It's funny how much hype leads up to the State of the Union, then how much discussion shortly follows, then how little we'll remember it in a month. It's not known for rousing oratory, or startling surprises. It's so routine that there's a countless variety of drinking games one can play while watching.
We need to revive the economy. "We do big things." That's a good summary of the speech. We do big things and put them down. We do big things and put them down.
Obama started with the need to improve education. Which I completely agree with. At all levels, our country's education is not competitive. And any quality education costs money, whether it's a private middle school, or a top-flight grad school. So in other words, it's not necessarily the best and brightest students who enjoy the benefits of the best education, its the most affluent ones.
Then Obama loses me, when he starts talking about China building solar energy facilities, and how we need to catch up. Is that why China's economy is growing, and ours isn't? Because of solar technology? I don't think so.
While I love the idea of rebuilding our educational system, emphasizing math and science (and basic writing, just read the comments on any YouTube video), and investing in new technologies, why does it always have to be "clean energy?" Is that the ultimate goal of technology? The pinnacle of mankind's achievements? Solar panels?
I think renewable and sustainable energy is a nice idea, but why don't we invest in education and technology, then let the next generation of smart people tell us what the new big thing is going to be. I can't imagine that in a history book 50 years from now, there'll be a sentence that reads "America's economy was saved by wind turbines."
And here's a hint, Liberals: If you want to sell the country on "clean energy," call it something else. CHEAP ENERGY. That gets the consumer excited. It's amazing how environmentally conscientious people will become when it affects the green in their wallets.
Getting back to education, Obama made some excellent points about how non-affordable it is. And Government can help that. I'd rather the Government give out grants (not loans) so students can go to the school of their choice (not just go to a college, but go to the college they choose), regardless of their economic status. There's responsibility and accountability in a program like that. If grades aren't up to snuff, then goodbye. I'd rather give Government money out in that fashion than via standardized entitlement checks.
But there's also a social and cultural problem undermining the quality of our education. College is for partying and passing. "C's get degrees." The people who have the opportunity to go to school take it for granted. Because there are no apparent consequences for failure. They've been brought up in a spoon-fed, coddled, everything-will-be-alright society. And this attitude needs to change. There's not much Government or Politicians can do about it. It's something that individuals need to do on their own. And I think a lot of people my age (mid-20's) are realizing that life is harder than school.
Most of this speech was recycled from previous remarks. Obama thinks that it's 1933 and that the country can be saved by The New Deal. He calls it "investing in infrastructure." But it can also be called "spending on roads."
While our highways and bridges are in dire need of repair, they should be fixed because they're broken, not because the economy is broken. All these projects don't do much to add jobs, and do little to help the economy. They help construction workers, and the contractors that employ them. That's about it.
Obama promised to "pick projects based on what's best for the economy, not politicians." Which is a very smooth, slick thing to say. What does "best for the economy" mean, though? Those construction workers expanding Route 128 might have one idea of what's best for the economy, and I might have another.
Politicians, even if acting under completely noble ideals, cannot "pick" what's best for an economy. The economy has to pick what's best for itself. It's called the free market. The idea of Politicians selecting who gets what, even with the best of intentions, curdles my blood.
Obama is against the tax-cuts given to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Well, I'd rather that they pay taxes as opposed to me. But ultimately, I'd rather that neither of us have to pay much at all. Because when that wealthy person has more pocket money, they might invest in promoting a concert at Gillette Stadium, and I might get 10 hours of security work because of that. Or at the very least, they might buy a ticket to an existing concert, and part of that money eventually finds its way to me.
One thing's for sure, I trust that rich person to do something economically beneficial with that money more than I'd trust the Government.
Then there's healthcare. What Obama said about that, ironically, made me sick. "Let's fix what needs fixing and let's move forward." That's unimaginably arrogant and dismissive. There's a reason why Nancy Pelosi isn't sitting behind his left shoulder anymore. Many in this country rallied against Obama's healthcare reform. But I guess we should just move on. What's done is done. After all, it's not as if our Constitution allows for the repeal of undesirable laws.
Obama has seemed to respond to the voices calling for a reduction in government spending. But he and the Liberals will resist every cut. And Politicians from both sides will protect pet projects from their home states. They'll lobby for reduced military spending, except when it affects the Air Force base within their borders.
"I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without."
That phrase is an exquisite example of beautifully crafted rhetoric. Persuasion by Agreement. Obama has millions of voices screaming at him to cut the budget. So he agrees with them. But adds the caveat of "whatever we can honestly afford to do without." He wisely omits that it will be he and his Administration that decides what "we" can afford to cut.
It should be against the law for politicians to use the word "honestly."
And I loved his analogy to lightening an airplane by removing one of its engines. Well if the thing is too heavy to sustain flight, what's the point of having 4 engines or 0 engines? Maybe it needs a complete overhaul. Maybe it needs more things removed than "we can honestly afford to do without." Maybe we need a new plane.
We certainly need a new pilot.