Barack Obama: State Of The Union Address

I had low expectations of our President going into the State of the Union.  I admit this openly and freely.  I do not think that our President is post-partisan — “I won” anybody? — and I don’t think that he’s pro-business as everyone claims.

So, with that said, how did he do?

Well, nothing he said fell short of my expectations.  I was anticipating class warfare, I was anticipating environmental crusading, I was expecting “blame Bush.”  And he delivered.

However, he DID make the case in a number of examples where I found myself agreeing with him, if only his words, but still….

I find that Obama has a very well developed skill at gaining an initial consensus in his audience.  Very early on in the address Obama coalesces us with concepts that are indeed noble and agreeable to all:

“Hard work pays off.  Personal responsibility pays off.”

“A place where everyone can raise a family, own a home, send their kids to college and maybe put a little away for retirement.”

“Everyone gets a fair shot.  Everyone does their fair share.  Everyone plays by the same rules.”

Who can deny that we don’t everyone deserves a fair shot?  That hard work pays off?  That we be able to raise a family?  No one, and he knows that.  These are throw away concepts.  But then he gets into it.  He begins going down that whole path that leads to:

Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before.  But most hard working Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t and personal debt that kept piling up.

He’s back to his old tricks.  He’s back to suggesting that the “rest of us” aren’t living a life that’s better than the one we grew up in.  And it simply isn’t true.  Certainly the rich are doing well; good on ’em.  But we’re doing pretty damn well too!

I was struck several times in his address at how he acknowledged that traditional conservative concepts were either working or were required in order that things would improve.  For example, his recollection of Master Locks:

The CEO of Mater Locks now says it makes business sense to bring jobs back home.

This, of course, is what we have been saying the whole time.  Make the environment friendly to the corporation and the corporation will respond.


If you are an American manufacturer, you should get a tax cut.  If you are a technology company, you should double that tax cut.

Yes!  Yes for the sake of all that’s Holy!  We should reduce our tax rate to the point that industry wants to move here.  In fact, we should do everything we can to make sure it makes business sense to work here.

On a personal note, his story about Jackie Bray, the out of work woman who received technical training from Cray(?) was great.  She was clearly moved and touched and it was a fascinating look into Michele Obama’s personal side as she watched in appreciation of this woman’s moment in the sun.  Really great!

After that, Obama moved into a series of points that really scored with me.  He spoke about:

  • Teachers
  • Mandatory graduation
  • Immigration

I thought all three were spot on.

It’s no secret that we all love great teachers.  That we wanna pay great teachers more money.  This is widely accepted.  However, when he mentioned that we should remove the poor teachers – I think he lied.  He doesn’t think that poor teachers should be fired.  He’s too union for that.

I like mandatory school.  If we pay for the kids to go to school, they have to uphold their end of the bargain.

And immigration is spot on.

In the end, he delivered what I mostly thought he would.  A speech that divided the haves from the have nots.  He spoke about fairness and equal opportunity, which I think is code for equal results.  He spoke about green jobs and climate change.  He spoke about a chasm in DC that he said he wants to cure, but doesn’t really.

He had some good moments.  And we should acknowledge that.  But in the end, this is an ideological man who thinks that the only reason I don’t agree with him is that I haven’t listened to him talk enough.


7 responses to “Barack Obama: State Of The Union Address

  1. The have/have not debate is a core issue in US politics and indeed the politics of all advanced industrial democracies. We would not want the debate to go away, both the Democrats and Republicans have points on whether there is real opportunity for all or if government action stifles growth. Your stance is no less ideological than his in that regard — but having the different perspectives creates a debate that ultimately benefits all of us. We’re more likely to get it right if we have a real debate. And I do think there are core values that all Americans left and right agree upon — the partisans on each side tend to overstate the divisions, especially on core values.

    • The have/have not debate is a core issue in US politics and indeed the politics of all advanced industrial democracies.

      To a degree.

      Government should be like an ump; calling balls and strikes. The government should no more act in favor of one group over another than an umpire would be inclined to tip the scales in favor of one team or another.

      Should a kid from a less wealthy family be denied college? No.
      Do kids from wealthier families have a better shot at college? Sure, I think so.

      If we think that we’re going to get to the point where the children of the poor have the same exact results of the children of the rich, we’re kidding ourselves.

      • Well, exactly how much the government should do is up for legitimate debate. I think we’re already as a society decided the government should be more active than just an ump — we do value trying to expand opportunity. But to what extent or how far to go is unclear. I agree we’ll never get purely equal opportunity. At some point the effort to do that starts doing more harm than good. Part of the big debate is where that point is, and if we’ve past it. Beyond that, well intended policies can do more harm than good — and there is evidence there are many of those already in place.

  2. I agree with Scott. A good debate benefits everybody. What I find frustrating, however, is the contradictions within that debate. Obama talks a lot about making the system “fair”, yet we don’t see anything seriously proposed or being discussed with regards to the tax code. He talks about Obamacare as though it’s “fair”, yet we see many small businesses who believe that it’s hardly fair at all.

    And to one of his other points from the SOTU – sure, make over $1m in income and there’s things from the government that you shouldn’t be receiving and that you also should be paying (perhaps more of), but tell us how whatever additional piece of the pie you slice off and take for yourself won’t be lost in the vast ocean of unfunded entitlements that we currently can’t afford. To me, he’s just sitting there going, “Trust me, this is better for everybody” and we’re just supposed to accept that based on rhetoric alone.

    The benefit of a debate should be that it helps to challenge and sort out the details of any particular plan, of how each side is, or could be, affected. I personally don’t see a lot of small business, for instance, being really included in that debate. Instead, I see more of “I quote Republicans in my speeches so rest assured, I’m considering things from both sides so just support this and quit asking questions on the details” – sort of thing.

    Not cool.

    • Obama talks a lot about making the system “fair”

      To the Democrat, that’s a feature, not a bug. When you don’t have to define your goal you get to continue to beat the drums of war.

      The benefit of a debate should be that it helps to challenge and sort out the details of any particular plan, of how each side is, or could be, affected.

      I don’t think that either side wants to do that; too much power would be taken away.

    • One could make similar criticisms of Republican plans and rhetoric — both parties find advantage into being vague and populist. I think Obama made a lot of solid points though, and there is enough common ground that it should be possible to pass things both parties agree upon. I didn’t hear “trust me, it’s better for everyone,” I heard a case for some specific actions. I do think actions should be friendly to small business.

  3. pino,

    I give you credit. I cannot listen to the man speak . I rely on others to tell me what he said . There is always a difference between what he says and what he did . How anyone sits through an Obama speech is beyond me . I think that is Newt’s big appeal . Everyone wants somebody to debate Obama and John King him .

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