The Corner

The State of the Union Is . . . a Speech

The president has delivered another speech. Be still my beating heart. However, give credit where credit is due. With his abdication of leadership and his dismal record, I figured he’d stay away from sequester and budget. But what he said left me baffled:

“Most Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” Who, exactly said we could? And does he realize the same “folks” (on of his favorite terms) realize you can’t just spend your way there either?

“Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep — but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.” That’s a beautiful phrase, until you realize that it is precisely the promises “we’ve already made” that are the ones that we cannot keep.

“To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.”  (Emphasis added.)  So “balanced” means 100 percent tax increases. Yet even his White House website says that tax reform means broadening the base and lowering rates.

I could go on. At a juncture when our country needs real entitlement reform, there was nothing more than vague promises. At a juncture when it needs real tax reform, he can’t even find the definition. And at a time when those reforms are the indispensable foundation of more rapid growth, he remains stuck in central-planning mode: “It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”

Not surprisingly, the president then segued to a list of new spending programs and social objectives. But along the way he also dropped some real whoppers. “I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.” That was before his Waxman-Markey bill became the new standard for the legislative nadir.

Next up was the new GSE, “Caddie-Mac”: “So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Most irksome was the utter incoherence of not understanding that his own reforms are the problem. Consider Dodd-Frank: “But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.”

There was, however, a small high point in the section on immigration reform that acknowledged its desirability, outlined the areas for reform, and promised to stay out of the way. In the end, though, it was just another speech. No real recognition that his policies are failing the workers. No genuine willingness to lead on tough and needed reforms. And a continued finger-pointing style that makes one wonder why the Congress even invites him to speak.

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