That Catchy Slogan Won’t Solve Anything

President Barack Obama’s Jan. 25 State of the Union Address was banal, idealistic and unoriginal. Every year, regardless of who’s president, we are guaranteed boundless convictions of American exceptionalism and trite themes like “Innovation through Greatness,” which sound more like a middle-school writing contest.

Nor does the speech show any  change in vision for Obama despite humbling midterm election results. His plan for a glorious future: government activism and austerity measures. His proposed five-year freeze of non-security discretionary spending would save $40 billion a year, but the result is laughable when this year’s deficit alone is projected at $1.5 trillion.

Medical malpractice reform and consolidating bureaucracy, too, are the budgetary equivalents of owning a Benz and buying cheap floss to get out of debt. Obama demands greater investment in high-speed rail and wireless access, then calls for meager deficit-cutting measures. Although we’re a far cry from being unable to pay back creditors, the lip service to the deficit is unsettling.
Obama is the eighth consecutive president to advocate energy independence. He’s also likely to become the eighth consecutive president to continue sucking the oily teats of Saudi Arabia. Our parents thought solar energy would be widespread by now, but it appears not even our children will taste relief from black gold. The money invested in clean energy will come from cutting subsidies to oil companies — the same ones funding clean energy research. Subsidies for oil companies (like Chevron) will now be diverted toward companies investing in renewable energy (like Chevron). Now there’s change you can believe in.

There was a silver lining to his speech: He promised to continue free trade agreements with South Korea, making Hyundais much cheaper for Americans. Onerous regulations will also be reviewed to relieve the burden for small businesses. This will be significant, considering regulations cost businesses $1.75 trillion a year.

Obama plans to make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit ($10,000 refundable credit for families that make less than $160,000 or single parents that make less than $80,000 paying for four years of college) and expand Pell Grants. Sure, affordable education is great, but it won’t matter much if graduates are entering an abysmal job market.

None of this is to say that the Republican responders’ speeches had any merit. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who either had pink eye or was high, rambled on about limited government and was even more vague in his talk of reducing debt. Considering Ryan voted for the completely unfunded Medicare Part D (estimated cost: $534 billion) without any other revenue offsets, he lacks credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

The effect of spending too much is less money for investment in the future, stunting our growth across all sectors. Once the economy has recovered, the political class needs a plan for realistic cost-cutting measures that address our never-ending deficit.

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