Free Markets, Free People

SOTU


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Feb 13

This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss the state of the union. The actual one, not the fantasy one Obama outlined in his speech.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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2013 SOTU Liveblog

Well, I was gonna try and liveblog this via a service like CoverItLive, but that’s no longer free, and the free ones only allow a very small number of monthly views. So, I guess I have to step back into the past and liveblog it Old Skool. You’ll need to refresh the page regularly, if you’re following along.

I hope CoverItLive fails spectacularly.

So, this is the night when the president turns his full focus on jobs. Again. For the 5th time.

18:10 OK, the King is entering the House of Commons.

18:13 One of the best improvements to politics I can think of would be for the president to transmit a written SOTU to Congress. If nothing else, it would deprive Sheila Jackson-Lee of her photo op.

18:16 If I was Obama, I wouldn’t start off by talking about the Constitution.

18:18 We have cleared away the rubble of crisis. Not true. You’re still president.

18:19 Obama talks about revitalizing the economy, as if his policies weren’t an obstacle to that.

18:22 I guess Obama was for the sequester before he was against it.

18:23 I think it’s precious that Obama talks as if Social Security was remotely sustainable in its current form.

18:24 "Everyone must pay their fair share," especially the rich, those greedy, bloated, plutocratic bastards.

18:24 Obama wants "bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform" that leaves the system of income taxation essentially unchanged. Like Social Security. Our entire political class lives in the past, and they don’t even seem to know it.

18:30 Obama is pushing 3D printing. That’s a really good idea. In a couple of years, home 3D printers will make great guns.

18:31 "Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime." And yet, somehow, they will.

18:34 I can not believe this guy is implicitly taking credit for energy production increases done in SPITE of, bet because of, his policies.

18:36 We can choose to believe humans cause climate change. Or we can believe that it has something to do with the thermonuclear furnace in the sky. As a great number of scientists believe, since he’s all giddy about science.

18:37 Man, this guy loves executive orders.

18:39 "I’m proposing a partnership with the private sector," because there just isn’t enough crony capitalism yet.

18:41 Let’s help people buy more homes. Like we did, you know, before 2008, with the Community Reinvestment Act.

18:42 Preschool for every child in America. Why not puppies, too? Better yet, why not let the states take care of this?

18:44 German kids are ready for a job when they graduate high school. Because Germany doesn’t have the NEA, resisting every possible education reform. I’d be satisfied if high schools graduated students who were literate.

18:46 Every kid shouldn’t go to college. Not all the baby turtles make it to the ocean.

18:46 "Putting more boots on the southern border." Right. Just let Canadians come in willy-nilly. Maple lover.

18:49 The Violence Against Women Act is an anathema. The Federal Government has no general police power.

18:51 "No one who works should live in poverty!" Raise the minimum wage and fewer poor people will work. Hey, why stop at $9 an hour? Make it $100, and we’ll all be farting through silk.

18:54 We will have stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger America, by ensuring the government takes and spends more of their money.

18:54 "By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over." And by the end of the next year, the Taliban will be back in charge.

18:56 Al-Qaeda is dead! Yay!

18:58 "The leaders of Iran should know that now is the time for a diplomatic solution." That’ll have ‘em quaking in their boots.

19:00 "We should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities." Not just pain, but joy. Also, blinding glimpses of the obvious.

19:03 So, far this administration’s batting average on change in the Mideast isn’t very good.

19:04 "We will maintain the best military in the world!" But a smaller, less capable one than we used to have.

19:06 Wait, long lines at polling places are a violation of fundamental rights? Umm, the right not to be inconvenienced by queues?

19:08 "What I’ve said tonight matters little." That would’ve been the perfect place to stop.

19:09 So. Gun control. roll out the dead kids. Never mind that murders have declined by half since 1991. Guns are bad.

19:11 "The victims deserve a vote" on gun control! No. They don’t. NO ONE DESERVES A VOTE ON MY RIGHTS.

19:14 So, why hasn’t this little black lady voted since 1964? Am I missing something?

