Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

‘State of the Union’ spoke of the past and future, but very little about the present

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The State of the Union speech is theoretically about the current state of the union. But as we have seen in the past, Republican or Democratic, the speeches are about the past and the future.

How great we were and how great we hope to be. But rarely is the current state of the union found in the State of the Union.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union was a lot about 2015.. 2035.. If you are out of work in 2011 (and 2010 and 2009), well, you’ll have to wait.

This isn’t necessarily Obama’s fault, but falling into the “centrist” motif won’t get the job done.

Still deep in the worst recession of our lifetimes, those currently out of work aren’t on the radar.

Oh, there were a few anecdotal examples, as every speech contains. But the State of the Union hides a rather ugly picture.

You have a Democratic side that wants to invest in infrastructure, which means roads, bridges, and high-speed rail, but also means high-speed Internet. But infrastructure applies to education and green technology and innovation to increase exports.

You have a Republican side that doesn’t want to do any of this. And that Republican side controls the path of legislation.

Oh, and Obama gave in to a 5-year spending freeze because “the worst of the recession is over.” Millions of Americans felt disheartened to hear that the worst is over, because, they are still on their roofs waiting for the helicopters that we “can’t afford” to send out.

Obama wants to make even more domestic cuts, including Medicare and Medicaid. And when Obama talked about “medical malpractice reform” – severely limiting options for people who have been legitimately wronged – Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) stood up and applauded.

In chastising Congress about the deficit, Obama said “we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.” The same extension of the tax cuts that will exist under the watch of President Obama, and will only be lifted if the Democratic Party takes back the House in 2013 AND if legislation goes through to rescind those tax cuts AND Obama gets re-elected.

Like presidents in the past, Republican and Democratic, President Obama pushed for simplification of the tax code. Good luck with that happening.

The president did something courageous, daring to challenge us that perhaps, maybe, possibly the American way wasn’t the best way. South Korea and China, European countries and Russia – they got mentioned for their innovation.

But Obama did respond in an applause-grabbing line: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Even Boehner applauded that line.

In the House chamber, there probably isn’t someone who would make that trade. And everybody on the floor (not necessarily the balcony) has better health care than you do.

If the people outside that room had the lives that those in the room do, Obama’s statement would be correct.

At the end, Obama wound up telling us that the “state of the union is strong.” That was true in the past, and might be, might be in the future. But outside of the Beltway and Wall Street, this isn’t true in 2011.

No matter which side of the aisle you are on, there should be someone of the other party sitting behind the president. When Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi sat above Obama, they applauded at every point (and then some) when Obama needed applause.

Now Speaker John Boehner applauded more than he would have if he were sitting in the regular audience, but watching Boehner spoke more about the GOP response than any post-speech pundit’s analysis.

Scattering Democratic and Republican politicians did one visually amazing element. No. not showcase the Congressional version of people on top of a wedding cake: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

When people stood to cheer a point, spreading Democratic politicians made their numbers seem larger and more impressive. And the moments where the GOP stood up, even they seemed more impressive.

The Republicans/teabaggers got 2-for the price of-1 in issuing two responses: one for the adults in the room where Paul Ryan tried to make forget what little we know about him and the GOP, and one for the children where Michele Bachmann literally couldn’t look us in the eye.

There was a common theme in the split versions of the same GOP game: we’re in trouble, both parties are to blame, no one party is worse than the other. Ahem.

Too bad Ryan didn’t share his vision of the elimination of corporate taxes and the taxes on dividends, but there is only so much time when you trying to hide those things.

Ryan’s funniest moment from his speech came at the end of listing the few things Republicans think government should do: “to help provide a safety net for those who can not provide for themselves.”

This from the same person who wants to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid. Rebuttals never get a laugh track, though, maybe we need to reconsider that.

Bachmann’s horribly misleading unemployment figures chart were based on October of a year, except for 2010, which referred to December. The chart is designed to not portray the depressive recession as being the fault of George W. Bush. And Bachmann doesn’t realize that unemployment figures don’t always correlate to job growth.

The Republicans spent very little time in the 2010 campaign telling us about themselves. Ryan – and to some extent, Bachmann – told us a little (sanitized) bit about what they want to do. Their state of the union — trying to scare us into doing what they want — that is doing just fine.


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