A Dime’s Worth of Balanced Thoughts on SOTU

President Obama seems increasingly divorced from reality on the deficit. First there was his jaw-dropping statement to Speaker Boehner, during the fiscal cliff crisis, that “we don’t have a spending problem.” Now tonight he trots out the usual SOTU laundry list of new initiatives — some of them sensible enough. But he introduces them by saying “nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.”

Excuse me? Props to the Republican National Committee for being out already with a video that includes tonight’s speech in a litany of video clips of Obama’s dime-saving promises, closing by pointing out that the national debt has increased by 58 trillion dimes since Obama took office.

The Obama-voting Web Goddess, who has to get up early tomorrow, bailed about 10 minutes into the speech, saying it wasn’t very interesting “now that he never has to run for office again.” I said “he’s acting like he never has to compromise with a Republican again, either.” She said “yes, that’s coming through.” Celebrate small victories…

I’m getting tired of Obama’s repeated references to “a balanced approach” to cutting the deficit. Here’s my idea of balance: the fiscal cliff deal imposed tax increases with no spending cuts. Now let’s balance that with a sequester deal of spending cuts with no tax increases.

There will be no sequester deal, of course. The Republicans cannot possibly surrender the only mechanism they have for forcing spending cuts, however clumsy those cuts may be, unless they and the Democrats can agree on alternate cuts of equal size. And there’s no chance of that in the next two weeks. Obama’s White House invented the sequester idea in the summer of 2011, and he and the Democrats have had a year and a half to propose alternate cuts. This president has no intention of cutting anything except defense.

One statement jumped out at me in his discussion of the need for changes to Medicare: “I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.” Arrrgh! There is no guarantee of a secure retirement! There are entitlement programs in place that provide subsistence-level support, and even that isn’t guaranteed, because the programs are unsustainable. Anyone wanting “a secure retirement” is going to have to either inherit it or save for it.

After my negative feelings about much of the speech, I was surprised to find myself moved by Obama’s closing, when he offered up the examples of the brave police officer, the noble nurse and the 102-year-old woman who endured six hours in line on election night so she could cast her vote.

That’s just the way we’re made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.

Well put, Mr. President. (Yes, I know that by “certain obligations to one another” he means bigger government, but I don’t have to accept that premise.)

Man oh man, I loves me some Marco Rubio! An excerpt from the official Republican response:

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

Preach it, brother.

To end on a bipartisan note, I’ll paraphrase something David Gergen said on CNN: Who would have thought, as recently as a dozen years ago, that we would one day see a state of the union speech by a black president, followed by a response from a Hispanic senator?

3 thoughts on “A Dime’s Worth of Balanced Thoughts on SOTU

  1. Excellent piece, Kirk. I remember when congress was debating the ethanol mandates, and Gore promised that fueling our cars with corn “wouldn’t raise the price of Corn Flakes a single penny”. Ah, promises, promises.

  2. Yeh, the speech and content were uneventful, but I don’t blame the Chief Exec when he doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on the deficit when it is not a short-term issue, but rather one to compromise on and put into spending and budget projections, because the short-term emphasis is still on domestic growth and recovery, and we are starting to do that naturally without a problem with the deficit.

    Rubio is hungry for 2016, and preached some meaningless red meat to the choir. If he can lead and accomplish immigration policy, then he will get some policy and accomplishment chops that will help him to compete with Christie. We at least see their initial branding, Christie seemingly choosing instead to appeal to the rational middle. Maybe this was a recalibration by Rubio, since immigration is more of a middle issue.

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