19:15 "The word ‘citizens’ describes what we believe." Really? ‘Cause clearly you believe in a lot of things I don’t.

Well, basically it was the same tired crap he’s pushed for the last 4 years. Government is the market. Rich people owe us stuff. Blah, blah, blah. Thank God it was shorter than I feared.

I can’t believe this dolt is president. But, I guess the libs thought that about Bush, so we’re even.

~
Dale Franks
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The cost of the regulatory state

One of the claims President Obama made in his State of the Union address was that his administration was engaged in cutting the red tape and doing away with regulations that stood in the way of prosperity

There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.

Of course, like many of his claims, the devil is in the details and upon closer scrutiny, the claim has no real foundation in fact.

His first claim is a carefully constructed lie as Free Enterprise points out:

The White House admits that its rules have so far cost $25 billion, which is much more than at the same point during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

The claim is also couched in non-specifics for a reason.  The “500 reforms” are mostly regulations with little or no monetary impact on those who have to satisfy them.  However, the administration has added more rules that cross the magic 100 million dollar impact line than any other administration.  And, of course, those require, by law, that the monetary impact be assessed.  Here’s an example of one (PDF, pg 69):

Enforcement Fairness Act (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.). This interim final rule:

a. Will have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. This rule will affect every new well on the OCS, and every operator, both large and small must meet the same criteria for well construction regardless of company size. This rulemaking may have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities and the impact on small businesses will be analyzed more thoroughly in an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. While large companies will bear the majority of these costs, small companies as both leaseholders and contractors supporting OCS drilling operations will be affected.

Considering the new requirements for redundant barriers and new tests, we estimate that this rulemaking will add an average of about $1.42 million to each new deepwater well drilled and completed with a MODU, $170 thousand for each new deepwater well drilled with a platform rig, and $90 thousand for each new shallow water well. While not an insignificant amount, we note this extra recurring cost is less than 2 percent of the cost of drilling a well in deepwater and around 1 percent for most shallow water wells.

b. Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions. The impact on domestic deepwater hydrocarbon production as a result of these regulations is expected to be negative, but the size of the impact is not expected to materially impact the world oil markets. The deepwater GOM is an oil province and the domestic crude oil prices are set by the world oil markets. Currently there is sufficient spare capacity in OPEC to offset a decrease in GOM deepwater production that could occur as a result of this rule.

Therefore, the increase in the price of hydrocarbon products to consumers from the increased cost to drill and operate on the OCS is expected to be minimal. However, more of the oil for domestic consumption may be purchased from overseas markets because the cost of OCS oil and gas production will rise relative to other sources of supply. This shift would contribute negatively to our balance of trade.

These rules were proposed in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).  They clearly identify the effect of the rules. Ironically they include increased cost to consumers, more dependence on foreign oil, and a negative increase in the balance of trade – all problems the administration and most economists identify is problems to be solved if the economy is to move forward.

Now, some may argue that these rules were necessary.  I’d argue that perhaps some new regulation was necessary, but it should have been a regulation which, to the best of its ability, mitigated the effects listed to the minimum, or eliminated them altogether.  Instead, the regulators airily note the effects and then blow them off.  In reality, regulators really don’t care if it costs consumers more, deepens our dependence on foreign oil or ups the balance of trade.

In the State of the Union address, Obama tried to grab the middle and pretend he is a friend to small business:

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. 

After all, innovation is what America has always been about.  Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses.  So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed.  Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow.  (Applause.)  Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs.  Both parties agree on these ideas.  So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.  (Applause.)

But again facts undermine the claim.  As the Small Business Association reports, regulations disproportionately effect small businesses:

In the face of yet higher costs of federal regulations, the research shows that small businesses continue to bear a disproportionate share of the federal regulatory burden. The findings are consistent with those in Hopkins (1995), Crain and Hopkins (2001), and Crain (2005).

The research finds that the total costs of federal regulations have further increased from the level established in the 2005 study, as have the costs per employee. More specifically, the total cost of federal regulations has increased to $1.75 trillion, while the updated cost per employee for firms with fewer than 20 employees is now $10,585 (a 36 percent difference between the costs incurred by small firms when compared with their larger counterparts).

