Whenever a president delivers his first State of the Union address, the country, and indeed the whole world, watches with heightened curiosity. Each of his subsequent addresses will be judged based on this first go, and this first go will be judged against both immediate and more distant predecessors.
I didn’t watch the SOTU when it was live on television. It corresponded exactly with when baby Catherine goes through her bedtime rituals and goes down for the evening. After she went down, I decided to wait until today, when I was more fresh-minded, to watch and give my own response to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address.
In the past, when responding to political speeches, I’ve posted all of the speech, and inserted comments on a line-by-line basis, or have prepared a similar response while quoting shorter snippets. I’m going to depart from that form in this instance, and instead respond by topics. I’ll post the topic, post a snippet of Obama’s thoughts, and then post my response. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?
2010 State of the Union Address – President Barack Obama
Topic: The Country and the Future
Obama’s stance: “America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one people.”
Tiffany’s take: No matter what America has gone through, there have always been factions in support of the government and its actions, and factions opposed. We, the people of the United States, are one people because of where we choose to make our home and plan for our future, not because of our willingness to support whomever is is power and whatever they choose to do with single-minded acquiescence.
(I’m sorry – did he just get a standing ovation because he says he’s got hope for the future? Hope doesn’t facilitate change; feasible, reasonable, sustainable plans do.)
Topic: The Economy
Obama’s stance: “To shore up the same banks who helped cause this crisis.”
Tiffany’s take: No. BANKS did not force people to live beyond their means, to borrow money they hadn’t a chance of repaying, or to purchase homes that clearly were outside of their budgets. That would be like saying McDonald’s causes people to be fat, because they have all sorts of unhealthy goodies available to eat. The problem, here, is personal responsibility. But then, most things are.
Topic: Fees on the Biggest Banks
Obama’s stance: “I’ve proposed a fee on the biggest banks.”
Tiffany’s take: Yep. Let’s tax them for recovering, paying back the money owed to the Federal government fair and square, and then having the very temerity to become successful again. Bad, banks. Bad. Why would you ever think success would be a good thing?
Obama’s stance: “That’s why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans.”
Tiffany’s take: My husband is unemployed. Has been for five months. Has collected benefits for four months. Obama’s plan adds $25 per $800 check. Oooh. Generous.
Topic: Tax Cuts
Obama’s stance: “We cut taxes for <insert here>.”
Tiffany’s take: Funny. Because even though my household income is down significantly due to the aforementioned unemployment status of my husband, we’re still in the exact same tax bracket as last year, and will pay at the same overall percentage.
Topic: The Recovery Act (Stimulus Bill)
Obama’s stance: “Economists say this bill has helped avert disaster.”
Tiffany’s take: And plenty more say that the over all cost is not worth the nominal benefits provided.
Topic: Jobs in 2010
Obama’s stance: “And that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”
Tiffany’s take: Obama, who has never in his life been a businessman, fails to understand that the government can create as many jobs as it wants and tell businesses to create as many jobs as it wants, but doing so will not ever have a lasting or long-term positive impact. Rather, cutting taxes for businesses, so they can feasibly afford a new employee, would be far more sensible. Not penalizing Wall Street for being the success engine behind the country would have far more impact than putting three construction workers on the roads in Allentown, Pennsylvania. And as far as $30B from big banks to give small banks the opportunity to help local businesses – how stupid. We’re just moving the money around. We’re not creating anything.
Topic: Small Businesses versus Large Businesses
Obama’s stance: “Let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small businesses.”
Tiffany’s take: We wouldn’t want to start penalizing them until they get to be large, evil Wall Street Corporations.
Topic: Building Infrastructure
Obama’s stance: “Our nation has always been built to compete.”
Tiffany’s take: Why, exactly, does Tampa need a high speed railroad?
Topic: Offshore Outsourcing
Obama’s stance: “Slash the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas.”
