Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union Speech - Something For Everyone

It was the moment we've all been waiting for.

After what can only be described as a tumultuous first year,
President Obama delivered his first State Of The Union
Address, to what I am led to believe was a rapt national

Unfortunately, I missed the great occasion due to a prior
engagement (evening classes), and had to catch the repeat
on CNN later that evening. But by this time of course, both
the main stream media and the blogosphere were full of
commentary, running along the usual lines.

The Huffington Post, of course, was full of where The
Great One fell short addressing liberal causes du jour,
most especially health care and employment. Not to
be outdone of course, Human Events and the Fox
Network were also hitting the "too much big
government" and "not enough free market"

And I tend to agree with both sides. Not only
was there not enough emphasis on "traditional"
Democratic solutions, but there was almost no
mention of "free markets" or "free enterprise"
in the entire speech. And I found that somewhat
strange - every recent President, from Carter
through Reagan to both Bushes and Clinton has
paid ritual homage in the State Of The Union
address to the free market and free enterprise
miracle wrought by the American people.

But that's not what we heard from Barack Obama.
Rather, what we heard was what Arianna Huffington
called a "speech written by a focus group".

In other words, a little bit of Something for Everyone.

For those worried about jobs, there will be continuing
aid for those out of work, including assistance with
the COBRA program. Left out, of course, was any mention
of what would really help the unemployed - a national
jobs program coupled with real incentives to employers
to add to payrolls. Instead, there will be some money taken
out of the TARP program and re-directed to small business,
and some modest tax incentives for payroll increases - a
total of $30 billion.

Left out of the speech, of course, was that this is about
one-fifth the amount paid out by Wall Street in bonuses
this year.

For the "National Security" crowd, we will be out of Iraq
this year and we will pursue the Afghan effort until the
Afghans can be "responsible for their own security".
Nothing new there. And for the "Deficit Hawks" there
will be a three-year "budget freeze" on most discretionary
spending, beginning of course next year, "because that's
how budgeting is done".

On that one I'm underwhelmed. Defense, Medicare, Social
Security and Veteran's benefits are exempt, which means
that unless there's an economic miracle, everything that
the Administration will be relying on to "stimulate" the
economy will be frozen.

But, I'm willing to give the President credit for trying.
Austerity is about the only thing we haven't tried to
restart the stalled economy. However, I'm not optimistic.
It sounds to me as if the President is channeling Herbert
Hoover in 1931, or FDR in 1937.

That's the last time austerity was tried in the middle of a
recession or depression - and we all know how that turned

But in the main, the speech was a mainstream,
middle-of-the-road statement. No earthshaking
developments - no great new headlines, no
great new initiatives.

It sounded more like the speech a cool, modern,
technocratic CEO might have delivered to an
analyst's conference call, acknowledging a
decline in earnings but cautiously optimistic
about the upcoming year. And that characterization
admittedly fits in with Barack Obama's style.

But, from the President of The United States, I'm
expecting a little more. I expect great themes and
great initiatives. They weren't there.

Maybe next time. After all, you've got three more years.

1 comment:

  1. The speech was entirely political yet necessary. Boldness in government programs would have been slapped down by the 41 GOP morons in the Senate so it was hardly mentioned. I agree that the speech was too focus grouped but Obama made it sound great!

    Rich Republicans are hypocrites. Big Spending for ME, my dumbass buddies corporations, but not for THEE. The Government anyway, where they could help millions of poor people, fix the economy, whereas the rich people spend money on selfish pleasures and indulgent luxury. Only small, European countries can get away with luxury-based economies. Bigger, developed countries can't.

    Obama should stop posturing as a republican- you know those lame ass spending cuts- lest he give his supporters heart attacks. Of course its always ok to cut or kill programs that fail or just don't work well enough. At least sound more like a Democrat, seeking more and more efficiency for the people, and not a Dollars and Cents republican where Money is all that matters.