State of the Union messages are supposed to be solemn affairs, full of pomp and circumstance and high-blown rhetoric about the future of the nation, but Tuesday’s affair was basically political gamesmanship.
President Barack Obama opened with a rather pointed plea for civility from the Republicans that he has previously accused of wanting dirty water and dirty air and told to sit in the back seat of the governmental automobile, and when he implied that he was above any partisan pettiness because he wouldn’t be running for office again they couldn’t resist some boisterous applause. This led to his apparently improvised boast that he’d already won two elections, which earned some boisterous applause from the Democrats, and the rest of the speech was intended to cause the Republicans further embarrassment in future races.
After some gloating about the booming economy, which continues to have the lowest labor participation labor force participation rates in decades and stagnant wages and job gains that have gone mostly to the illegal immigrants that Obama wants to keep in the country, and is booming only in the places where the oil industry is pumping out cheap energy despite his best efforts to stop them and because of the resiliency of the capitalism system that he wants to replace with European-style socialism, the rest of the speech was the usual agenda of soaking the rich and handing out free stuff to everyone else. None of it has any chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, but the plan is that whatever identity group candidates Democrats come up with in the presidential election will be able to once again portray the Republicans as rich-people-loving meanies who won’t let the kindly Democrats give you free stuff.
The ancient ploy has worked well enough for Obama to be gloating over his two presidential elections, but not well enough to keep him from making it to a Republican-controlled Congress, and it remains to be seen how well it works this time. The free stuff includes government-paid tuition to your local community college, but given how few people currently bother to complete a community college education and how little it is likely to do ensure future success that’s probably less enticing than the free stuff Oprah Winfrey used to put under her audience’s seats. He wants a tax credit for middle class families that would amount to about $500, but given that the sum wouldn’t cover the restaurant tab during one of Obama’s frequent Hawaii vacations he’ll be hard-pressed to parlay that into a reputation as a common man. There are promises to make housing more affordable, reminiscent of the “affordable housing” policies of the Clinton era that created the housing bubble, and higher-speed internet, which of course will be thoroughly regulated by the government, along with a laundry list of other goodies that most press reports didn’t bother to mention. None are likely to be remembered by the time the ’16 election rolls around, while the massive debt that has already piled up from the putatively free stuff that’s been doled out the Obama will still be an issue.
Still, people do hate rich folks and love free stuff, and at this point there doesn’t seem to much else for the Democrats to run on. At last year’s State of the Union the president opened with a boast that all the troops had been pulled out of Iraq, and this year’s speech made no mention of the 2,000 troops who have since returned to deal with the consequences of America’s premature withdrawal from that country. If the economy continues to improve and the deficits continue to decline the Republicans will have a strong case that their obstructionism deserves more credit than the president’s spending and regulating and bloating, and if the Democrats try to take credit for lower gas prices they’ll annoy their environmentalist donors. Free stuff and slandering the mean old Republicans will be the Democrats’ platform, and we can’t blame Obama for trotting it out now.
— Bud Norman