Say one thing while doing the opposite.  Vintage Obama.  Tomorrow’s Steve Jobs would have a very expensive uphill climb in today’s regulatory climate.  The net effect? $1.75 trillion dollars of cost to small businesses, the place where “most jobs are created” per Obama.

The SBA also reports:

Environmental regulations appear to be the main cost drivers in determining the severity of the disproportionate impact on small firms. Compliance with environmental regulations costs 364 percent more in small firms than in large firms. The cost of tax compliance is 206 percent higher in small firms than the cost in large firms.

Those regulations are primarily driven by OSHA and EPA.  And there’s no secret  about the expansion of both regulators and regulation being pushed by Obama’s EPA focused on the environment.

The “good” news, however, this is one “shovel ready” project that seems to be creating jobs:

Large, small, global and regional — law firms are opening Washington offices at a rate not seen since before the recession, as they position themselves for work centered around the capital’s regulatory machinery.

Yes, I was being very facetious, however, when sharks smell blood in the water, they tend to gather in large numbers in anticipation of a feeding frenzy.  Despite Obama’s claims to the contrary, there’s a reason this is happening, and it isn’t because the administration is lessening or cutting regulations, it is because it is imposing more and needs additional legal enforcement help (there’s also the side that will concentrate on defense). 

Don’t forget, the $1.75 trillion dollar cost above applies to only small business.  That means that the total cost of regulation is much higher than that.  Also don’t forget, when Obama makes his claim about not passing as many regulations as previous administrations, that’s meaningless without an dollar effect numbers.  As noted, in regulatory cost to the economy, he’s passed many more costly regulations at this point in his presidency than did the previous administration.

The bottom line, of course, is that A) you can’t believe a thing the man says and B) contrary to his claims, he’s imposed more cost on the economy via regulation, not less. 

Finally, if you think it is bad now, wait until ObamaCare kicks in.  One of the reasons law firms are beefing up their Washington DC presence is in anticipation of that law going into effect.  If you think it’s a regulatory nightmare now, just wait.  It’s going to get worse.

Sean Hackbarth, commenting on the increase in lawyers:

Resources spent on paperwork and re-jiggering business plans is less money going to business investment and job creation, but at least we know someone is benefiting from the regulatory pile-on.

Shovel-ready – and not in the good sense.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 29 Jan 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the SOTU speech, Republican race, and slow collapse of the EU.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Translating the SOTU

So many words to translate from Obama lingo to English.  For instance:

New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Translation: We’ve had our run for two years, spending trillions of dollars wastefully and jamming through a huge big government program for health care.  Now, Repubicans, its time for “bi-partisanship”.

Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

Translation: I resisted it until the end and was backed into a corner, but hey, this is the SOTU and I’ll try to get out in front of all of that and claim credit since it seems to be working.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.

Translation: Please disregard the fact that I’m contradicting myself.  Please understand that the first few sentences are only something to be used to justify further government spending.  And here it is:

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Translation: I plan to call new spending “investment” so we can pretend it isn’t just more of the same.  And if I couch it in high sounding rhetoric about research and development and use scare terms like “Sputnik moment”, it’s sure to make it all seem to be a net “good thing”.

We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

Translation: In reality we are “just handing out money”.  Your money.  Money you earned and for which you probably had quite a different priority – like feeding and clothing your family and putting a roof over their head.  Instead we prefer to subsidize marginal technology which to this point hasn’t shown the ability to effectively provide the energy we need to move forward instead of subsidizing those that do.  And if you don’t believe me:

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Translation: The war on domestic oil continues.  It’s just nasty.  And dirty.  And we need “clean” energy.  Forget the fact that the technology for such energy isn’t anywhere near ready for primetime and doesn’t appear it will be for years, decades even.  Let’s dump on domestic oil now – that’s sure to make us less dependent on foreign oil – something I called on us to do earlier in the speech.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

Translation: I love issuing challenges, especially when I can’t be held responsible for them if they don’t work out.  We can’t even generate 10% of our needs through “clean energy” and it doesn’t appear we’ll be any closer in 2035 given the current state of technology, but it does help me justify my war on domestic oil when I say things like this.

