Thursday, January 28, 2010

The President's Speech

Well, I thought I would have something to say about the President’s speech, but I don’t really. Overall, it was better than I thought it was going to be, but it didn’t really do all that much for me. He charmed the shit out of me, but he always does that. He has been a bit long on inspiration and charm, lately, and maybe a little short on specifics, and he gave us a bit more substance last night than I’d been counting on, but not enough to get all that excited about.

The formula for the SOTU is always in two parts; “where we are,” which is always about the wonderful things that the current administration has done for us, and “where we go from here,” which is the part that’s worth listening to if it isn’t just a set of empty promises.

His “where we are” was pretty typical, trying to make it sound like he and the Democratic Congress had done a wonderful job in his first year. Reminding us that “We’ve been here before” was a good point, though. I recall many predicting in the Nixon years that the nation was going to sink without much of a trace, and we’ve had some pretty good years since then. This country has weathered some pretty bad storms.

“Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

At that point the Dems were whooping it up and the and the Republicans were sitting on there hands, so he added, “I thought I'd get some applause on that one.” That cracked me up, and it was needed, because all of that tax cutting had depressed me. He reminds us how the previous gang had run us into a ditch by spending and cutting taxes, keeps talking about how he inherited a mess due to spending and tax cutting, and then he is patting himself on the back for a whole host of tax cuts?

I guess I did/do have something to say about the President’s speech.

The jobs creation part of his speech was more on track. I liked the parts about building infrastructure and clean energy, and bringing production jobs back from overseas. He spoke forcefully and well on jobs creation, and he demanded action from Congress.

The only problem I have with his jobs creation is that is that he is painting with a very small brush. As with the initial stimulus, he is counting on doing a great many very small things and bringing off a big result, and I am doubtful of the actual or political efficacy of that approach.

More than fifty years later, people can still point to bridges, roads and campgrounds and say that the CCC built them. A generation can still say, with some pride, “I was part of the CCC.” Nobody is going to say that about the Recovery Act. What person is going to tell their grandchild, “I was a teacher, and for two years my salary was paid by the Recovery Act of 2009.”

Sure unemployment might have been worse without the Recovery Act, but the actual numbers are not the only issue. The Recovery Act needed to do something for the mood of the country and it did not. The administration may know that it did some good, but as a nation we have no feeling that it did. Now we are repeating that process; painting a big picture with tiny brushstrokes.

“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. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.”

As he said it I had no idea what that first sentence meant. More production of what? Then came the second sentence, and the third. What? Okay, who are you and where did you put Barack Obama? Wait, no, there is no such thing as clean coal technology. It’s a good thing my wife was not home, she would have learned some new words. The cat just left the room at speed.

The part about exports created some cognitive dissonance. When I heard the part about two million new jobs I though that was a pretty modest goal, but at least it was specific, a real goal. Then the part about “doubling our exports” sank in and I realized that it is actually a sizeable goal and that, more importantly, it speaks to the present state of our economy. If our exports currently support a mere two million jobs it is no wonder that our economy looks like a major train wreck.

The rest of it was just sort of the usual cheerleading. He won’t quit on healthcare, but he isn’t saying much about what is important in that effort and what he is actually going to do pursuant to that goal. He’s going to continue to protect us from terrorists, and presumably from rogue asteroids as well. He’s going to beat up the bankers, but he’s not saying much about what the content of the reform is going to be. He’s going to freeze spending, cut taxes for good people and raise taxes for bad people, and thereby balance the budget. Yea. He’s going to stop lobbying, even if it pisses off the Supreme Court.

Oh yes, he and John McCain are going to kill earmarks.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

Oh for God’s sake. How about, “I challenge Congress to pass a law…”
He doesn’t have to “work with the military,” he is Commander in Chief of the damned military. All he has to do is tell them to do it and their only option is to salute smartly and comply.

It’s called leadership and command. Exercise it.

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't it Truman that signed an Executive Order to desegregate the military (starting with the navy)? Congress got around to passing a law about it later. Mr. Obama could do that, yes? And yes, challenging Congress to back that up is a more effective strategy.

    I thought the SOTU speech was a lot of cheerleading and short on specifics (although there were goals of course). Talking about tax cutting when he does it as being good and the Rubs doing it as being bad is hypocritical. Sorry, Dems.

    Yes, they need to create jobs and exports. Not outsourcing jobs overseas is good. And I think the stimulus bill passed earlier saved jobs, rather than created jobs (ie, kept jobs from being lost). A lot of that was money going to states to keep them afloat. And of course, that is one time money, not sustainable. A lot just seemed to be pork barrel and junk stuff, not really targeted towards job creation. And I agree that it did not give a big uplift of mood in the country.

    I think more nuclear energy is a better approach than "green" energy sources, despite what the eco-nazis say. Green sources are all well and good, but they will not replace what we use fast enough and in enough quantity. And we still use petroleum for products as well as energy sources. And coal is a energy source and we have a lot of it, and it is cleaner than in the past, but saying it is a "clean source" is disingenuous at best and downright dangerous at worst.

    I did like the part(s) where he challenged Congress to work with him and with each other and not act like spoiled brats (or some such). They need to be brought up short.

    I thought even less of the Republican response. Sorry, Rubs....

    P.S. It was the Russians that would be protecting us from rogue asteroids.