The State of the Union – 1000 Points of Trite

 

The President had an effective introduction last night, but his 90 minute address was far too long. The best sentence was when be poked fun at government: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

The rest of the speech was about what one would expect from someone who never ran a business, never made a payroll, and never had to worry about turning a profit. The President had several new ideas but what he does not realize is that the best way to spur the kind of innovation we need is for government to get out of the way, reduce our debt burden, and allow capital to flow to the most promising and productive enterprises.

My guess is that the speech was poll tested by Democrats and aimed at independent voters who are essential to the President’s re-election. The major disappointment was that the election mandate was ignored. It was revealed today that the 2011 deficit will be $1.5 trillion, the largest in history.

Our nation has a major fiscal and debt crisis but the President is doing nothing to address it. Despite the fact that the $814 billion stimulus did not work, the President is proposing more spending. The only difference is that instead of calling it a stimulus he is now referring to it as an investment. The cuts he proposed are in the wrong place, the Defense Department. There were no substantial non-defense spending reductions.

For the third year is a row, Obama promised to freeze discretionary spending. This means he wants 15% of the budget kept at its current bloated level. The GOP is going to do far better than that. The first Republican response will be cutting spending back to 2008 levels, and then to move on to 2006 levels. A freeze is not good enough. It still leaves us with us a trillion dollar deficit. The President ignored his spending freeze rhetoric during the last Congress, and we will wait to see his reaction when the reduced budget resolution is passed by the House.

This morning’s AP analysis says:

Obama offered far more examples of where he would spend than where he would cut, and some of the areas he identified for savings are not certain to yield much if anything. For example, he said he wants to eliminate ‘billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.’ Yet he made a similar proposal last year that went nowhere. He sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request, even though Democrats were then in charge of both houses of Congress.

The President said we need a “sputnik moment” in making investments and spurring innovation. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) we have already “had countless Sputnik moments in recent decades that have created little more than space junk. Congress continuously launches programs with great fanfare but rarely tracks or measures their progress. Then, when we want launch a new program we’re surprised when it overlaps with an existing program.”

The good part of the speech is that he called for a few things the liberals have always blocked. He promised to veto any bills that contain earmarks: “Both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”

The President does not have to worry because the House is already fully committed to not passing any bill with an earmark. I am glad the President made this promise, but that certainly was not his policy in the 111th Congress. In 2009, he was vigorously defending earmarks.

Other good points were promises regarding medical malpractice reform, eliminating the 1099 rules in ObamaCare, encouraging the private sector to develop nuclear power, and tax simplification for both businesses and individuals. You asked for it Mr. President, and you will get it from the House of Representatives.

Republicans will need your help in the Senate, and you will have to tell the Majority Leader to allow these issues to come to a vote. There will be no RINO problem on any of these issues. Republicans are united, but they need a minimum of three Democratic votes for Senate passage. The other problem is that these are only vague promises. Medical malpractice reform is an example. This is what the AP analysis says:

Obama has expressed openness before to this prominent Republican proposal, but it has not come to much. It was one of several GOP ideas that were dropped or diminished in the health care law after Obama endorsed them in a televised bipartisan meeting at the height of the debate.

Republicans want federal action to limit jury awards in medical malpractice cases; what Obama appears to be offering, by supporting state efforts, falls short of that. The president has said he agrees that fear of being sued leads to unnecessary tests and procedures that drive up health care costs. So far the administration has only wanted to study the issue.

Trial lawyers, major political donors to Democratic candidates, are strongly opposed to caps on jury awards. But the administration has been reluctant to support other approaches, such as the creation of specialized courts where expert judges, not juries, would decide malpractice cases.

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