State Of Our Union

image.adapt.445.lowHere are several of my streams of thought as I watched the State of the Union this evening, in no particular order:

  • What seemed to be the recurring theme throughout the speech–one that should be of concern to anyone wishing to maintain the fidelity of the Constitution’s line on separation of powers–is the President’s increasing desire to circumvent a gridlocked Congress and enact sweeping policy changes through executive action. On three or four different occasions (e.g. minimum wage hikes for federal contract workers), Obama stated he would work “with or with out” Congress to push his proposals.
  • The standing ovation he received from Democrats indicated they were simpatico with such efforts. One wonders if they thought the idea through to its conclusion–as it would require them to abdicate their own power to him. As for the rest of us, didn’t we fight a Revolution to escape the consolidation of power in any one man? The royal decree we shook off becomes the executive order we kneel to here. “Checks and balances” becomes “you’ll get what you get, and like it”. In no way is this a good thing in a constitutional republic.
  • Obama alluded to lowering tax rates for businesses who create jobs. This is the mirror image of a proposal he made last year. Why no movement on this?
  • Ditto on Guantanamo Bay. Can we agree that if the place hasn’t been closed five years after Obama first promised, that it just isn’t going to happen?
  • Speaking of job creation, the President missed a fitting opportunity during his exposition on energy independence to end years of indecision regarding the Keystone pipeline. Approving the pipeline is beneficial on both fronts: tens of thousands of well-paying jobs would be created, and the U.S. could import a huge quantity of oil from a reliable, stable and allied trade country in Canada. Oil companies in charge of construction have massive financial incentives to not mess up the environment (see BP and Deepwater Horizon). Job creation. Less reliance on unfriendly oil. Should be a no brainer. China has no problem using the oil if we won’t.
  • Obama mentioned the lowest unemployment rate in five years. Unmentioned: the labor participation rate is in the toilet. Official unemployment only counts those looking for work, so the UE rate is artificially low. Don’t count on that improving once the employer mandate shoe drops under Obamacare.
  • He mentioned that government is “in the process of fixing the health care system”. There was an audible reluctance to cheer as he brought that up. His cherry picked PR stories drowned out opposing stories of millions of formerly insured citizens finding they’re uninsured now. Or the thousands of patients (like Sen. Tom Coburn) finding that their doctors aren’t available to them anymore. Or finding that instead of family premiums falling by an average $2,500 as promised, they’re increasing two or three fold. If this is “fixing” the system, I’d hate to see what messing up looks like.
  • “Global warming” has morphed into the “fact” of “climate change”. An easier (read: vaguer) political term to bandy about. Fifteen years of net zero temperature change makes GW harder to sell. Now to settle about what’s meant by “climate change”. Climate changes annually from Spring to Summer, Fall and Winter, and back again. If what’s meant is that climate is progressively getting warmer, we’re back at square one.
  • Obama only made passing allusions –about 30 seconds worth–to gun violence, without specifics about how to counter it (i.e. pushes for gun control). Actually quite interesting. There seems to be no appetite for rehashing failed gun control initiatives in Congress. A good thing. Forget the guns, and ask why individuals see the need to kill other people. We live in a culture of death. Engage it on that level. Sweeping gun control is a non-starter.
  • Our Iran policy is a risky one. The President said he’d be the “first” to call for the reapplication of economic sanctions should Iran renege on last year’s nuke agreement. With China and Russia as permanent members on the UN Security Council, making those sanctions stick again is no foregone conclusion. Additionally, the president insuring that Iran is dismantling their uranium stockpiles is curious. Iran’s stockpile isn’t being “dismantled”, but rather rendered chemically inert. A modification that’s reversible. Their centrifuge infrastructure remains. Even Iran admits as much. They’re now perpetually frozen months away from sufficient fissile material for a nuke. Again…we play a risky game.
  • With regards to education, if most states are already taking steps to expand early childhood education, why do we need federal intervention? Just get out of the way! Let them do the experimenting. The federal government gets their authority to meddle in education from where, exactly?
  • With all the talk about poverty, I was disappointed he failed to prop up a strong marriage culture as a response. A large chunk of poverty occurs among single women and their children, and as I’ve stated earlier, if poor single mothers were to marry the father of her children, two-thirds would be immediately lifted out of poverty. As marriage is such a widespread societal benefit anyway, the president could have gone a long way in addressing entrenched poverty by commenting on our marriage culture. A pity he failed to.

All in all, it was about what one might have expected. With all the recycled talking points, one can imagine them keeping old SOTU speeches in some rusty file cabinet, and simply penciling in the new year. Expect more of the same in 2015. Our debt stands at $17.3 trillion. Any takers for its position one year from now?


About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA

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  1. But Wait, There’s More! | The Right Argument - January 20, 2015

    […] following last year’s SOTU, I expected to hear much of the same recycled talking points this go-around as then. Largely, this proved true, if not in specifics, then in generalities. […]

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