Oh, and education?  Well, it needs – get ready for it – more money:

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Translation: We’ve had a Department of Education for decades and our education levels have slipped terribly … abysmally … for its entire existence.  But this will fix that.  All we need is to spend more.   Trust me.

Oh, and did I mention more spending? 

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Translation: Yeah, see, we don’t want to leave it up to states and local communities to do this stuff – we’d rather take their money to a federal level and then hand it back with strings and after we’ve taken our cut.  That way I and other politicians can take credit for it.  And if you believe all the malarkey I’m spreading about high-speed rail (and the claim there’ll be no “pat-downs”), I have some government bonds in which you might want to invest.  If you thought corn ethanol was a boondoggle, wait until we get involved in high-speed rail projects.

Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans.

Translation: That’s right, ‘we”.  It will never happen unless government is involved.  Businesses have absolutely no interest in deploying “next generation of high-speed wireless coverage” to everyone they can get it too.  That 4G stuff?  Oh, just ignore that.  And admit it – you’re much happier now that government is involved in policing the internet, right?  Hey, you can’t put the “BIG” in “big government” unless you’re involved in everything.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.

Translation: Not really, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?  But you have to be reminded that without government, well, you’d just be in a freakin’ mess wouldn’t you?

But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Translation: Yeah, because without government, none of that would have ever happened, particularly the last and newest angle on the health care monstrosity we Democrats jammed through Congress last year.

Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law.

Translation: What do you mean 28 states are suing over the law?

We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.

Translation: That spending a decade ago – bad stuff.  Other guy’s fault.  Not mine (sure I was in the Senate, so what?). That 3 trillion I threw to the wind.  Good stuff.

I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Translation: After all, if we let our “most vulnerable citizens” keep more of what they earn by cutting spending by trillions of dollars, they’ll just spend it on the wrong stuff.   Only we know what is important and what we can “honestly afford to do without”.

The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

Translation: Yes, you read it right.  We’re now defining “excessive spending” as “spending” found in “tax breaks and loopholes”.  That’s a method of “cutting spending” of which I approve.

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.

Translation: But remember – government has not taken over health care.  Say it with me – government has not taken over health care.

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

Translation: Let’s fix Social Security.  But not by privatizing it or any portion of it.  Only government is the answer and after all, we’ve handled it so well to this point we ought to be the go to entity, don’t you think?  We actually make Enron look good, but let’s not mention that, okay?

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.

It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

Translation: I still want to tax the rich because we’ve screwed up the budget, the deficit and the debt so badly that we’re in horrible trouble and we need a fall guy to demonize for being selfish and not doing their “fair share”.  Lord knows government has done its fair share in screwing this up.  Seems to me the rich would be willing to part with their money to help us fix it.  Right?  Anybody?

In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.

Translation: And if you believe they’re going to be substantial changes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you need to see.  But saying things like that allows me to push my “big government is good government” theme:

In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government.

Translation: If I can sell this, I can push government into everything I want it in.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Translation: Well, we believe in those “rights” if we can redefine them on the fly – you know, like the “right” to health care?

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.

Translation: That’s right – but now they must have government and government spending to make their dreams a reality.  Just remember that.  Meanwhile, start saving up for those coal-powered cars because we want millions of ‘em on the road in a few years. “ Dreams”, right?  Oh you thought I meant the dreams of ordinary people?  Uh, no, I meant the dream of government planners, of course.

Bah.

~McQ


The anticipated move to the center by Obama

Apparently that’s what everyone expects to hear in the SOTU address.  And most see it as a reflection of political reality.  Independents deserted the Democrats fairly quickly after the Obama administration took office, apparently not liking what they saw developing at all.  So here comes the inevitable shift – at least the perception of one – to the center in order to win them  back.

