Higgins: SOTU: Not Ready For Prime TimeWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We got a break from a disappointing TV and movie award show season to watch a political one instead. Like the performances in it’s sad predecessors however, it’s difficult to know what to be more disappointed about in this week’s State of the Union address. The whole things seemed like little more recycled material from writers worn out by their boss’s prodigious ‘speechifying’ that failed even as a “Best of …” effort. Even a fine performance by the ‘First Actor’ couldn’t save a tired and lackluster script.
For example, the President crowed about an Executive Order he signed to begin the process of raising the minimum wage on federally-funded projects to $10.10 per hour. Unfortunately, this order won’t effect existing federal contracts or those being renewed. Because many federal contracts provide favoritism to companies using union labor, it’s really little more than window dressing, likely to affect less than ten percent of the workforce used. Progress … maybe, but it still puts him behind States and Municipalities using federal funds covered under ‘living wage’ rules that dictate contractors must pay the equivalent of union scale?
In counterpoint he talked wage inequality in what has been at best a lackluster economy with lousy job growth under his leadership. But how can wages go up for anyone when the line stretches around the block every time Wal-Mart opens a store offering starting pay described as the problem?
Then there was the monologue about the rich getting richer: “after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better”. Of course they do, when his Federal Reserve pumps over $80 billion per month into the market to insure that they do.
Some the evening was confusing, listening to a leader who’s done everything in his power to shut down an abundant coal industry in this country (and the power plants that go with them), ignored continuing high prices at the gas pump, and was then crowing about energy in this country. Sure there’s abundant and cheap natural gas to use in this country now, but only because we ignore government objections to the fracking process.
Of course, there was the inevitable attempt at comic relief of course with: “I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” Tell it to the guys at the Keystone XL pipeline, caught up in federal red tape for the last three years. Then explain the 13,000 regulations have been added to the Federal Register since this President took over in 2009. Then discuss how the Affordable Health Care Act alone has added over 10,000 pages worth of new regulations (and we’re still counting). Now that’s funny!
You know what? Maybe the entire concept of a State of the Union address has seen its day as a TV event. After all, the SOTU was only created so the head of the Executive branch could report to the Legislative branch. While members of the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court) show up, they certainly aren’t obligated to; and neither quite frankly, are the American people.
The truth of the matter is that neither is the President. While George Washington began the tradition of doing this “from time to time” Constitutionally mandated event once a year by delivering it to a Joint Session of Congress (a practice John Adams continued), he didn’t have to. Thomas Jefferson (a smart guy and maybe a bit prescient) changed it by delivering his remarks in writing; believing that the personal appearance too closely resembled the British monarch’s practice of delivering a list of policy mandates to Parliament. The written version remained the preferred method until Woodrow Wilson’s address in 1913. The practice then varied until FDR gave his first orally in 1934.
Perhaps this is one political event that we could do without. The President gets enough coverage as it is and the ratings on this show stink. Maybe Congress would prefer having a night off and going back to the written version. After all, we know how fond they are of reading long documents (especially before voting on them). Why not give them one more?
Tags: Affordable Health Care Act, Executive Order, FDR, Federal Register, fracking process, George Washington, John Adams, Joint Session of Congress, Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama, State of the Union address, the Supreme Court, Thomas Jefferson, Wal-Mart, Woodrow Wilson