Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union 2010 - My Thoughts

I am getting ready to read through and listen to the State of the Union address that the President gave last night (video). Below are my thoughts as the speech unfolds. Any quotes have been taken directly from the official White House transcript.
One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -– immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.
It would seem to me that there was no effort made to reduce the government debt during the past year. In fact, quite the contrary seems self-evident. The worst of that storm is yet to come and will be felt most keenly by our children and their children.

They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness.
This statement displays the very difference between why I believe the Federal government exists and why the politicians in Washington believe it exists. It is not Washington's job to solve our problems. It is my opinion that Washington's job is to eliminate barriers of trade and commerce between the states, to oversee an army for national defense and to continuously maintain the relationships between the states to preserve the Union.
The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.
I believe that reducing the Federal debt is a very real and tangible way that we can offer this opportunity to our children. How can they have a better life when they are going to be required to bear the crushing payments of interest for our reckless spending?
To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. (Applause.) Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need. (Applause.)
So, following the same logic, if the Federal government can afford to hand our bailouts to the biggest banks, they can afford a modest tax decrease to pay back the taxpayers that support them.
Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. (Applause.) Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. (Applause.) And we're on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.
I'd love to know how these statistics were calculated. I guess by the end of the year we will know if these projections were anywhere close to correct, if the number of jobs gained is near what they project.
And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
I'm not sure what this looks like, but I like the fundamental idea behind it. Hopefully, these proposed tax incentives don't get inserted into a bill that is full of a bunch of other junk. Pass the idea on its own merits, without adding any pork or other mess and I would be thrilled.
Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. (Applause.) And the lobbyists are trying to kill it. But we cannot let them win this fight. (Applause.) And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right. We've got to get it right. (Applause.)
What is the definition of "real reform"? This is the second time he has referenced the House passing a bill that he wants to see, so it seems he is railing a bit on the Senators who have not agreed to push the legislation through.
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.) It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. (Applause.) And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. (Applause.)

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. (Applause.) And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. (Applause.)
Yes to nuclear energy. Yes to offshore drilling. Yes to clean coal. No to the Energy and Climate bill. You can accomplish the first three without passing the proposed bill. Again, he references the House bill and calls for a bipartisan effort to pass the Senate. What is funny is that he doesn't need a bipartisan effort to pass anything; he simply needs the members of his party to agree on something and pass it. Strangley, they have been unable to achieve unity on this and many other things. Could it be that some of the Democrats are listening to their constituents and voting acoordingly? Bipartisan politics can be a good thing. However, it seems that in this case the call for bipartisanship means "pass what I want passed" and not work together to come to an agreed solution.
I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. (Applause.)
Overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change? (see climategate, glaciergate, Amazongate). There are many scientists who also disagree with the utterly flawed and false IPCC, including Chris Landsee who was a member of the team charged with writing the report, before he resigned due to his belief that the report was "motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound".
And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -– (applause) -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.
Are most colleges way too expensive? Yes. How can they charge so much? Because the government provides large loans to students. Without the government supported loans, college costs would go down as demand would decrease at the most expensive institutions. It's all about free market ideas: costs are driven by supply and demand.
That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving access to every worker a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg.
I'm all for giving everyone the opportunity to have a retirement account, but would love to have the ability to "opt out" of Social Security, which is a total farce. If I could take that money and put it in my own retirement account, I would be much better off and so would every other American.
Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"
Yes, it is a complex issue. Do we need reform? Sure. Do we need the monstrosity of a bill that they have been trying to push through for months? No. Take this complex issue and make it as simple and clear as possible. Make it a readable document. Then we can talk about reform. Until then, this bill is too large, cumbersome and filled with pork and to pass. Speaking of healthcare reform, let's start with Tort reform. I find myself not asking "what's in it for me" but rather "what is in it that will hurt me?"
Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. (Applause.) Let's get it done. Let's get it done. (Applause.)
This isn't a job for the American people. This is a bill that is part of an agenda that the President is staking his Presidency on. The American people keep saying that they do not want this bill passed. The number of people opposing it continues to grow.
At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

Now -- just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.
(Graph of budget deficits 2000-2010) (Current budget projections)
These comments that were posted yesterday by the Director of the CBO seem fitting here:
"Last year’s deficit was the largest as a share of GDP since the end of World War II, and the deficit expected for 2010 would be the second largest. Moreover, if legislation is enacted in the next several months that either boosts spending or reduces revenues, the 2010 deficit could equal or exceed last year’s shortfall.".
"Under current law, the federal fiscal outlook beyond this year is daunting: Projected deficits average about $600 billion per year over the 2011–2020 period."
"Moreover, CBO’s baseline projections understate the budget deficits that would arise under many observers’ interpretation of current policy, as opposed to current law."
The portion of the speech related to freezing government spending make me want to see it happen. If Washington can actually maintain their current budget, which is a deficit budget by the way, I will be utterly shocked. The proof is in the pudding. Let's see what cooks up in the next few years.
But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of -- (applause) -- I'm speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.)
This is a very interesting section of the speech. The President has seemingly been campaigning nonstop for years and has continued to do so over the past year. When speaking of delaying candidates, the Democrats played that game for the past 8 years. When speaking of quashing every single bill, he must not be referring to the Republicans, because they don't have the number of votes needed to do that. While this may have been written to be a shot across the bow of the GOP, it sounds more like a criticism of the Democratic party's practices in recent history.
To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. (Applause.) And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. (Applause.) Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. (Applause.) So let's show the American people that we can do it together. (Applause.)
I expect the elected people of Washington to represent me and vote for what would allow me to live my life without interference from the Federal government. The slap on the Republicans was expected and simplistic in structure. The call for officials to serve the people and not their ambitions is welcomed, but I fear there is a misunderstanding here as well. Isn't it possible that in voting no on certain policies and bills that they are serving their citizens and not their ambitions? Since when did it become only ambition that kept people from voting with the majority party?
For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)
Except when it comes to standing for the dignity of human life. The fact that over 50 million children have lost their lives since Roe vs Wade is a disgusting truth that will continue to discredit any attempt as a nation to promote the idea of human dignity.

My Overall Thoughts
This was not a bad speech, nor was it a great one. It wasn't moving in any real way and the President's teleprompter-paced speech was infused with very little enthusiasm at any point.

President Obama acknowledged the fact that his poll numbers are down, Washington politics are stupid and that the American people are becoming more disillusioned with their elected officials. Unfortunately, his response seems to be to continue on with his predetermined path regarding major policies, which include government programs, environmentalism and healthcare reform. It doesn't encourage me that his response to certain roadblocks that have presented themselves this past year is "Get out of the way and be bipartisan".

It was another State of the Union Address, filled with pot shots at those who disagree with the majority party, all while calling on Washington to change their behavior to something new and trustworthy.

Updates:
The AP does some fact-checking on certain parts of the speech.
And there's also this from the Cato Institute:

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