Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union 2012

“Who is more foolish? The fool or the fool that follows it?”

This was one of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I waited for the President to deliver his third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and the American people.  We knew that this was going to be more of a campaign speech than a real look at this state of the country as we enter Barack Obama's fourth year as President of the United States. 

Previews of the speech throughout the day indicated that the President was going to focus on trebling / quadrupling down on class warfare, social justice, 'fairness', and defining compromise as when the GOP opponents of the President surrender on their principles and embrace wholeheartedly the President's progressive agenda.  We would get rhetoric around the these points as well as new and not so new ideas of how bigger government is better government.

But one of the real questions the American people would have would about how the President would attempt to present his record earned over the last three years...

The President has a huge challenge if he attempts to run on his record.  He may blame the economic challenges on the actions of his predecessor, but the fact remains that the actions and policies of President Obama have done little or nothing to stimulate a real economic recovery.

Unemployment may be 'officially' at 8.5%, higher than it was in January 2009 when he took office, but real unemployment level has skyrocketed during Obama's tenure.  One of the main cases for the $800 billion stimulus that the President advocated was to limit the unemployment rate to not exceed 8%.

In terms of the total level of those employed, under President Obama, our workforce has gone from nearly 65% of the population to just over 58% of the population.

If you notice on the above charge of the employment / population ration, the current level is the lowest we've seen since right at the end of the 1981-2 recession that hit during Ronald Reagan's presidency.  In fact that recession and the one we experienced in 2008-9 were the two sharpest and most painful recessions we've experienced since the Great Depression.  These recessions also reflect the effects of two polar visions towards economics - the conservative vision and approach as done by President Ronald Reagan and the progressive vision and approach as done by President Barack Obama.

This chart graphs the differences between these approaches towards promoting economic growth as measured by the country's Gross Domestic Product on a quarter by quarter basis starting with the first quarter of recovery after a recession.

Ironically, given the President's consistent blame game movement to paint the economic challenges on President Bush, the only real accomplishment of the Obama Administration, was the case of the President quietly continuing a Bush Administration policy - getting Bin Laden.  And even this major accomplishment, which opened and closed the President's speech, required President Obama being pushed hard from within his own Administration to pull the trigger on the mission.

With a record that is hardly defensible, just how would the President define the State of the Union - and highlight his vision and policies to move the country forward?

He fulfilled all of the expectations by invoking class warfare, populism, renewed calls for 'fairness' in tax policy (ie tax the rich), and the obligation we all are supposed to have towards 'social justice'.  None of the problems we are experiencing are related to the policies and agenda of his Administration - and none of the failures to address the problems and challenges we face are related to his policies and agenda.  

Plans and programs that the President advocated last night were many of the same plans and programs that the Administration pushed in the last three years.  They failed then - but we are being asked by the President to believe that doing them again will deliver different results.

Blogger Tigerhawk undertook an ambitious paragraph by paragraph review of the President's speech - and highlights comments made by the President that he likes and didn't like.  Here's one that caught my eye - and one I entirely agree with...
After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.
This is without question the most disingenuous paragraph in a mostly disingenuous speech. First, Obama's torrent of formal and informal regulation has made it far more difficult for small companies than large ones. Regulation always favors the large and entrenched at the expense of the small and the disruptive. Second, Obama has promoted and enacted specific legislation that squelches start-ups. See, e.g., his tax on medical device revenues, which kicks in long before profits and which (obviously) greatly raises the return hurdles required to attract new investment in innovation. That he can read this paragraph with a straight face speaks volumes about his character.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial on the State of the Union speech also calls out the President for both his record and his so-called desire to reduce the negative impact of regulations...
The Pelosi Congress also passed ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, cash for clunkers, the housing tax credit, and much more. The only Obama priority it didn't pass was cap-and-trade, which was killed by Senate Democrats.

Mr. Obama's regulators also currently have some 149 major rules underway, which are those that cost more than $100 million. The 112th Congress hasn't been able to kill a single major rule. The most it has been able to do is extend the Bush tax rates—which helped the economy by avoiding a tax shock—and slow the rate of increase in federal spending. This President has been "obstructed" less than anyone since LBJ.

