SOTU 2013Written by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient … (US Constitution: Article 2, Section 3).
That’s what the State of the Union speech is supposed to be about. It wasn’t designed to be political theater for calling out the Supreme Court, the opposition party, or some portion of the American people to give more money to the government. Our second president Thomas Jefferson recognized that it didn’t even require him to show up in person to give this information and sent his SOTU to Congress in writing. It’s only beginning in the Twentieth Century, beginning with Woodrow Wilson, that the current process of pomp and circumstance began.
But let’s face it, in modern times the SOTU seems little more than a political stump speech at best, and at worst an exceptionally long monologue for a late night TV show. While we haven’t installed a laugh track yet, there’s no doubt that the speech is written with designed pauses that the audience is supposed to fill with applause. Some might even call it excessive in a speech that lasted just barely over an hour that there were over seventy-eight such pauses so that the audience could appreciate these efforts of the speech-writer’s art (which in part accounts for the fact that the speech lasted for over an hour).
Aside from the entertainment value however, much of the SOTU these days is familiar to those in Toledo as half-truths, mistruths, and out right lies. Since regardless of the party in power, the president gets to lay out his side of the debate without contradiction, the world will be as he sees it. (I know that there’s an opposition response, but it has neither the power of venue nor the time to be anything more than a sideshow.) As for this year’s”:
Gun control was probably the most dramatic part of the President’s soliloquy, using the presence of recent victims of mass shootings in this nation as a condemnation for Congress to vote on some form of gun control legislation.
Sequestration was an early part of the President’ effort, with another Congress to act, and act now. Few if any I’m sure, heard the President say that this debate had been going on without resolution since 2011 and none in the audience was told that the idea originally came from the White House. Unlike his stance on gun control legislation however, the President seems unwilling or unable to call out the Senate to hold a vote on the nation’s budget, which while it is legally bound to do so, has failed to do for four years.
The President said that Energy costs are down, in spite of the fact that electric rates across the country are up and gas prices are up in his hometown of Chicago are up fifty cents in the last month. On the other hand, the President is correct that wind-generated energy is up. Of course this is probably only so because of generous subsidies, is under increasing attack for the noise pollution that it generates, and is increasingly under pressure for the damage done to migrating bird populations. (They even get a special dispensation from the Feds for killing bald and golden eagle populations.) All of which we deal with today in order to generate 2.5 percent of the nation’s power. Solar wasn’t mentioned (in the hopes we wouldn’t remember Solyndra), which still only accounts for .1 percent of US power.
Of course there was a section on infrastructure reinvestment, which I thought was going to be addressed in the first term’s $783 billion Stimulus Package, though evidently not. This package is only looking for $50 billion, but is unlikely to get further than its predecessor in producing results unless these projects can get past their biggest hurdle … Federal Regulations.
The President would also like money for Preschools, High Schools, and Technical Colleges. He hasn’t figured out how to do keep these kids in school or keep his promises of revenue neutrality however. He’d also like to raise the Minimum Wage thirty percent from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour. The fact that each such raise has in the past led to higher unemployment doesn’t reconcile with ‘jobs as a number one priority’. Perhaps however, those let go due to the wage increase can go back to school to get a job that doesn’t pay Minimum Wage in the first place, a double win for the Administration.
Foreign Policy wasn’t big in SOTU last night, but did mention a “tireless Counter-Terrorism Effort”, which by the way, will be drawing down dramatically in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Those efforts however, didn’t include an apology to the victims of Benghazi for being too tired to make an effort to save their lives, another one to every country whose air space we’ve violated by flying armed drone strikes, and a third one that the only transparency his Administration has shown is in telling our enemies when we’re leaving.
You know, maybe we would be better served by not telling Congress and the rest of the world our state of the union.