Tiffany’s take: Now, instead of penalizing success, we’re penalizing competition. Outsourcing often makes good financial and operational success for corporations. But doing so shows independent thought. And we know that’s not allowed.
Topic: Long Term Economic Growth
Obama’s stance: “And finally address the problems that America’s families have confronted for years.
Tiffany’s take: You mean being personally, independently financially irresponsible?
Topic: America versus the World
Obama’s stance: “Well I do not accept second place for America.”
Tiffany’s take: President Obama, is that why you ran around the world, apologizing for America and telling other countries how evil we are during your first year in office?
Topic: Serious Financial Reform
Obama’s stance: “I’m interested in protecting our economy.”
Tiffany’s take: Then why are you continuing to increase the deficit in our Federal budget, and increase the debt we owe to other countries around the world, and specifically China? How does that protect our economy? With these increasing debts, America as a country is no better than an irresponsible citizen who borrows money they cannot hope to repay and lives beyond any reasonable means.
Topic: Clean Energy
Obama’s stance: Blah, blah
Tiffany’s take: I’m certainly not in favor of polluting our environment or using resources wastefully. But this continued emphasis on clean energy just hurts my mind. Because, really, this is just the back door to Cap-n-Trade, which anyone with the ability to reason understands is a bad idea in general, and a bad way to bring about any reasonable or sustainable change.
Topic: Climate Change
Obama’s stance: “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”
Tiffany’s take: You mean all of that evidence that the scientists have admitted was doctored? And don’t you just love how they’ve abandoned the term “global warming,” because trending clearly shows that to be a false scare, and are now trying to back something that sounds friendlier?
Obama’s stance: “We will double our exports in the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.”
Tiffany’s take: Dear companies: start shipping more goods overseas. Thanks, Obama. Dear other countries: start buying more stuff from the United States. Thanks, Obama. Well, I’m glad that clears that up!
Obama’s stance: “Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. … In this economy, a high school diploma no longer ensures a good job. … Pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges.”
Tiffany’s take: Wouldn’t want to aim high and get a four year degree, would we? Statistics about lifetime earning differentials aside and all.
Topic: Educational Debt
Obama’s stance: “And let’s tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years; forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service. Because in the United States of America, no one should go broken because they chose to go to college.”
Tiffany’s take: Nice sentiment; unbelievably irresponsible idea. Think about what this teaches people: don’t worry about paying those silly loans back that you chose to take out. Just work for a decade or two and the government will ensure that you can stiff your lenders for whatever you haven’t yet paid back. Let’s see…I worked two, sometimes three jobs, while in college, still graduated in three years, and with only a small relative amount of debt. And if I couldn’t afford something, I did without. And my parents didn’t pay for me to go to college, and nor did I expect a handout from the government. I simply worked and borrowed the smallest amount that I could. Why is that a hard concept for people to get?
Topic: Middle Class Families
Obama’s stance: “And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle class families that we still need health insurance reform.”
Tiffany’s take: Wait…I thought your focus on killing the health insurance industry was to protect those 12 or so million underprivileged Americans without insurance. Who promoted them to middle class? When did this happen? Was there a ceremony? (Please don’t send me hate mail over this. I’m being tongue in cheek because it drives me nuts that he’s trying to look like a knight in shining armor to the middle class by making this their issue.)
Topic: Health Insurance Reform
Obama’s stance: “The approach that we have taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry.”
Tiffany’s take: What amazes me is that he really is shortsighted enough to believe that healthcare reform lies in healthcare insurance changes, rather than changes to the actual healthcare system itself or to the legal torts system that plagues the healthcare system. I will agree that there are some changes that would make insurance practices more palatable – namely dealing with pre-existing conditions and state-to-state portability – but making caps nonexistent or driving down premium rates just does not make any kind of financial sense. But that brings me full circle to the thought that Obama is a lifelong politician (community organizing is grassroots politics in my book) and has no business or financial sense.