Mr. Obama clearly has a spring in his step these days, figuring that the public hates Congress and thinks Republicans run it, that the GOP will field a weak presidential candidate, and that he can fool the public into believing only Mitt Romney's taxes will rise if Mr. Obama wins a second term. He has only one big obstacle: his record.
In my opinion, there were a number of paragraphs within the President's speech where the misrepresentation of facts clearly highlighted the character, or lack thereof, of Barack Obama.  We have in this President a person who is as narcissitic as we've claimed as well as a person who is clearly a progressive ideologue who holds the American electorate in contempt. he lacks a real record, so he has to distort the record believing that the electorate will not know the difference.

When the Washington Post takes a hard look at the claims made by the President in the speech, they are clearly struggling to minimize the damage in pointing out the misrepresentations.  They start by employing a false meme that misrepresentations in SOTU speeches do happen, citing the false meme that the Bush Administration made one in the famous 16 words claim that Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake from an African nation to develop weapons of mass destruction.  We know now that Mr. Valerie Plame lied about this, and that the British intelligence that provided this information to the Bush Administration stands by the information.

The Washington Post fact checks raise questions about President Obama taking credit for the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq - as it was the agreement reached by President Bush and the Iraqi's that defined that withdrawal date - and all President Obama did was refuse to modify that agreement to keep US forces there to help the Iraqi government.  They also raise questions with the President's claims of 'success' in Afghanistan.

They note that the President calls for and touts 'new rules' for Wall Street being needed - while ignoring the challenges and problems being created by the flawed Dodd / Frank bill that the GOP is looking to repeal immediately after they repeal the fiscal disaster that is Obamacare.

The President disingenuously calls for debt reduction - while insisting that we continue to spend at a level that has created four consecutive years of annual deficits in excess of $1.2 trillion, and fought tooth and nail to avoid having debt reduction forced on him by the Republicans in Congress.

He demands that Congress provides him and the American people with a full year extension of the Temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction - ignoring that the House of Representatives did pass in December a full year's extension that was killed by the Democrat majority in the Senate because they didn't like how it was 'paid for'.

President Obama touted as a success three free trade agreements that were signed in 2011...forgetting that these agreements were originally done under President Bush's Administration and they sat for three years on his desk because he wanted Congress to ensure that they would provide pork to the unions as 'compensation' for moving the agreements forward.

As Fox's John Stossel notes in his column on the President's speech -
Has Barack Obama learned nothing in three years? Last night, during his State of the Union address, he promised "a blueprint for an economy." But economies are crushed by blueprints. An economy is really nothing more than people participating in an unfathomably complex spontaneous network of exchanges aimed at improving their material circumstances. It can't even be diagrammed, much less planned. And any attempt at it will come to grief.

Politicians like Obama believe they are the best judges of how we should conduct our lives. Of course a word like "blueprint" would occur to the president. He, like most who want his job, aspires to be the architect of a new society.

But we who love our lives and our freedom say: No, thanks. We need no social architect. We need liberty under law. That's it.

Obama -- and most Republicans are no different -- doesn't understand the real liberal revolution that transformed civilization. The crux of that revolution is that law should define general visible rules of just conduct, applicable to all, with no eye to particular outcomes. In other words, as Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek taught, the only "purpose" of law is to enable us all to pursue our individual purposes in peace.

President Obama's State of the Union speech reflected more hope and a view through red-tinted glasses than a realistic of view of where we are and where we are going.  He wants another four year term in the White House to promote his Alinsky based vision of 'fundamental change'.  He still sees the US as a fundamentally flawed and broken nation that is 'unfair' because there is no equality in results...and that government is the only arbitrator to ensure equality in results for all.

It is a flawed and dangerous vision that misrepresents the State of the Union.  It is a clarion call to quadruple down on the same policies and agenda that will take this country from a $10.2 trillion national debt to a $16.4 trillion debt by January 2013 - a debt level that is likely to be 110% of our Gross Domestic Product.  The same policies and agenda that has a real unemployment rate in excess of 15% and one that has significantly damaged our relations and interactions with other nations around the world.

That is why it is imperative that we all make this the last State of the Union speech President Obama ever delivers.

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