Last night, I took about four pages of notes in my moleskin during the Presidential address and the Republican response afterwards (though the notes from it were much shorter). As some of you no doubt noticed, I posted some quick thoughts regarding it last night. Those were by need short because it was late and they were actually posted from my iPhone right before I went to sleep. I am going to try and sum up my thoughts on this in a somewhat concise manner, but I trust you’ll forgive me if I ramble a bit.
First, I’ll start with the good (primarily because this is a shorter list):
- For the first time since taking the Oath of Office, President Obama gave out words of hope. For someone who was elected on a platform of hope and change, he had been spouting a large amount of “doom and gloom” in his rhetoric to this point, primarily using fear to drive the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through Congress with almost no discussion of what was in it.
- He actually called for people to take responsibility for their actions, both privately and in the Government. Obama also acknowledged the Government hasn’t lived up to its responsibilities and this needs to change.
- Recovery.gov is going to be used to provide transparency on how money is spent from the AR&R Act. Whether this will actually happen or not remains to be seen, but the intention to do so is a good thing.
- As part of his big three domestic agenda items (healthcare, energy, and education), he stated a commitment to expanding Charter Schools. While I would much rather have heard him state a commitment to instituting voucher programs, this was at least something other than “business as usual” when it comes to education. It’s not a solution, mind you, nor does it address the fact that Education should be a local matter and not a Federal one, but it’s at least worth mentioning here.
- Also on his discussion of education, he made it clear that parents have to be involved in their children’s education. This goes back to the responsibility theme he expressed at the beginning of his speech, and it’s a far cry from the usual rhetoric you get out of Democrats.
- In talking about debt reduction, Obama made a statement that flies in the face of “business as usual” in Washington. He stated that the national budget should reflect national concerns, not local ones. I am going to express a small amount of hope here that he’s learned from the outcry from the earmarks buried in the AR&R Act and is actually going to move forward with cutting out earmarks going forward. The fact he stated this publicly gives some hope, but this was countered by the fact he continues to hold there were no earmarks in the AR&R Act (I guess saving owls in Pelosi’s district and funding Reid’s train from LA to Las Vegas don’t count).
- Obama expressed his intention to push for other sources of energy within the country to remove dependence on foreign oil. While how he intends to do this isn’t what I consider the best process, it is worth mentioning here because it is a worthy goal toward which to strive.
- At the end of his speech, President Obama made it clear that he will continue the War on Terror, and he intends to support the troops. He also stated he is going to expand the number of troops we have as well as increasing their pay and benefits.
That covers the “good” I heard last night. Now let’s move to the things that had me grumbling to myself while I was watching:
- President Obama continued to tout the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a good move for the country. In doing so, he continues to show his belief that government is the solution to the current crisis rather than the Free Market, and he continues to refuse to acknowledge the role government played in causing the current recession.
- Obama claims that the AR&R Act is going to create 3.5 Million new jobs with the majority of them being in the private sector. He doesn’t address, however, the fact that many of these jobs are not the sort that will spark long term economic growth. These are jobs that are for Federal projects with a limited life span. As the New Deal policies in the Great Depression proved, government funded jobs do not serve to spur recovery.
- One of the things the President kept repeating was the item regarding tax cuts for 95% of income earners. Toward the end of his speech, he made note that if you don’t make more than $250,000 a year, you would see a tax cut starting in April. What he continues to ignore is the fact many small business are incorporated in a manner that requires the business income to be reported on the owner’s personal income taxes. Small Business is where most of your job creation comes from and what drives the economy, but he’s fully supporting tax policies that will further weigh down these business and drive down expansion and job creation. As so many other politicians in the past, Obama is pushing this because wealth envy plays on Main Street. Far too many people in this country only look at the end result and don’t want to credit what went before to get the person to that point.
- In speaking about the lending crisis, he made it clear he wants to use tax payer money to push banks to start lending money again. He made absolutely no mention of the policies that led to the lending crisis or fixing those policies. Instead, he’s advocating allowing bankruptcy judges to alter the principle balances of loans as well as using governmental force to control how banks lend money. Essentially, he’s advocating policies similar to the ones that got us into this situation in the first place and making no effort to move to policies that will actually make lending a solid proposition for banks again.
- In the first half of his speech, President Obama said something that made me shake my head. He implied that every major economic advancement in this country had come because of Government. Transcontinental Railroad? Government. Coming out of the Great Depression? Government. Post WWII Technological Boom? Government. While I will freely admit Government aided in these things (primarily by getting out of the way), it was private industry and the open market that did these things. Whenever the government takes a heavy hand in a manner that does not address protecting people from force or fraud, it drags down on economic advancement–especially in cases where it’s actively aiding and abetting fraud.
- In his discussion of energy policy, he made it very clear that his intention is to subsidize clean energy while penalizing carbon based energy production. This makes no mention of viability or what penalizing carbon energy production will do to the current cost of energy.
- Obama spoke a good deal about healthcare reform. He wants to provide “affordable” healthcare for everyone, use a system for electronic health records, and claimed reform has been needed for over a century. Unfortunately, he failed to address one of the primary reasons for rising health costs: civil litigation. Instead of addressing the need for tort reform and the fact rising health care costs are, in many cases, the results of out of control litigation where many lawyers file law suits on behalf of their clients playing the odds that a company will settle rather than fight the law suit. This drives up health care costs as insurance for providers have to go up to account for this. This doesn’t surprise me that much, though, given Obama’s esteem for John Edwards, one of the people who is the poster child for the litigious overload.
- Much of his educational agenda had an implied price tag to it. Rather than leaving education to the local and state level, he made it clear he is going to continue pumping tax payer money at the federal level into it. There is no information about how he is not going to keep simply repeating the mistakes that got us to this point, but it’s possible he has ideas to fix it.
- Obama continued to state he is going to decrease the deficit by the end of his term by 50%. Unfortunately, he gave no concrete ideas how he is going to do this, but he put forward a large number of things that will require more money. As well, he hinted that another stimulus package may be needed, further increasing the amount of money being spent by the Federal Government.
At the end of it, I was left with a few good moments and large swaths of lack of enthusiasm for what was expressed in the President’s speech. While I would like to believe he is going to change and manage to bring prosperity back to the country, but his actions and much of what he said last night do not give that feeling to me. The facts do not back up his rhetoric and until they do, I don’t see my viewpoint changing.