The Corner

SOTU: Are You Ready for More Fake Promises and Wishful Thinking?

This morning, the Washington Post reminds us of the many unfulfilled promises made during last year’s State of the Union address (including the weird/ridiculous Sputnik Moment):

Among the initiatives Obama promoted then that have yet to come to fruition a year later: eliminating subsidies to oil companies; replacing No Child Left Behind with a better education law; making a tuition tax credit permanent; rewriting immigration laws; and reforming the tax system.

The list of what he succeeded in accomplishing is considerably shorter, including: securing congressional approval of a South Korea free trade deal; signing legislation to undo a burdensome tax reporting requirement in his health care law; and establishing a website to show taxpayers where their tax dollars go.

One of Obama’s pledges from last January’s speech — to undertake a reorganization of the federal government — he got around to rolling out only this month. And other promises are vaguer or more long term, such as declaring a “Sputnik moment” for today’s generation and calling for renewed commitments to research and development and clean energy technology; pushing to prepare more educators to teach science, technology and math; promoting high-speed rail and accessible broadband; and seeking greater investments in infrastructure.

I have to say, I am actually pretty happy that the president failed to deliver on most of his promises.

Now the question is: What can we expect tomorrow night? The answer is: More of the same. Here is a list of things that the president will promise to do and their true meaning:

  • Invest in America: The president will promise to invest money in education, innovation, and infrastructure, in order to increase productivity and make the economy grow. That just means that he wants to spend more money even though the government has been spending money in these same areas for years without results.

  • Competition: The president — like all other presidents before him — will unveil some new-old ideas to increase American competitiveness. For instance, last year he wanted “to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.” In 2010, he wanted to build roads to help American compete, since “from the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete.” In 2009, he wanted clean energy, health-care reform, and high-speed rail because “the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.” What that really means is more spending in the form of corporate welfare and more subsidies to the private sector for results that are mediocre at best. Also, as government continues its policy of picking winners and losers in the market place, there will be less competition, not more. As for clean energy, just think about Solyndra.

  • Create millions of jobs: The president will make the case that his stimulus worked, and as such, we need more. This promise will probably take the form of more spending, all sorts of tax credits to employers, payroll-tax cuts, and other policies that haven’t worked in the past and won’t work this time around either.

  • Balanced approach: The president will make the case that we can’t dig ourselves out of debt without shared sacrifice — which means adopting a package of spending cuts and tax increases on the rich. It is possible that there will be no mention of the S&P’s downgrade, except maybe to illustrate how unreasonable and unwilling the Republicans are to refuse raising taxes on the rich. Never mind that it’s spending increases that got us where we are today, or that raising taxes on the rich is not enough to address our debt problem, or that countries that have successfully reduced their debt-to-GDP ratios have done it through spending cuts.

But in the end, the real question is: How much more is the president going to spend this year? The likely answer is: A lot.


The Latest