The left?  Where are they going to go?  Who else would they vote for?  They’re not going anywhere despite all their grumbling and mumbling about Obama’s attempt to move right (and yes, a move by Obama to the center means a distinct move to the right).  Here’s the reality:

A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that “the midterm elections freed” Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.

“The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,” the official said. “They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.”

Colorful language, but you get the drift.  The far left is stuck with him and Obama knows it.  It is the center where elections are won, and right now they don’t belong to him. 

So how does he win them back?

Well the Democrats hope that it will be through leadership.  Rep Anthony Weiner lays it out:

“He’s the president of the United States, and he’s got to go in there and lean into the idea that he still has an agenda he wants to accomplish,” Weiner said. “He has to make sure he’s leading the debate and Paul Ryan is responding, not the other way around.

“He has to make it clear that he’s not going to be held hostage over issues like the debt-limit increase,” Weiner said.

But, as usual and instead, the President plans to vote “present”:

But the president’s decision not to lay out his own vision for reducing the national debt has infuriated balanced-budget advocates, who fear that a bipartisan consensus for action fostered last month by Obama’s commission could wither without presidential leadership.

"There is no way you get momentum without the president. If you don’t lead now, when is it going to come?" said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "He has to go first and he has to be specific. He has to pivot to something hard."

And pander, of course:

The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.

The sound you hear, my friends, is that of the can being swiftly kicked down the road again – something candidate Obama said wasn’t going to happen on his watch.

The administration claims that it’s goals will be more specifically addressed in the budget request the White House submits in mid February.  Per Robert Gibbs, the SOTU is just not the proper venue for specifics.   Well, except when you want to take a shot at the Supreme Court, who, by the way, will only have partial attendance this year, with a group of conservative justices clearly deciding to show their disapproval of the partisan sniping they were victim too in last year’s SOTU.

Yup, all in all politics rules the day with the political advice being as predictable as sunrise.  Obama, being the ultimate political animal, will indeed heed it, but the left shouldn’t look for any leadership to suddenly emerge where none has been evident in the past and the center should be wary of the now well-known smoke and mirrors show the administration puts on regularly – saying one thing and doing something else altogether.

Life in the Obama White House I’m afraid.

~McQ


SOTU Fact Check

Surprisingly, AP does it (credit where credit is due).  They cover the “spending freeze” (it would amount to less than 1% of the deficit) which we’ve covered in some detail.  They also point out that the nonsense about the health care plan preserving the “right” of Americans to keep their doctor and their plan isn’t exactly true (we’ve covered that before as well).   And they take on the claim about lobbyists which Michael has handled quite well below.

AP also talks about the deficit commission that Obama covered last night:

Obama: “I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.”

THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted — a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.

The key line is in bold. Any commission formed by executive order will have no authority over Congress. Thus it will be a “gimmick” designed to “pretend we solved a problem”. How can it be anything else?

As Obama mentioned the Senate blocked a bill that would have created the commission. The same Senate that today used its 60 vote supermajority to pass a 1.9 trillion dollar hike to the debt ceiling. So you can draw your own conclusions as to how serious the party that can muster 60 votes for raising the debt ceiling but can’t manage to get those same 60 votes to pass a deficit commission is about the debt and cutting spending.

Another one covered by AP has to do with the claim of 2 million jobs saved or created by the “stimulus”. By their calculation and those of CBO, it may – let me stress that word – may have been in the range of 600,000 to possibly 1.6 million. Yeah – with tight numbers like that, you can bet they know what they’re talking about.

That brings us to Obama’s quote about transparency in which he calls on the White House and Congress to “do our work openly and give our people the government they deserve”. Most of the people have awakened to the fact that after not vetting the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, we have the government we deserve. However, AP points out that Obama just skipped past all the broken transparency pledges he made and hasn’t even attempted to keep. Why in the world would anyone take his latest plea for transparency seriously?

You may or may not remember one of the few mentions of foreign policy last night – other than the usual tough talk toward Iran, most likely signifying nothing in reality – in which he claimed, “The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.”

