-By Warner Todd Huston
I sat through President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address last night. During the event I live Tweeted the whole thing (You can read that all at http://twitter.com/#!/warnerthuston) and ended up with an empty feeling and a headache. Obama’s address was long on calls for spending, filled with bromides, and weighted with jaw, jaw but pretty short on substance. In fact, it seemed like his 12 new spending ideas and his patriotic vagaries was simply his first step onto the 2012 campaign trail as opposed to a serious address to the nation.
Obama fittingly began his address citing John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, and memorializing the wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He then said that we had a “robust” debate in our politics and averred that it was one thing for the parties to sit together that night but it depended on what they all do “tomorrow” and he used that point to plead for moving forward with more bi-partisanship.
Tellingly, even as Obama has paid lip service to bipartisanship for three years, when he became president neither he nor his party made any moves to implement any bipartisanship. In fact, when Democrat Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House she never met with any Republicans on anything. This whole claim or bipartisanship is simply a farce on Obama’s part and Obama continued that farce in the SOTU speech. Obama went on to claim that the stock market had “come roaring back,” and that the economy is growing again. He intimated that the Internet was one of the engines of this growing economy, yet he didn’t seem to remember to mention that his own Federal Communications Commission is well on the road to regulating the Internet to death and stifling that powerful engine.
One thing Obama had right early in the speech was when he noted that despite our bad economic times, the U.S. is still the largest, most powerful economy in the world. We have a tendency to imagine that it has all fallen apart, but the truth is we are still the number one economy in the world. Despite our troubles, we should remember this.
Obama waxed enthusiastic over our “freedom” and our get-it-done nature, he praised our entrepreneurialism and free enterprise, but here is where he first began to go off the rails. We are in a “Sputnik” moment, he claimed, and the only way to insure that we stay on top is for government “investment” in research and development.
“Investment” is Obama’s byword for spending and from here Obama began rolling out all sorts of areas we need to “invest” in. This is typical Big Governmentism and just more over liberal spending.
Obama laid out his ideas to “invest” in absurd boondoggles like high speed rail and high speed Internet for “93% of America.” High speed rail is certainly a boondoggle. After all, few municipal rail systems in America make money. Almost all of them lose millions of tax dollars every year. And the cost of putting in high speed Internet in the most remote areas is so cost prohibitive that it would make the whole system too costly. Billions spent in such areas to serve so few people is not sensible.
Obama also wanted to “reinvent our energy policy.” Yet his entire presidency has been used to quash our energy sectors. Gas, Coal, Oil, Nuclear, all these areas have come in for punishment under the Obama regime. And even as he claims we should “invest” in green energy he never answers to the fact that so-called green energy technologies cannot fulfill even a fraction of our energy needs.
The president then went on to plead for more money for education. Missing from his assessment of American education was any sense that the biggest impediment to our kid’s education is teachers unions. He called for people to serve the nation as teachers and demanded we “fix” our educational system.
Again, he misleads here. He and his party are responsible for eliminating a program that was working well to help disadvantaged kids get a better education. Right there in Washington D.C. Democrats have torpedoed a school voucher program that was generating excellent results.
But, you see, the unions were against this successful program and that is why Obama’s wonderful, soaring rhetoric in defense of our kids was empty talk. When it comes to choosing between kids and unions, Obama and the Democrats choose unions.
Next Obama called for more people to get a college education. “We will once again have the highest number of college graduates in the world,” Obama said.
Unfortunately, we’ve dumbed down our curriculum so badly that a degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. And our lower education is so bad that many colleges have to put their young first year students through remedial classes just to get up to speed to start college.
None of this is because of a lack of money.
Obama then gave us whiplash with an about face. He careened from asking for all sorts of vague new spending to claiming that we have to cut the budget and become fiscally responsible. But after 10 minutes or more of talking cuts he warned that no cuts should be made in his favorite programs.
He called for a federal spending freeze at current levels to last for the next five years. Naturally, this is a trap to catch Republicans and not a serious proposal. After all, if we freeze everything as it is that means cutting can occur because it is frozen in place! Republicans want to eliminate programs and spending, not freeze them in place.
In the end, Obama’s confusing message was that we need new spending, we need to cut spending, but we cannot cut his favored programs. In other words, liberal status quo.
The most interesting thing about his speech, though was that it was pretty empty of specifics. He had a lot of general ideas, a lot of bromides, and a ton of vague statements, sure, but he asked for no specific amounts of money, he did not offer to cut any specific programs and he did not announce any concrete programs of his own.
In fact, the whole speech was reminiscent of his 2008 campaign, a lot of generalizations and yes-we-cans but not much on specifics. This is what made it seem clear that this speech was his first step back on the campaign trail and will set the tone for his initial campaign for reelection in 2012.
I’ve seen Obama soar at the podium. This was not one of those times.