not have prevented the tragedy at Newtown.
  • He claims credit for increased natural gas production even while his EPA works furiously to make extraction more difficult.
And there was the plain awful stuff.
  • Imperial overreach on climate change, the usual: if Congress won't act, then I will.
  • More shovel ready public works.  Worked great last time.
  • More green energy subsidies. Worked great last time.
  • Another wasteful "Head Start" like program. For an indictment of Head Start, read here.
  • Another minimum wage increase that will predictably increase unemployment.
  • And there was this whopper: That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.  His illegal and unconstitutional targeting of American citizens, anywhere in the world, without authority is a heinous violation of the constitution.  Congress should rescind the authority granted the President after 9-11 because they have been stretched beyond meaning. 
  • Some scheme to make sure that stricter voting laws are removed in red states.
I'm glad I didn't watch the speech, knowing Obama's style of delivery would only made it more unpalatable.  Someone I know who supposedly had some inside preview of the speech told me I would be surprised.  I was not.  This speech was devoid of any concrete proposal that will see the light of day in this Congress, with the possible exception of the immigration portion.  Meanwhile, folks, read the whole transcript here, and then check the debt clock on the right side of the page.  Let me know if the speech matched the seriousness of our dilemma.

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