Yeah, well, not quite. According to AP:

Despite insisting early last year that they would complete the negotiations in time to avoid expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in early December, the U.S. and Russia failed to do so. And while officials say they think a deal on a new treaty is within reach, there has been no breakthrough. A new round of talks is set to start Monday. One important sticking point: disagreement over including missile defense issues in a new accord. If completed, the new deal may arguably be the farthest-reaching arms control treaty since the original 1991 agreement. An interim deal reached in 2002 did not include its own rules on verifying nuclear reductions.

And one of my favorite claims of the night – I’ve killed more terrorists than Bush did in 2008:

“And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.”

Not so fast, says AP:

It is an impossible claim to verify. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published enemy body counts, particularly those targeted by armed drones in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. The pace of drone attacks has increased dramatically in the last 18 months, according to congressional officials briefed on the secret program.

If it is an “impossible claim to verify” then Obama knew when he said it, that he was safe from scrutiny. Nice. I have four words for those who choose to believe his claim: “saved and created jobs”.

Last but not least we turn to PoltiFact for the SCOTUS shot by Obama:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”

Politifact says that if it’s true, it is “barely true”. They have a very fine write up which I encourage you to read about why Justice Alito may have been absolutely justified in his silently mouthed “not true” as Obama took that shot. And I have to say, trying to humiliate the SCOTUS in a public speech with them sitting right there open to such ridicule is a politically stupid stunt. They are, after all, still human beings, and I wouldn’t want to be arguing a case for the Obama administration that could go either way after POTUS called SCOTUS out. They’re not underlings like the JCS who have to sit there and take it. They are members of an equal and separate branch. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that little bit of political stupidity.

~McQ


SOTU Reaction

I’m going to use Taegan Goddard’s reaction at CQ Politics as a basis for mine and to show how two people can watch the same thing and react like they hadn’t:

President Obama spent more than an hour making arguments he should have been making for months. He forcefully reminded Americans that he was not responsible for the big problems he inherited. He desperately needed to remind people the historical context and he did it successfully.

Did he really? He’s been saying this stuff for a year now and I’m pretty sure the world is aware of his opinion on the subject. Whether or not he again “successfully” placed it in a “historical context” is a matter of opinion, but what isn’t a matter of opinion is he’s had a year to work on jobs and the economy and he’s screwed around with health care instead.

Interestingly, it was like a campaign speech designed to appeal to independents. Obama refused to be pulled into the traditional left vs. right polarization that plagues Washington, D.C. It’s what got him elected in the first place.

He was right in the middle of the “traditional left vs. right polarization”. He was lecturing Republicans during most of the speech. And he even got into the populist side of things with his attacks on banks and corporations. Hell, he even went after the Supreme Court and threw a shot across the bow of the Joint Chiefs.

There were also several political moments you might see again in this fall’s midterm campaigns. The video of Republicans sitting on their hands while Obama called for banks to pay back bailout funds will almost certainly come back to haunt them.

This is the inside the beltway mentality speaking. That particular video will mean zip to those who see it. Jobs, economic turnaround, prosperity – attacking banks isn’t going to bring any of those.

While everyone knew the president would focus on jobs and the economy, it was nonetheless shocking it took him nearly 40 minutes to get to health care reform. Just weeks ago, it was the most important issue on his agenda. Obama made his case once again but it’s far from clear whether Democrats are scared enough or feel the urgency to ignore the confused politics of the issue and pass the bill.

For the 30th time in a year he talked about health care. What part of “we don’t want what you’re selling” do you suppose he doesn’t get? It isn’t that they aren’t conveying the message properly – it’s the message itself that’s being rejected along with a procedure that includes such absurdities as “sidecar reconciliation”, bribes and closed door meetings. Get a freaking clue.

It was a decent speech, but not a great one.

In fact it was an outstanding speech as far as speeches go, but what does it mean. This is a president who has given more outstanding speeches than any since Reagan. The difference is, things happened after Reagan spoke. Nothing happens after Obama speaks. So while the rhetoric was defiant, pointed, and lofty, it was all “just words”.

President’s get kudos for words. They are remembered for deeds. And thus far, Obama is very light in the deed department.

~McQ

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