Obama’s State of the Union: My Impressions & Critique
Hightlights and impressions of Obama’s State of the Union from yours truly.
“Congresspeople suck compared to soldiers”
Obama began by scolding Republican & Democrat politicians for not having the same ethos of service you find in the Armed Forces. He said, “[The Armed Forces] are not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.” Then there was a camera pan over a group of white “suits” shifting uneasily in their seats and looking guilty, followed by a shot of some black soldiers looking at Obama with this fierce faith & intensity.
Aren’t the Armed Forces “focused on the mission” because they’re under military discipline? Alas, if only we could court-martial members of Congress for committing treason because they were not “focused on the mission.” Huh… Isn’t it slightly ridiculous to compare the cooperative abilities of an elected democratic body, to those of people whose lives depend on cooperation? Maybe he was trying to make the point that our lives do depend on our ability to cooperate, in the long run. Maybe we won’t get shot in the back by an enemy soldier, but we definitely will be crippled by the deficit.
“Solve Jobs Problem by Taxing OUTSOURCING”
“Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it…… My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away. ” Almost no applause from the Republican side of the chamber on that one.
At first I was very struck by the awesomeness of this, then I began to consider the details of how such a law would actually be implemented. What if companies responded to this law by vacating the US altogether, and placing themselves entirely out of our jurisdiction? How would the mechanics of taxing outsourcing work? This could be spectacular if he could make it function, but it’s a terrific legal challenge.
“Ahem… I don’t write legislation, I just sign it”
It’s also noteworthy, that he framed almost every point on his legislative agenda by telling Congress, “send me a bill that does xyz and I’ll sign it.” I thought it was a clever way of reminding his critics (who conveniently forget that he is not omnipotent) that we DO have such a thing as a separation of powers in this country. The phrasing makes him appear driven and energetic while at the same time placing the blame on Congress if nothing gets done. Eh. Fair Enough.
Subsidize American Cars But Don’t Let the Chinese Subsidize Anything
Obama bragged a lot about how he kept the auto industry from failing, which saddened me in a way. I hate cars. I think the auto industry should shrink to the point where it only supplies people who live in isolated areas, and public transportation should dominate the rest of the territory. Also I found it midly snicker-worthy when he talks about the USA supporting the auto and banking industries and then he says in the next breath, “It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.” LOL LOL LOL Well I suppose its the President’s job to look out for US interests, which means not leveling the playing field, but simply being the best cheater in the game. Not that he would ever say so. Snicker.
What is Hiding, Anyway, in this Iron-Clad Suit?
There was no mention of Israel-Palestine aside from a one-liner about “iron-clad” support for Israelis, a fact which will disappoint but not surprise my Palestinian sympathizer friends.
Give Employers More Influence on Curriculum
One of his educational reform ideas was to turn community colleges into training centers for local employers. Welll….. seems efficient. But every liberal arts bone in my body cries out that education is about so much more than that. Sure, education should lead to jobs. But a future in which schools’ curriculum is largely controlled by business interests, seems pretty dystopic indeed.
Good Teachers Not Bad Teachers Yay. But HOW, Obama-man?
His other educational reform point was, “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” That sounds nice, but without looking at concrete policy & legislation, I have almost no idea what he’s proposing to do. I wonder what the hell the Teacher’s Union thought about that comment about “replacing teachers.” They historically defend all teachers regardless of that teacher’s level of sucking.
The Emotional Part
It’s amazing to me how Obama continues to emphasize cooperation when the Republicans continue to be total douches to him and talk about nothing but “taking him down.” I guess it did get kind of teary when he said, “More than that, the mission [that killed Bin Laden] only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back…. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs.” But will this emotional rhetoric make any long-term impact on politicans who got their jobs with decades of professional back-stabbing?
The Future is Grim, but Obama Has a Good Priority
In conclusion, I liked what Obama said was his first priority. “The basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement. The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.” He put his thumb pretty neatly on what pretty much all of us want. But with my friends fearing for their jobs (slash not having jobs) every day, I feel pessimistic that this promise will ever be fulfilled. So much for the American dream.
But even if we are doomed, I believe Obama is working hard to make us slightly less doomed. I’ve taken a somewhat snarky tone in this blog…. there’s been lots of, “that sounds great but HOW are you going to pull it off?” Well even if the “how” is vague right now, I trust Obama to do his damnedest to fill in the “how” as he goes along…..