Unemployment continues to be too high, debt is growing way too large, and Washington is still spending vastly too much money. That’s the true “state of the union,” but it’s not what you heard from Obama tonight.
Instead, he largely ignored the harm that he’s already inflicted on the economy – the record levels of wasteful spending that has done little to jumpstart economic growth – and instead tried to sell even more stimulus spending. In essence he gave us a repackaged, reheated, but same bad tasting “American Jobs Act” that he couldn’t even get the Democrat-held Senate to vote for.
Notice that his speech was short on specifics (aren’t they all) and long on rhetoric. It’s clear that this wasn’t meant to lay the foundation for a growing economy, it was about saying the right words and pressing the right buttons to appeal to the most voters. And the lever that he pulled time and time again is an appeal for “fairness.”
His speech continually harped on the need to return to the supposed American value of “fairness for all, and responsibility from all.” Sounds more like a line from Animal Farm than from the President of the United States.
For a president who speaks so highly of the need for responsibility, one would have thought that he would have taken more of it over the state of our economy. Instead, in true campaign fashion, he laid the blame at the feet of a do-nothing Congress. He spoke of historic levels of gridlock and partisanship, but completely ignored the steps taken by the House to get our economy back on track.
House Republicans have passed everything from fundamental tax reform, that would make our businesses more competitive in the global marketplace and eliminate the distortions in the personal code, to sensible reforms to government regulations, to reduce the red tape preventing start-ups from taking off and small businesses from growing. And yet each of those nearly 30 pieces of legislation sits in the Senate awaiting action.
President Obama refused to say it, but the problem is not a lack of action by Congress, it’s a lack of will by Democrats to rise above the partisanship and compromise on much-needed reforms.
But let’s be clear, despite the president’s rhetoric about the need for “responsibility,” no one truly disputes the need for it. The argument is whether Americans should be responsible for themselves or whether we want Washington to be responsible for us all.
The first is rooted in a return to the American Dream, the latter, and the one espoused by Obama, is a shift toward’s a welfare state. It pushes people away from self-reliance and towards government dependency (and ultimately, despondancy).
Obama’s simplistic vision of have and have-nots are also a cynical political move to pit the middle class against the well-to-do. But division is not the path to prosperity for anyone and it will only add to our struggle to regain the entrepreneurial spark that made America the dominant economic (and moral) force in the world.
As Governor Mitch Daniels said in his rebuttal,
“No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.”
True fairness, doesn’t require arbitrarily shifting wealth from class to class, but it should at least mean ending arbitrary shifts of wealth between generations. Obama’s big-spending policies and refusal to reform entitlements will only exacerbate this problem. Today’s spending is tomorrow’s taxes. Today’s government deficits are tomorrow’s lost investment. If Obama truly believed in the fairness that he preached he would work to stop mortgaging young Americans, even if it means paying the mortgage of underwater borrowers.
President Obama may have spoke of an “economy built to last,” but it’s pretty clear he’s creating an economy built for last.