Hard to Get Excited About Speech
The first clue that the State of the Union speech has lost some oomph was the media's persistence in referring to it as the SOTUS.
I, at least, found it difficult to get very excited about a SOTUS. Of course, the president of the United States has been known as POTUS for quite a while. I guess that makes the whole thing the POTUSSOTUS. (Pronounced po-TUSS-o-tus.)
Our current POTUS didn't exactly light it up Tuesday, but he gave a well-delivered speech that was as well-written as anything can be that carefully proposes nothing specific.
Oh, he acknowledged that we have some problems. There's this deficit thing; we'll fix that by ending oil company subsidies, taxing rich people more, and freezing discretionary spending for five years at our current unaffordable levels. We'll also "out-innovate, out-educate and outbuild" our global competition.
How are we going to do that? With creativity, imagination and biofuels. Oh. Those are great ideas in general terms (maybe not so much biofuels). They just require spending - or, as POTUS put it-investment.
He said we're having a "Sputnik moment"; we have to respond the way the last generation did to surpass our competition and reassert American prominence. I sure hope not. We've got to do something more practical than spending a decade and limitless money so a couple of guys can walk on the moon.
The president is in a tough spot because the country is in a tough spot. A laundry list of solutions would not have been terribly useful because there are 535 people in Congress who would tear it to ribbons. There was some nationalistic rhetoric about America's greatness that brought the newly commingled audience to its feet, but that was boilerplate. What was he supposed to say?
There was hopeful mention of reorganizing the executive branch and reforming tax codes. Sound familiar? There will be a review of government regulations, and "unnecessary" ones will be eliminated. Necessity is in the eye of the regulator.
The talking heads are saying that the president has moved toward the political center. Well, sort of. After seeing more of his desires turned into legislation over the last two years than he could have possibly dreamed of, he is now running for re-election. All presidents do that.
If there were an election today, he would win. But the speech will wear off. If he can't get together with Republicans, as well as his own party, to take the desperately serious measures we need so badly, he will not be re-elected.
Speaking of Republicans, Paul Ryan was not much more forthcoming in his SOTUS response than was the president. Both the Republicans and the president promised to make specific proposals in their respective budgets.
All well and good, but neither side addressed in any meaningful way the unbearable burden that is our entitlement programs.
A recent poll indicated that 80 percent of Americans don't want any changes made to Social Security. Somebody - and that would be the president - needs to speak the truth. If we're going to ramp up education, perhaps we should treat the entire population, and Congress in particular, to some lessons in arithmetic.
Things may get very interesting when those budgets appear on the eve of the country hitting its debt ceiling. How committed are all those new Republicans, and how intransigent is Harry Reid? Why couldn't the Republicans have nominated a competent candidate in Nevada?
I wouldn't want to be accused of simply being a naysayer to whatever comes out of the capital. I have an idea of my own to reduce the deficit without raising taxes or cutting programs. The president should take a page from our great sports franchises.
How can he present the SOTUS and also address our fiscal problems? Simple - find a sponsor for the speech. It's at least as marketable as a stadium. I'd even like to suggest one that would attract the young audience presidents are always looking for. Be prepared in 2012 for the McSOTUS.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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