Topic: Healthcare, Part Deux
Obama’s stance: “But I also know this problem is not going away.”
Tiffany’s take: But hopefully you are, in the 2012 elections.
Topic: Healthcare on Healthcare
Obama’s stance: “There’s a reason why many doctors, nurses and healthcare experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo.
Tiffany’s take: Funny thought. When I was in the hospital, I questioned why a nurse was doing something in a certain way. Her response was “ask Obama.” But seriously…from what I’ve read, “many” does not come close to equaling “most.” In fact, “many more” are against these changes wholeheartedly.
Topic: Blame it on Bush
Obama’s stance: “At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. 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.”
Tiffany’s take: Interpretation: that money that we used to protect our country from further terrorist attacks was a waste, those tax cuts I mentioned earlier are far superior to the Bush tax cuts for reasons that are still fuzzy even to me, and I only think certain types of healthcare should be affordable – prescriptions are OUT.
Topic: Federal Spending Freeze
Obama’s stance: “
Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.”
Tiffany’s take: A – Discretionary programs account for chump change compared to the key spending in the budget. B - $20B in savings compared to a $3T whole is almost too ludicrous to consider. C – Extending tax credits to those who Obama considers to be above middle class would, as mentioned above, be a smarter way to stimulate the economy. Save them thousands on taxes, and they can spend those thousands to hire someone for their business. Tax them more and they can get their businesses essential functions taken care of by more affordable workers overseas.
Topic: Blame it on Bush, Part Deux
Obama’s stance: “The problem is that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.”
Tiffany’s take: Funny that the recession didn’t get started and take hold until the Democrats took control of the House and Senate during the 2006 mid-term elections. Wait…wasn’t Bush a Republican? Gee, now I’m just confused.
Obama’s stance: “It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.”
Tiffany’s take: Yes, let’s play Big Brother with lobbyists, because we clearly have nothing better to do with our time and efforts. And I’m sorry – lobbyists represent individuals and corporations, who can certainly contribute to whoever’s campaign they wish.
Topic: Earmark Reform
Obama’s stance: “I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform.”
Tiffany’s take: Yep. Because there were no earmarks in the healthcare bill. *Snort*
Obama’s stance: “We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.”
Tiffany’s take: President Obama, may I present to you a MIRROR.
Topic: National Security
Obama’s stance: “All of us are committed to its defense.”
Tiffany’s take: With all due respect, Mr. President, I have never been convinced that you are.
Obama’s stance: “But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.”
Tiffany’s take: Irresponsible. Hand over everything to the Iraqis and turn tail. Then we can all sit and scratch our heads in 10 years and wonder why their a mess.
Topic: Nuclear Weapons
Obama’s stance: “And at April's nuclear security summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C., behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Tiffany’s take: We’ll ignore the fact that not-so-nice countries – North Korea, Iran, etc. – already have nuclear weapons and are developing more. And “isolating” these nations and threatening “growing consequences” when there have been none tough enough to speak of in the past is just a silly way of dealing with this threat. But in addition to having never been a businessman, Obama has also never been a military or foreign affairs expert. And it clearly shows.
Topic: Human Rights and Iran
Obama’s stance: “Why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran.”
Tiffany’s take: The fact that he got this out with a straight face is unbelievable. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. President. And when millions took to the streets in Iran after clearly corrupt elections, you didn’t so much as say boo, let alone do anything to show your support of democracy in other countries or the preservation of human rights.
Topic: The Future
Obama’s stance: “The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.”
Tiffany’s take: I fervently believe in the spirit of the American people. I also fervently hope for your defeat, Mr. President, in 2012, so that a truly learned and experienced leader can open doors for this nation that I don’t believe you are even capable of unlocking.
Overall take: The man is a decent orator, despite distractingly repetitive hand gestures. The problem is that he didn’t really say much about the actual, current state of the union, did he? More hope and change, change and hope. Wait, I thought we weren’t still running for office…