Dissecting the State of the Union Address

President Obama at his 2013 State of the Union
President Obama at his 2013 State of the Union

WASHINGTON, January 29, 2014 — Fox News preempted Brooklyn-99 and New Girl for President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night. They need not have bothered. The speech was, even by the standards of a SOTUS, low on content, and Obama was forced to trot out items from his last SOTUS that, even in the wake of his reelection triumph, were not received enthusiastically.

Most pundits thought that Obama would make income inequality the main focus of his speech; he did not. He spent a significant amount of time on it, but it was not central. There was a lot in his speech about “community” and “pulling together,” shouldering the load and everyone working as one. 

For all his talk of “I have a pen, I have a phone,” the president spent much of his speech calling out Congress and other politicians to do his work for him. In spite of his promise to act unilaterally when he has to, his speech suggested that he understands that he has neither the popularity nor political capital to do much on his own.

While devoid of much substance, the speech was thought provoking, even if those thoughts were often derisive. Obama highlighted the distressed state of American workers, and promised to use executive action to help them if Congress won’t act. But he also had this to say: “An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.” How are the middle and lower classes so decimated and so in need of help if the president is creating so many jobs?

“[A]verage wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.” Increasing taxes and regulating industry will do that to an economy.

“… more oil produced — more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years” Thanks to development on private land; Obama has done his best to reduce oil production on federal land, and he continues to block projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. Mr. President, oil production is up, but you didn’t build that. You’ll take credit for it, but your energy strategy is spelled S-o-l-y-n-d-r-a, not o-i-l.

“But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.” Does he think that raising the minimum wage will create new jobs? “Not creating new crises …” What does he call 5 million Americans getting booted off their healthcare?

Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.” When you tax people at 30 percent, you do nothing to help them get ahead. When you make opening a business like filing for divorce, you are doing nothing to help people who are still not working at all.

“So our job is to reverse these trends.” Once you’ve been in office for five years, the trends are yours. Your job, then, is to reverse what you have done.

“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” Anything that involves spending money needs to go through the House. If there is something he could have done to help the middle class for free, why hasn’t he already done it?

And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.” The check is in the mail. Are they also thinking of world peace?

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.” You should have been doing that for years. Your own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recommended that — over three years ago. You treated their report with the polite disregard you would give a piece of toilet paper impaled on Michelle’s high heel. 

Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So, get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.” This is a win for Obama no matter the outcome. If they get the bills to him, it looks like he is doing his job, and it looks like Congress will do what he says. If Congress does not get the bills to him, it will look as if he has done all he could and the gridlock in Congress is to blame.

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.” Over the last five years of his administration, more small businesses have been strapped for cash than in any other. Call off the EPA, the IRS, and other federal agencies that make starting a business in this country a major hassle and ruinously costly.

Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery.” So now the government is responsible for Google and smartphones. “You didn’t build that; we did.” This puts the ball in Congress’s court; if they do or don’t act, he gets the win.

Now, it’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming …” That, sir, is in spite of you, not because of you. “we’re becoming a global leader in solar too.” Considering how many failed solar companies we pumped money in to, one hopes that we should have some success.

“Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.” During the 2012 reelection campaign the president said that he had spent $90 billion on green energy; that’s 22 years worth of “fossil fuel industries” tax relief.

Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system.” We have always been serious about economic growth. And when did the president start listening to faith and business leaders?

MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody in this chamber can.” If they want to start an IRA they can, it’s not on the president to force middle-class workers to take money from their paycheck to go towards a savings account. They are grown men and women, they can make that decision for themselves. And about those tax breaks: The top 10 percent of the wealthy in this country still account for the majority of federal income tax revenue. Your problem lies elsewhere.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer.” Here’s another number: 5 million. That’s the number of people kicked off their healthcare plans.

It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.” Nicely said, especially addressed to a room full of millionaires and billionaires. It was millionaires and billionaires who put you in office in the first place.

While we’ve put al-Qaida’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.” Mr. President you are currently supporting al-Qaeda and their affiliates in Syria, you have paved the way for them to take territory in Iraq, and you have created a situation that allows them to thrive in Libya.

“And we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve — a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.Does he even know who the opposition forces are?

It would be nice if the president couldn’t just spout off numbers, statistics or dollar amounts without backing it up. Last year he said that 40 percent of all gun sales are made without a background check; that number turned out to be from a prison study from the 1990’s. This year he said that women make 77 cents on the dollar to men; where are his data? He said that 9 million people have signed up for healthcare; where are his data? He said that fossil fuel companies get $4 billion in tax breaks a year; where are his data? If the White House doesn’t issue sources for the president’s numbers, there is no way for the American public to know if what he is saying is true.

The President Obama does not seem to understand certain fundamental American ideals. The people of this country do not exist as a community to increase the standing of our nation within the global community; the government exists to create a stable structure in which we can reach our own goals. This SOTUS simply cemented the impression that the president values the community over the people in it. That is not an American ideal, this is not why the United States was founded. If that is what the president believes, then we have reason to be unhappy about the state of our union.

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