Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Didn't Watch It

Full disclosure: I didn't watch President Obama's State of the Union address. I figured it would just tick me off, so I skipped it. I also figured that I could get a fairly good gist of it by reading what some of my favorite writers -- people who did watch it -- had to say.

One of those people is Matthew Rothschild, Editor of The Progressive. I don't always agree with everything he writes, but I would guess we're in agreement 90-95% of the time. Rothschild didn't like it at all; he was unimpressed.

For those of you who DID watch or listen to it (or read the transcript), let me know if you agree with his assessment.
Obama’s Miserable Failure in State of the Union
By Matthew Rothschild, January 26, 2011

I hated Obama’s State of the Union address.

He opened with a discussion of the Tucson shooting, but as my colleague Ruth Conniff has noted, he failed to make the obvious point that we need better gun control in this country. And if he can’t make the case for that when a member of the House is in rehab after being shot through the head, when will he ever be able to do it?

He said that “each of us deserves the chance to shape our destiny,” but he didn’t once talk about poverty, which is on the rise and which greatly limits the chances of millions of Americans to reach their destiny.

He did set a goal for clean energy, but he included nuclear power in that definition.

Like Bill Clinton and recent Republican presidents, he pushed free trade agreements.

He vowed “to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years.”

He “ordered a review of government regulations.”

He said he’d veto earmarks.

He came out in favor of limiting medical malpractice awards.

And he proposed to “freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.”

All of those are Republican ideas, and he wrapped a lot of them in Republican rhetoric.

Here’s one example: “We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in,” he said. “That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.”

That passage could have been cut and pasted from the speech of any random Republican who ran in November. But the fact is, a family budget is not analogous to the U.S. government’s budget. When a family goes into debt, it immediately risks bankruptcy. But the U.S. government is at no risk of going bankrupt. Foreign governments and rich individuals are gladly buying up U.S. Treasuries to cover our debt. Try asking them to cover your own family’s debt! Plus, when a family goes further into debt at a time of economic troubles, it makes matters worse. But when the federal government goes further into debt at a time of economic troubles, it makes things better: It creates jobs; it increases purchasing power.

Throughout his two years in office, Obama has done a terrible job at countering Republican rhetoric and debunking their nonsense. Tuesday night was no exception.

Yes, he did talk about high-speed rail and universal Internet access.

Yes, he did defend gays in the military.

Yes, he did resist the rollback of the best elements of health care reform.

And no, he didn’t throw Social Security to the wolves on Wall Street.

But he failed miserably to make a coherent case for the kind of government action that tens of millions of Americans so desperately need right now.

Copyright 2010, The Progressive Magazine
It should be noted that Jack Rasmus and Robert Scheer were none too pleased with Obama's speech either.


  1. I gave this short blurb to a reporter for the local newspaper. It appeared in Wednesday's paper.

    I was reminded once again of how great a public speaker President Obama is. The State of the Union address was passionate and direct. President Obama focused on the three major issues that confront the United States: creation of jobs, federal deficit reduction, and the wars in the Middle East. While the President spoke of cutting the budget he did not address the true magnitude of the problem at hand. Unless we learn to conserve rather than consume and raise taxes to a level that matches the expenditures the Federal deficit will never be significantly reduced. We can not grow our way out of the mess we are in. I am not at all confident that our leaders at the Federal level understand the economic plight of areas like NW Ohio. President Obama spoke of retraining workers through places like NW State Community College. This is a laudable goal but the truth is, here in NW Ohio, there is a glut of workers and a static population. Finding good jobs will likely necessitate our children moving away from this area. This is far too great a loss for us to suffer.

    I don't agree with Rothschild about the deficit. (I am a Progressive subscriber) It is time we get serious about the mountains of debt we have. There is no easy fix.

    Behind all this is the notion that we can consume our way to prosperity. We can't. The political, economic, and environmental issues we face require hard choices to be made. Sadly, I don't think our political leaders have the will to make such decisions. They fear being voted out of office.

    At the end of the day President Obama came off as a centrist, far more Republican than I like. I am uncertain about whether I will vote for him again.


  2. "Finding good jobs will likely necessitate our children moving away from this area. This is far too great a loss for us to suffer."

    Hawaii has suffered this for years. We call it the brain drain. Unless a young person is in high-tech/defense, the only other options are tourism, agriculture and service/retail. My son and his Hawaii-born Chinese SO live in Oregon.

    "At the end of the day President Obama came off as a centrist..."

    It was inevitable and I expected and predicted it.

  3. I heard about two minutes of it and was too angry to listen any more. He sounded like a freakin' republican, for all his sucking up to them he does. Change we can believe in my foot!


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