Cometh the Hour, Punteth the Man

by Mark Steyn

There’s something sad about a man so carelessly revealing himself as entirely inadequate to the moment. Government spending is an existential threat to the United States. Whether or not anyone at the White House knows this, the viziers decided to shove the sultan out on stage with a pitifully unserious speech retreating to all his lamest tropes — the usual whiny, petty, and unpresidential partisan snippiness, and the ponderous demolition of straw men even he barely bothered to pretend he believed in:

Politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse — that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices.

Yeah, right. Why don’t we start by eliminating whatever dope got paid to write that sentence?

This speech failed Rich’s “What’s yours?” test. In fact, it more or less declared to the world that this administration has no plan, and has no plan to plan on getting a plan anytime soon. But America is not Greece. There is no Germany to bail us out. Only we can do it. And the president just signaled to the world that that’s not going to happen. Here’s one example of his and his speechwriters’ hideous laziness:

If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them . . . South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science.

That last bit is true — but it’s nothing to do with money. According to the most recent OECD figures (2007), the Koreans spent $5,437 per primary-school pupil; we spent $10,229. For education as a whole, the Koreans spent $7,325 per pupil; we spent $14,269. They not only “outpace our kids in math and science”; they do it by only spending half as much.

That’s the problem, and whichever hack speechwriter put those ridiculous words in the president’s mouth surely knew it. As did the president. We spend more than anyone but the Swiss on education, and by any rational measure at least half of it is entirely wasted: That model is why this country is dying, and the president just went on TV and bragged to the world he has no plans to change it.

The whole speech was like that, a litany of brain-dead slapdash rhetorical questions that for sentient beings are no longer rhetorical: My fellow Americans, do we want an America where our most lethargic and mediocre youth are denied a leisurely half-decade acquiring a fraudulent six-figure credential in some worthless pseudo-discipline simply because we can’t afford it?

Well, it’d be a start.